Note: The correct spelling of the name is “Beier,” but it was frequently spelled “Beyer.”
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Berlin, March 24. – “The face of an angel and the heart of a fiend,” they say of Grete Beyer, pretty flaxen haired daughter of the mayor of Brande, soon to be put on trial for the murder of her lover.
In addition to this crime, it is alleged she murdered three illegitimate children born to her. Hers is one of the most remarkable cases on record. Although of good family and refined education, she is a virtual demon.
All her life she has moved in cultured and educated circles. She went to the best schools, enjoyed exceptional advantages, and was accomplished in music and art. For years she cleverly concealed her double life. At seventeen she entered into improper relations with a young Dresden commercial traveler named Merker. Three children were born to them and she murdered each immediately after birth, it is claimed.
She disposed of the infants so skillfully that no suspicions were excited.
While still carrying on her intrigue with Merker her parents introduced her to a wealthy engineer named Pressler, hoping that she might, make a good match. Pressler became infatuated with her and they were betrothed.
All the time she was continuing her relations with Merker, and together they were plotting how they could obtain possession of Pressler’s fortune.
One day she left home and went to Chemnitz, where Pressler lived. She went straight to his apartments and found him there.
“I have a great surprise for you,” she said, ‘‘but you must shut your eyes and open your month.” Suspecting nothing more than some girlish prank, Pressler obeyed without hesitation.
Then the girl thrust a pistol in Pressler’s open mouth, and blew out his brains at a single shot. He fell dead at her feet. No one heard the shot, and she proceeded with cool determination to complete her plans.
Seated at his desk she wrote with deliberation and perfect clearness, a will which left the whole of his property and fortune to herself. She previously had informed herself regarding the necessary legal language for such a document. Then she forged his signature.
Altogether she spent more than an hour in the room with the corpse, and in leaving took all the cash she could find, something near $500. She inclosed [sic] the will, in an envelope and locked in. an inner compartment of the desk, where it was later discovered. Pressler’s dead body was found in such a position that it appeared a clear case of suicide, and the investigating judge returned a verdict to that effect.
Not until weeks afterward, when doubts had arisen regarding the authenticity of the will did suspicion fall upon the girl. Detectives, set to watch her, discovered her relations with Merker, and eventually she was arrested. Subsequently she made a full confession.
Merker was also arrested and will he charged with inciting her to murder.
[“She Was An Angel – But Not One of the Heavenly Kind.” The Fort Wayne News (In.), Mar. 23, 1908, p. 12]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Berlin, July 1. – Grete Beyer, a beautiful young woman of 22, the daughter of a former burgomaster at Brand (Saxony), has been sentenced to death for killing Pressler, her fiance, of Chemnitz, after forging his will in her favour and other documents suggesting that he had committed suicide.
Grete Beyer, the daughter of the late burgomaster of Brand, Saxony, who killed her fiance in order to secure possession of £500 he had willed her as a marriage gift, was as nonchalant a prisoner as German gaolers have ever watched over. Although charged with murder, forgery, and embezzlement, in collusion with her mother and another lover, a Dresden merchant named Meiker, her manner was one of utter indifference, bordering on light-heartedness.
She was a strikingly good-looking girl, a typical blonde, blue-eyed Saxon, of somewhat buxom figure. She was noted in Brand for her good humour, friendly disposition, and tasteful clothes, in which she displaced a partiality for light-coloured silks. She was always accompanied by a powerful St. Bernard dog. Her father, once a coal-miner, became head of the town savings bank, and eventually burgomaster. He left a considerable fortune; but, following his death, irregularities were discovered which caused some suspicions as to his business integrity. The mother, who was seriously involved in her daughter’s embezzlement and forgery accusations, came from a cobbler’s family. Although Grete was engaged to the engineer Pressler, whom she shot in May, 1907, after blindfolding him on the pretence that he was to have a pleasant surprise, she had continued since 1906 a former intimacy of some years standing with Meiker, as the result of which two dead children were born. In September Grete, her mother, and Meiker were arrested on charges of forgery of a will in connection with the mysterious death of Herr Kraener, superintendent of the local poorhouse, a wealthy relative of the Beyers. Grete subsequently confessed that she had killed Pressler after having forged his will, written a letter indicating- that he had taken his own life, and left the pistol beside his bed in a position suggesting suicide.
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): The last act in the great tragedy of the Beier family took place this morning. The head of Grete Beier fell under the blade of the Guillotine.
The father dead, suspected of perjury, the mother in the prison, the daughter on the scaffold.
The drama of this family was no longer capable of a further increase, and the whole shaking tragedy, which fell over the concerned persons, was again remembered this morning in the northern yard of the Freiberg regional court building. The witnesses of these dark moments, over which laid a depressing silence, will never forget it.
In the yard of the district court building gathered about 200 gentlemen, under them numerous officers of the local battalion, law officers, different members of the jury, teachers of the local high school, physicians etc.
In the corner at the wing centre the Guillotine had been erected. The side door in the wing of the public prosecutor’s office opened five minutes before 6.30 p.m., and led from the public prosecutor. Dr. Mannl, prosecutor in the murder trial against Grete Beier, the judges under her chairman Dr. Rudert, as well as the twelve witnesses (for the most part gentlemen of the local high school), Mr. Oberstaatsanwalt Bernhard, the mayor of Blueher, and some other gentlemen came out. The public prosecutor as well as the judges were robed.
Some fearful seconds passed, the public prosecutor spoke still few words with the national executioner, who was waiting dressed in black together with its two assistants at the stairs of the Guillotine.
At precisely 6:30 a strident bell sound gave the signal to the start of the prisoner’s last walk. Everyone’s look was directed to the backside from where, through flowering gardens, the condemned was supposed to appear.
Slowly she came along , at her side her defender in the robe, Mr. Rechtsanwalt Dr. Knoll from Dresden, to her left the prison parson in his ornat, Mr. Pastor Schmidt, which gave to the condemned woman words of courage and comfort.
Grete Beier kept the hands folded and looked to the ground, but she walked upright the head slightly inclined forward.
Just as in the two-day trial, nothing in her face betrayed the feelings of the murderess, she was completely calm – and this stony calmness looked almost frightful.
Slowly, almost hesitating she walked forward. On her black dress, the neck was exposed. Thus she approached the prosecutor and the judges. Public prosecutor Dr. Mannl stepped forwards, with elevated voice spoke he the following: “Maria Margarete Beier from Erbisdorf has been condemned to death by the District Court of Freiberg. The judgment has been confirmed. His majesty the king did not feel compelled to make use of the power of pardon. Therefore the judgment is to be carried out. Mr. Landesscharfrichter Brandt, I transfer the delinquent to you.”
In the meantime the clergyman and the defender had withdrawn. The executioner and an assistant slowly led the condemned to the scaffold and the five steps up.
Grete Beier approached the scaffold, whose platform had been provided with an added step in order to adapt it the small stature of the condemned. What followed now took place quickly. The buckles closed behind the back of the delinquent. The board was tilted into horizontal position.
Then the girl called out. It sounded fearful, anguished, like a long retained despair: “Father, into Your hands I lay my soul --- Father!” then the neck-ring closed and the blade rushed down.
The executioner took off his hat and announced to the public prosecutor: “Herr Staatsanwalt, the judgment is executed.”
The last act, from the instant when the young woman left the prison building up to the execution took only three minutes.
The public prosecutor requested the people who were present at the execution to depart calmly. When the witnesses of the execution left by a side way, in which already waited the flower-decorated hearse, which will bring the body of Grete Beier to Dresden, a huge crowd waited outside.
The body will be buried beside the grave of the father.
Grete Beier remained until her death an unresolved mystery. Until her last minutes she showed a self-control which a man in the same condition would hardly have shown.
[“The Execution of Grete Beier.” Unknown German-language newspaper, Jul. 23, 1908, translated]
Note: English-language newspapers incorrectly described the execution as having been performed with an axe rather than a guillotine.
For more cases of this type, see Serial Baby-Killer Moms.