Thursday, September 22, 2011

Auguste Bock & Brother Hermann Springstein, German Serial Killer Duo - 1895


7 Murders:
1886-1892 – 6 deaths: Mr. Springstein senior (father of HS), Mrs. Springstein senior (mother of HS), Brother-in-law of HS, Johann Bock (husband of AB), Alfred Bock (son of HB), Fraulein Fiebelkorn.
March 7, 1895 – Mrs. Springstein (wife of HS) dies.

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FULL TEXT (article 1 of 2): At the assizes at Prenzlau, in Germany, on November 5 [1895], Hermann Springstein (a local shopkeeper) and his sister (a widow named. Bock) were convicted of the murder by poisoning, of the male prisoner's wife in March of this year, and sentenced to death. The prisoners were also accused of the murder by poisoning of six other persons, including their mother and father and Mrs. Bock’s husband, and son, between 1886 and 1892. The lives of the male prisoner's wife and brother-in-law had been insured.

[Untitled, The Otago Witness (Dunedin, New Zealand), Jan. 2, 1896, p. 17]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): London, November 8 [1895]. – Router’s correspondent at Prenzlau wires the English papers (says our London correspondent) particulars of a curious poisoning trial which is not unlike the famous Joniaux case. The accused were Hermann Springstein and his sister Auguste, widow of a locksmith named Bock. They were accused of poisoning, between 1886 and 1895, no fewer than seven persons, including their father and mother, the male prisoner’s wife, the husband of the female prisoner Bock, her son Alfred Bock, and an unmarried woman named Fiebelkorn; but the indictment upon which they were arraigned was limited to a single one of those crimes— the murder of the male prisoner’s wife, on the 7th of March last, with premeditation— the other charges being investigated collaterally. A motive for the alleged crimes was suggested by the fact that the lives of the deceased persons had been insured for considerable sums. The female prisoner was brought to take her trial from the Luckau Penitentiary, where she was undergoing a sentence of four years’ penal servitude for perjury, of which she was convicted at this court in June last.

Hermann Springstein, though latterly keeping a grocery store, was a blacksmith by trade, and had also dabbled in veterinary surgery, in which connection he naturally acquired a knowledge of poisons. He lived at Konigsberg until 1893, when he removed to Anklam, and thence to Pasewalk, his sister Auguste keeping house for him. At Pasewalk, in July, 1893, he married, and in May of the following year he came to Prenzlau. His wife died suddenly on March 7 last, after an attack of cramp, to which Springstein said she was subject. Dr Beutlich, the family doctor, next day gave a certificate to the effect that Mrs Springstein had died from spasmodic constriction of the larynx. The body was exhumed a fortnight later by order of the Public Prosecutor. An examination of the intestines made by Dr Bischoff, the police chemical expert in Berlin, established the presence of 0.034 grammes of strychnine in the stomach and intestines, while perceptible traces of the same poison were found in the internal organs. The life of the deceased had been insured by her husband for 3,000 marks. The attention of the authorities was then turned to six other cases of death under suspicious circumstances which had occurred in the prisoner’s household between 1886 and 1892, while Springstein was living at Konigsberg. The brother-in-law’s life was insured for 12,000 marks. The bodies of these persons were also exhumed, but though traces of arsenic were found in the intestines of Springstein’s parents the poison was not present in sufficient quantities to justify the conclusion that it was the cause ot death. The bodies were, however, in an advanced state of decomposition. Springstein was alleged to have been in the habit of making his wife drunk, and the woman frequently complained that after drinking liquor given to her by her husband, and also after eating food prepared by the female prisoner, she suffered from cramps in the throat such as might be occasioned by strychnine poisoning. Quantities of strychnine, sulphuric acid, and other poisons were found in Springstein’s house. Twenty-five witnesses, including three experts, were cited for the prosecution. Springstein is a powerfully-built unkempt man of rough exterior, and his sister a common-looking woman speaking with a strong Berlin lower-class accent. Both maintained a callous demeanor during the proceedings, the woman on several occasions impudently interrupting the presiding judge in the course of his interrogatory. The judges were Provincial Court Councillor Wilke and Provincial Judges Knitsehki and Simonsohn.

The prisoners having pleaded not guilty, the president proceeded to interrogate them as to the death of their father. Springstein, in reply, described life in the paternal household as being wretched in the extreme. He and his father frequently came to blows, and had quarrels of the most violent character. His father drank heavily, and prisoner alleged that his sudden death was the result of drink. In support of this statement he mentioned that the deceased, when found, held an empty schnapps bottle clutched to his breast in his death grasp. Prisoner’s brother advised him to report their father’s death to the police, but this Springstein devised to do, on the ground that it was quite unnecessary. Shortly afterwards his brother was taken to a lunatic asylum, but he was subsequently released. Interrogated as to his veterinary practice, Springstein said it was true that he had insured the lives of cattle for large sums, but he repudiated the suggestion that he had poisoned them in order to obtain the insurance money. It was true that the insurance company had entertained suspicions on the subject, but he had protested against the suggestion. He admitted that he had recommended to his brother a certain vegetable poison, which he described as sure and effectual, leaving no traces behind. Prisoner also denied that he had poisoned his nephew. As to his brother-in-law, he declared that he had died from an overdose of schnapps and arsenic, a mixture which he had been in the habit of taking regularly. Springstein likewise denied that he had poisoned the young woman named Fiebelkorn.

The Public Prosecutor here pointed out that shortly after Springstein senior’s death the woman in question expressed the belief that he had been poisoned. Two days later she was dead herself. His mother, prisoner said, had died after drinking some very strong coffee. She had to go out and dig potatoes one night, and his sister handed her a cup of coffee before she left the house. Several witnesses testified that on the evening in question the old woman, while she was working, suddenly screamed out that she had been poisoned, and asked for a drink of milk. Some milk and water was handed her by a neighbor, but she died soon afterwards. Prisoner stated . that his mother might possibly have taken arsenic in mistake for salts. In explanation of his being in possession of poisons, Springstein alleged that he had sold quantities of poison for killing foxes. The female prisoner, questioned as to the manner of her husband’s death, said his lungs were not strong, and he also was troubled with his heart and stomach. The poison found on him was, she declared, quite harmless. One witness stated that on one occasion Mr. Bock remarked to her: “There were six deaths in our house this year — my mother, my husband, and my son, two horses, and a dog,” adding “and the dog had the finest funeral.” Another witness said the male prisoner had threatened to shoot him. A violent dispute ensued, and in the course of the quarrel prisoner shouted: “I shall do for you yet; I don’t need a pistol for you.”

At the close of the previous day’s proceedings the male prisoner was observed to be making signs to the warder who was taking him back to his cell. The President promptly recalled him and asked what he meant, to which the accused replied in Berlin slang : “Off goes my head. Then off go I to heaven.”

Three medical experts deposed that Springstein’s wife had been slowly poisoned through repeated doses of strychnine administered to her, and expressed the opinion that his father and mother, brother-in-law, and nephew had all been similarly poisoned. The Public Prosecutor asked for a verdict of guilty, declaring that, apart from the murder of Mrs Springstein, there was the strongest suspicion that the male prisoner was likewise guilty of the murder of the four persons above-mentioned. Herren Meissner and Dietrich, for the defence, argued that there was nothing in the evidence to justify a verdict of guilty. The jury, however, replied in the affirmative on each count of the indictment, and sentence of death was pronounced on both prisoners.

[“Remarkable Poisoning Case. - A Brother And Sister Sentenced To Death.” The Tuapeka Times (Lawrence, New Zealand), Jan. 1, 1896, p. 6]

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FULL TEXT (translated from German): On the 4th d. M. began before the jury court in Prenzlau, Prussia, a process that recalls the poisoning trial of the Joniaux, which in January d. J. in Antwerp. Not less than seven people were murdered by poison by the defendant, businessman Hermann Springstein,. Of these seven cases, the Public Prosecutor's Office has indicted one of the accused of poisoning the wife of the accused, while the others have come forward to characterize the accused's actions in the midst of the trial. The accused's sister, the widowed master forger Auguste Bock, nee Springstein, was supposed to have taken part in this murder, so that she, too, had to take her place in the dock.

After Springstein lived as a blacksmith in Königsberg (Nenmarkt) until 1893, he moved with the accused sister, which led him the property, first to Anklam and from there to Pasewalk. Here he married on July 25, 1893 his deceased wife and then in May 1894 moved to Prenzlau. On March 7, 1895, the wife of the defendant suddenly died here and soon there was a rumor that Mrs. Springstein had not died a natural death. This rumor soon became more widespread, and at the request of the prosecutor, the body was dug up and autopsied. The examination of the corpse revealed the presence of strychnine in the stomach, the duodenum, and the esophagus, while detectable quantities of the same poison were also found in the other internal organs.

The State Prosecutor's Office has now also directed its findings to six deaths that occurred between 1886 and 1892, during which Springstein resided in Königsberg. Among the deceased there were also the parents of the defendant and a brother-in-law of the same, the blacksmith master Johann Bock, who had insured his life with 12,000 marks. All died under suspicious circumstances. The defendant had insured the life of his wife for 3000 marks.

On November 5th both Springstein and his sister Mrs. Bock were condemned to death by the “falling ax” [Fallbeil: similar to a guillotine].

["Seven Persons Poisoned." Neuigkeits Welt-Blatt (Vienna, Austria), Nov. 7, 1895, p. 4]

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EXCERPT:

A SENSATIONAL POISONING CASE IN PRUSSIA.

A trial in the Assize Court at Prenzlau, in November, 1895, which excited widespread interest in Germany, ended in the conviction and sentence of the parties implicated. These were a tradesman named Hermann Springstein, and his sister, Auguste, widow of a locksmith named Bock. They were accused of poisoning, between 1886 and 1895, no fewer than seven persons, including their father and mother, the male prisoner's wife, the husband of the female prisoner Bock, her son Alfred Bock, and an unmarried woman named Fiebelkorn. But the indictment upon which they were arraigned was limited to a single one of these crimes—the murder of the male prisoner's wife, on March 7, 1895, with premeditation—the other charges being investigated collaterally. A motive for the alleged crimes was suggested by the fact that the lives of the deceased persons had been insured for considerable sums.

Hermann Springstein, though latterly keeping a grocery store, was a blacksmith by trade, and had also dabbled in veterinary surgery, in connection with which he acquired some knowledge of poisons. He lived at Konigsberg until 1893, when he removed to Anklam, and thence to Pasewalk, his sister Auguste keeping house for him. At Pasewalk, in July, 1893, he married, and in May of the following year he came (to Prenzlau. His wife died suddenly on March 7th last, after an attack of cramp, to which Springstein said she was subject. Dr. Beutlich, the family doctor, next day gave a certificate to the effect that Mrs. Springstein had died from spasmodic constriction of the larynx. The body was exhumed a fortnight later by order of the Public Prosecutor. An examination of the intestines made by Dr. Bischoff, the police chemical expert in Berlin, established the presence of 0.034 grammes of strychnine in the stomach and intestines, while perceptible traces of the same poison were found in other viscera. The life of the deceased had been insured by her husband for 3,000 marks. The attention of the authorities was then turned to six other cases of death under suspicious circumstances which had occurred in the prisoner's household between 1886 and 1892, while Springstein was living at Konigsberg. The brotherin-law's life was insured for 12,000 marks. The bodies of these persons were also exhumed, but though traces of arsenic were found in the intestines of Springstein's parents, the poison was not present in sufficient quantities to justify the conclusion that it was the cause of death. The bodies were, however, in an advanced state of decomposition. Springstein was alleged to have been in the habit of making his wife drunk, and the woman frequently complained that after drinking liquor given to her by her husband, and also after eating food prepared by the female prisoner, she suffered from cramps in the throat, such as might be occasioned by strychnine poisoning. Quantities of strychnine, sulphuric acid, and other poisons were found in Springstein's house.

Twenty-five witnesses, including three experts, were cited for the prosecution.

Springstein was a powerfully-built, unkempt man of rough exterior, and his sister a common-looking woman, speaking with a strong Berlin lower-class accent. Both maintained a callous demeanor during the proceedings, the woman on several occasions impudently interrupting the presiding judge in the course of his questioning.

The prisoners having pleaded not guilty, the President proceeded to interrogate them as to the death of their father. Springstein, in reply, described life in the paternal household as being wretched in the extreme. He and his father frequently came to blows, and had quarrels of the most violent character. His father drank heavily, and prisoner alleged that his sudden death was the result of drink.

Interrogated as to his veterinary practice, Springstein said it was true that he had insured the lives of cattle for large sums, but he repudiated the suggestion that he had poisoned them in order to obtain the insurance money. He admitted that he had recommended to his brother a certain vegetable poison which he described as sure and effectual, leaving no traces behind. Springstein denied that he had poisoned the young woman named Fiebelkorn.

The Public Prosecutor, Herr Unger, here pointed out that shortly after Springstein senior's death the woman in question expressed the belief that he had been poisoned. Two days later she was dead herself.

His mother, prisoner said, had died after drinking some very strong coffee. She had to go out and dig potatoes one night, and his sister handed her a cup of coffee before she left the house.

Several witnesses testified that on the evening in question the old woman, while she was working, suddenly screamed out that she had been poisoned, and asked for a drink of milk. Some milk and water was handed her by a neighbor, but she died soon afterwards.

Prisoner stated that his mother might possibly have taken arsenic in mistake for salts. In explanation of his being in possession of poisons, Springstein alleged that he sold quantities of poison for killing foxes.

The female prisoner, questioned as to the manner of her husband's death, said his lungs were not strong, and he was also troubled with his heart and stomach. The poison found on him was, she declared, quite harmless.

One witness stated that on one occasion Mrs. Bock remarked to her, "There were six deaths in our house this year—my mother, my husband, and my son, two horses and a dog," adding "and the dog had the finest funeral."

At the close of the proceedings the male prisoner was observed to be making signs to the warden, who was taking him back to his cell. The President promptly recalled him and asked what he meant, to which the accused replied in Berlin slang: " Off goes my head; then off go I to heaven."

Three medical experts deposed that Springstein's wife had been slowly poisoned through repeated doses of strychnine administered to her, and expressed the opinion that his father and mother, brother-in-law, and nephew had all been similarly poisoned.

The jury replied in the affirmative on each count of the indictment, and the sentence of death was pronounced on both prisoners.

[John Benjamin Lewis, Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Stratagems and Conspiracies to Defraud Life Insurance Companies: An Authentic Record of Remarkable Cases.., Baltimore: James A. McClellan, 1896, pp. 478-480.]

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FULL TEXT: Am 4. d. M. begann vor dem Schwurgerichte in Prenzlau, Preußen, ein Prozeß, der an den Giftmordprozeß der Joniaux erinnert, welcher sich im Jänner d. J. in Antwerpen abspielte. Nicht weniger als sieben Personen soll der Angeklagte. Kaufmann Hermann Springstein, durch Gift ermordet haben. Von diesen sieben Fällen hat die Staats anwaltschaft einen, und zwar die Vergiftung der Ehe frau des Angeklagten, unter Anklage gestellt, während die übrigen zur Kennzeichnung der Handlungsweise des Beschuldigten im Lause der Verhandlung gleich falls zur Sprache kamen. An diesem unter Anklage stehenden Morde soll die Schwester des Angeklagten, die verwitwete Schmiedemeister Auguste Bock, geborene Springstein, theilgenommen haben, so daß auch diese mit auf der Anklagebank Platz nehmen mußte.

Nachdem Springstein bis 1893 als Schmied in Königsberg (Nenmarkt) gewohnt, zog er mit der Mit angeklagten Schwester, welche ihm die Wirthschaft führte, zunächst nach Anklam und von dort nach Pasewalk. Hier heiratete er am 25. Juli 1893 seine verstorbene Ehefrau und zog darauf im Mai 1894 nach Prenzlau. Am 7. März 1895 starb nun hier plötzlich die Ehefrau des Angeklagten und alsbald entstand das Gerücht, daß Frau Springstein keines natürlichen Todes gestorben sei. Dies Gerücht fand bald größere Verbreitung und auf Antrag der Staatsanwaltschaft wurde die Leiche ansgegraben und obduzirt. Die Nutersuchung der Leichentheile ergab das Vorhanden sein von Strychnin im Magen, dem Zwölffingerdarm und der Speiseröhre, wahrend nachweisbare Mengen desselben Giftes auch in den anderen inneren Organen festgestellt wurden.

Nun richtete die Slaatsanwaltschait ihre Ermitte lungen auch auf sechs Todesfälle, welche in der Zeit von 1886 bis 1892, während welcher Springstein in Königsberg wohnhaft war, vorgekommen waren. Unter den dort verstorbenen Personen befanden sich auch die Eltern des Angeklagten und ein Schwager desselben, der Schmiedmeister Johann Bock, welcher sein Leben mit 12.000 Mark versichert hatte. Alle starben unter verdächtigen Umständen. Das Leben seiner Ehefrau hatte der Angeklagte mit 3000 Mark versichert.

Sowohl Springstein, als auch seine Schwester Frau Bock wurden in der am 5. d. folgenden Verhandlung zum Tode durch das Fallbeil verurtheilt.

[“Sieben Personnen vergiftet.” Neuigkeits Welt-Blatt (Vienna, Austria), Nov. 7, 1895, p. 4]

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[626-6/17/19]
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