Gesche Margarethe Gottfried, born Gesche Margarethe Timm (6 March 1785 - 21 April 1831), was a serial killer who murdered 15 people by arsenic poisoning in Bremen and Hanover, Germany, between 1813 and 1827. She was the last person to be publicly executed in the city of Bremen.
Gottfried’s victims included her parents, her two husbands, her fiancé and her children. Before being suspected and convicted of the murders, she garnered widespread sympathy among the inhabitants of Bremen because so many of her family and friends fell ill and died. Because of her devoted nursing of the victims during their time of suffering, she was known as the “Angel of Bremen.” [Wikipedia]
EXCERPT: The noted woman Gottfried, who lived in Bremen a quarter of a century ago, might rank first among scientific poisoners. She was a widow of fascinating appearance in her youth beautiful; in more advanced life still attractive by those preparative and decorative arts of which woman knows so well how to avail herself. But fatality seemed to attend her. All connected with her sickened and died in strange ways. Two husbands, her father, her mother, her brother and several children disappeared in a short period of time it was her lot to order no less than thirteen coffins from the undertaker, who lived opposite her, and all for near and dear friend? Gottfried faithfully nursed them during their painful illness. She was an object of pity and sympathy, while she seemed wonderfully resigned to the inscrutable decrees of Providence. A perfect Niobe in her “childless woe” she appeared to be, and a Niobe she was, for her heart was as hard as that celebrated statue. Received into good society, her company was courted by persons of rank and consideration.
Twice a widow, she still had suitors. She had a well furnished house, an easy fortune; but still she continued to drink of the cup of affliction, and was still pitied and prayed for. A model of the fender affections, she loved intensely, but her love seemed to kill every object on which it alighted. The venerated parent, the manly husband, the beautiful children withered and died.
A Mr. Rampff and his wife, though dissuaded by friends, took lodgings in the same house with Madam Gottfried. She was all kindness to them and theirs. But Madam R. was seized with vomiting, and died under the assidious nursing of this disguised Alecto. The children and servants met the sane fate, and received the same attentions. She gave them all their death-potion, and smoothed their dying pillow. Mr. Rumpff himself was seized; he ransacked the house from garret to cellar to find the cause; he believed there was some decaying substance, some fetid exhalation, … which did the mischief: he had the boards lifted and the walls examined, all in vain; but at length a white powder was observed, on a bit of meat which had been left, and it proved to be arsenic. Madam G. was arrested, imprisoned, and though at first affecting great horror at the idea of being accused as a murderess, finally confessed to all, and to much more than she said she could remember! She was sentenced to be beheaded, and that head, preserved in spirits, and her skeleton in a case, may now be seen in the museum at Bremen.
[“Deaths by Poison.” (From the Milwaukee News), The Kenosh Times (Wi.), Feb. 11, 1858, p. 1]
For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.