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The babies at Fejø (part 2)

The second case on Fejø was even more ferocious than the first. This time Judge Freuchen had a case of 2 infanticides. The young farmhand Carl Christian Jensen was the second January 1884 arrest for the rape of his master's only 3 and a half year old daughter. It was not his only indecorous behaviour; during the interrogation more was revealed. He was asked to explain how he had become so horny. After some wrangling he revealed, that almost every Saturday and Sunday evening, clog maker Niels Larsen was running a kind of pub, where drinking and fornication would take place. If we are too believe Carl, they were quite impressive parties.

The following is from the police report, but as this was written in old Danish Language we are not able to translate directly. We have tried to translate as precise as possible.:
Host as well as hostess would entertain with lecherous stories, where both the male and female sexual organ was mentioned by name. Sexual intercourse is described in details. Host and hostess also pointed out that women and men were there to be touched on the sexual organs and invited to do so. So the men will take the women on their lap and lift up their clothes and touch their sexual organs. The host would invite the guests to consummate the intercourse in the dark workshop.

Carl would amongst others point out the sister in law of the clog maker as well as 2 sisters, Louise (21 year) and Christine Petersen (16 years).

The next day Christine was called in for interrogations. The judge mislaid the only 16-year-old Christine that she probably had lived an immoral life and was probably already pregnant. Before long, she admitted that she properly was, but she on the advice of her mother had visited Karen Siø also called "Kabilles" who should have a herb to bring on abortion. She admitted further that her sister Louise already had a child who had been strangled and buried in a field. Louise was brought in and confessed too.

The clog man and his wife were also examined. The woman admitted quickly but the clog man was stubborn. He denied but after some time he did admit that the parties were quite lively.

Karen Siø was questioned but denied having sold more than a remedy against fever. She admitted later, however, that the scoured nettle roots also could be effective against other things than fever.

The search for the child corpse started the very next day, but was unsuccessful. Someone lied. The sisters were separated and interrogated for hours so as to clarify the matter. Christine gradually revealed that the girls' mother Marie Petersen had attended at birth, the death and disposal. Christine had not wanted to participate but her mother had said that it would be worse for her, if she refused. Implying this would not be the last time they would have to kill a newborn baby.

The following is from the police report, but as this was written in old Danish Language we are not able to translate directly. We have tried to translate as precise as possible.
The arrested immediately took the baby and strangled it, by spreading both hands around the neck, pressing the thumb very hard on the throat for around 15 minutes, until life had ceased. No breathing, sound or movement. The child has a little bit of hair and nails. Prior to the birth, the arrested and Karen had both gotten a butcher knife from the kitchen, and now they both participated cutting up the child. The arrested cut the lower part into around 10 pieces and Karen (another maid on the farm) cut the head and chest into several pieces. When asked where all these pieces went, arrested says they were hidden in the midden, in resemblance to what happened to Louise's child, but confronted with the fact that the midden would be emptied soon and the body would not be sufficiently decomposed she said they gave it to the cats and dogs. When confronted with the fact that catch and dogs would be too slow to consume the meat and would run around with it, she said they gave the pieces to the birds. That explanation also seemed too fare fetched and so she said they had buried the pieces all around the field. When threatened with a full excavation of the field, she says she threw then in the ocean. Confronted with the fact that they would not have had time to cut the body up, she says they had feed the pieces to their masters pigs, who had consumed them immediately, bones included.

The mother Marie Petersen was brought in, interrogated and confessed after which the master of Louise and mistress was questioned. None of them had at any point noticed that Louise was supposed to be pregnant.

The judge had apparently noticed Christine's explanation that her mother Marie had said it would be worse for Christine if she did not participate. Christine was interviewed again and admitted that the remedy from Karen Siø had not worked and she actually had given birth to a child. The birth had happened so quickly that her mother Marie had not yet arrived. Karen, another maid at the farm had helped. Christine knew Karen herself had gone through the same thing, so was easy to pressure into helping. Karen passed out when she was confronted with the statements but denied having had anything to do with it. Christine then changed the explanation and thereby Karen was exempt from guilt. Karen was set free.

Christine then admitted her mother Marie who had helped. Marie was reminded that at some point she would have to face God being accountable for speaking the truth. Furthermore, it could affect her fate if she showed remorse by providing other confessions. Marie started talking and other confessions were revealed. She confessed that when she had served for smallholder Mads Rasmussen between Maribo and Bandholm she had helped Mads and his wife kill three grandchildren, as their 3 daughters in rapid succession had come home pregnant. Judge Freuchen wondered why Marie would have helped Mads. A woman named "Sniff -Mette" should have told Marie that Mads beat anything to death for money and Marie just might even offer her service system and thus make money. Marie helped Mads stand guard while he killed a man in a forest. Apparently he had been suffocated. She had been sent off with the man's clothes and had received 40kr from Mads for her service.

Now Maribo police got involved but they had never heard anything about this missing man, so Judge Freuchen assumed that the murdered man was a sailor, possibly Swedish, hence he had never been reported missing.

Marie went on and revealed second murder in the woods, in which she had helped Mads. This time Freuchen travelled to Lolland where the crimes allegedly took place. The places of the alleged Killings fitted with Marie's description and police protocol contained sketches of the area.

The district doctor was approached to disentangle Marie's mental state. The report said "her stupidity and lethargy and her otherwise peculiar naturel near, she must be assumed to be completely sane"

Eventually consistency between Marie and her daughters' story was reached and a hearing was scheduled. Marie's case was not fully completed.

Nakskov newspaper published an article about the case:
About the terrible three child murderers, mother and two daughters:An unmarried prostitute had a couple of daughters , Louise and Christine , at the age of 22 and 17 years , each of which was were fertile and in union with the mother around 2 years ago killed and got rid of the illegitimate children immediately at birth . - When Louise saw that her confinement approached, she gave her mother Notice thereof, and they decided then that child should "be destroyed" immediately after birth. Later, the then only 14 year old Christine was inaugurated in the plan, and because of her mother's threats intended to participate in the crime. - Some time later, when Christine one evening visited Louise, she felt labour pain and therefore sent for her mother. The three criminals were serving on 3 different farms in close proximity of each other. The mother was also present and after they got 2 knifes, a chopping block and an axe and 3 large Scarves from the kitchen at the farm where Louise served, they went into the field that Evening around 10-11pm. After approx. an hour Louise gave birth to a full born, healthy baby boy. The plan was for Christine to kill the child, but she refused, and only after his mother again had threatened her, she took the axe and cut off the head of the child, while the mother held the baby on the chopping block. The baby was now chopped into 24- 26 parts and pieces were then put in the 3 Scarves. The mother then washed the axe and knives and tried to cover the blood. The 3 then went back, each with one of the scarves containing the body part and it was determination that these should be spread and buried in middens at the three farms on which criminals served. While the mother and Christine immediately that night responded to that decision, Louise had because of weakness from the birth, no power, hence when she came home, hid scarf with content in a drawer and only got it out a few days later. Already at that time Louise's Child was killed, Christine knew that she too was pregnant, and it was not long before she revealed this to her mother. She suggested to use a remedy to provoke an abortion, but when that failed they decided together to kill the child in the same way as Louise. One evening when Christina felt birth coming, she called for her mum. She arrived, and when they assumed that the servants had gone to bed , they got and axe and a knife in the kitchen and went out to the midden site where they picked some Straw, that was placed in a corner against swine barn. In this Straw Christine gave birth to a healthy baby girl who started screaming. The baby girl did not however retain life for long, as Christine immediately cut its throat over with the axe. Then, also the body of this child was dismembered, but only 15 a 16 pieces, but as spring approached, and fertilizer from the dunghill would soon be taken out and spread in the field, they did not dare bury the pieces in the midden, and they threw therefore those in favor of the pigs, who seemed to devour them. The Straw in which Christine had given birth, they reintroduced into the midden and after axe and knife was washed off, the criminals went to rest, each in their own yard. The people where Louise and Christine served had strangely not had any inkling of this. In the beginning of the interrogations all three criminal had various explanations, but finally managed however to provide truthful Explanations, and the two Women mother has during her arrest given the explanation that she while serving in Maribo Birk, 19 years ago, was an accomplice in the murder of three other illegitimate children, and she also confessed, at the same time and in the same Birk having participated in the murder of two grown-up persons.

On March 29, 1884 sentences was handed down. Christine got 4 years in the penitentiary, Louise got five years, clog maker Niels Larsen got eight months and his wife escaped with 6x5 days on bread and water, Karen Siø got 3x5 days on the same menu. Carl Christian Jensen who brought attention to the case got 3 years in the penitentiary.

For Marie, the case was still ongoing. Maribo police, who was now involved in the case, had not been able to find any Mads Rasmussen, nor “Sniff-Mette”. The two murders were unknown to the police. Marie then withdrew her confession of the 5 murders, after which her mental state was again examined by the district physician, and this time the doctor thought she could not be perceived to be sane. Against this background, she escaped with 8 years of hard labour.

So you would think that the case ended here, but no. The county was getting pretty annoyed with the judge's work. In both cases Fejø had sentenced without lay assessors. The High Court found the case out of the ordinary and required Marie to be hospitalised and properly examined. Marie could tell in detail about weird interrogation methods and assessor Ingerslev who was now in the process of investigating the island's legal matters. Marie's daughters were also examined and both were so afraid of the judiciary that they were hard to get to talk. When Marie had recuperated, she took action. She wanted the case closed and the truth told. The girls had confessed under pressure from the judge and his interrogation methods. They had certainly given up getting the judge to listen, and witnesses as well as defendants, was more or less forced by the judge to approve explanations.

Marie and her daughters were released and the case was dropped.

Already during the first Fejø case, the judge was admitted to Oringe mental hospital. His idealistic outlook was never going to reconcile with infanticide cases from Fejø. He was insane and sank into deep depression.

So did child murders take place? Or were they the result of one man's excessive idealistic outlook on life?

Kvindefængslet på Christianshavn
The womens prison in Christianshavn near Copenhagen where Christiane and her daughters were imprisoned