The Angel of Bremen – The Story of a poisoner

On the north side of the Bremer Dom, paved in the Domshof, lies an initially insignificant stone. Most of the time, it does not appear until you walk over it and then get upset to have entered into spit. I’m writing about the Spuckstein (Spit stone), another sight of Bremen. You may ask what is special about this stone? Well, the stone itself is not so interesting at all, it is rather the story behind it.
In the 19th century  a serial murderer who murdered 15 people in only 14 years lived in Bremen. Her name was Gesche Gottfried and until now, everyone in Bremen knows her.

How it all began

Gesche Margarethe Timm was born on 6th March 1785 in Bremen and lived with her family in rather poor circumstances. As a child Gesche got arsenic powder from her mother to combat a mouse plague. Gesche appreciated arsen early as a poison and learned how to use it.
In 1806 Gesche married a wealthy saddler-master, named Johann Miltenberg, with whom she also had five children. Through this marriage, she rose into better relations. Johann Miltenberg preferred to go to pubs or brothels. Perhaps that was why Gesche was looking for a lover – Michael Christoph Gottfried. Johann Miltenberg was Gesches first victim on a long list of murders. Motives on her murders are not known, but sometimes it is quite clear why she killed certain people.

15 murders in 14 years

With the arsenic, which Gesche had gotten  from her mother, she killed eight people. Many others were seriously injured because the portioning did not kill them. After the eighth murder, it took some time (6 years) until Gesche got more arsenic, in  form of mouse butter.
She mixed the poison in the food of her victims. About 60 to 170 milligrams of arsenic is needed to kill a human after a few hours or a few days at most. The arsenic destroys the organs and causes internal bleeding. Since the powder is odorless and tasteless, the victim can easily be poisoned with the food. It is best to dissolve in alcoholic beverages.
With the arsenic Gesche mainly killed her husbands and children, but also her parents, a music teacher, her maid, her neighbors and her landlady.
The bremish people regretted the many deaths in Gesches family and appreciated how touching she looked after her relatives. That’s why they gave her the name “The Angel of Bremen”. If only they had known how wrong they were.

Arrest, conviction and execution

Of course, the bremish people were suspicious at some point and there were rumors about the many deaths. Also Gesches last landlord Johann Christoph Rumpff became suspicious and one day discovered small white grains in his ham. He took these to his doctor, D. Luce, who identified these globules as arsenic. On March 6, 1828 Gesche was arrested.
In prison, Gesche thought about suicide. She had taken a piece of mouse butter, but she did not dare to eat, fearing the pain. Finally, she was sentenced to death by sword. This took place on 21 April 1831 exactly where the Spuckstein is today. The execution of Gesche Gottfried was also the last execution in Bremen.

If today someone from Bremen walks past the Spuckstein and spits on it, he shows his contempt for the poisoner.