HISTORIC ESSAYBased on the district court reports (birketings tingbog) of Hammershus, Bornholm, Denmark 1688-1701 Written by Jesper Vang Hansen 2008 Translated by J C Fogh, December 2012
The Murder at Strandløkken 9. july 1695
Age 36 years Henrik Nielsen of Sandvig spent the evening the 9. July 1695 together with friends in the home of Niels Hansen in Allinge after a hard day’s visit to Rønne. They drank and talked to late that evening. He left the house in Allinge drunk long after the sun had set and set off home to Sandvig. No one saw him thereafter.
Early the next morning Mikkel Sørensen rode towards Allinge. Halfway between Allinge and Sandvig he found Henrik Nielsen’s bloody stick lying in a pool of blood at the fringe of Strandløkken. He took the stick with him to Allinge where he heard that Henrik Nielsen never made it home to Sandvig. Mikkel Sørensen showed the find-spot to the town scribe Peder Ovesen and to Laurids Jensen from Allinge. The rumour of the bloody discovery had already spread and many people soon gathered around the spot. It had been discovered that bloody traces led down to the beach.
The town scribe, who was a kind of police authority in the two towns, carried on to Sandvig, where he met the wife of Henrik Nielsen, Lisbet Larsdatter, on the road looking for her husband. When she heard what they had found, she put her hands together and said: ”God help me, then he has been killed. It is a long time since they spun this. Then he has been murdered as they had threatened”.
A dramatic case of murder in two acts.
The murder of a wellknown citizen in Allinge-Sandvig shook the little community. The rumours soon spread all over Bornholm and in a few days the story reached the seamen in Copenhagen’s roads. Everyone talked about it and rumours arose about who might be the murderer and if prosecution of a suspect at the court could be expected to start soon. But events took a different turn….
Because of many circumstances the investigation became complicated: The body of Henrik Nielsen had been removed. Previous murder threats by a farmhand to the murdered victim could not be examined as the farmhand had fled from the island in a stolen boat. The victim’s cousin Hans Hansen was prosecuted; but owing to his knowledge of the law, the case drew out. He was though found guilty on circumstantial evidence, but escaped prison before the final verdict could be made.
The escape from Hammershus prison started the next chapter of the macabre murder case. The murdered person’s brother was prosecuted and gradually a family drama, not inferior to the best of todays crime novels, was revealed.
The drama was set in the district court at Hammershus, held in the building immediately after the bridge over the ravine and 100 meters to the right. The foundations of the court house are preserved. The Hammershus district court book is remarkably descriptive and the district scribe manages to cite several witnesses, so that details about the town life can be sensed today, more than 300 years after the event.
Directions to the readers:
I came upon this criminal story because I had made my mind up to read the Hammershus court book from start to finish. The story is best experienced by reading the court book reports day by day, but the form and language makes this difficult. This account is therefore an attempt to make the murder case accessible for the wider public.
The relevant pages of the court book have been transcribed and are available on my homepage. The contents of all the court book can also be found there. Furthermore I have constructed kalender1695 with notes and the family relations are given in the family tree.
The Local Community
Allinge and Sandvig were small communities with a few hundred inhabitants. And during the two big plague years 1618 and 1654 respectively 126 and 102 people died. In 1690 the towns had hardly recovered from the loss of people. In the countryside there were still many deserted farms.
Allinge and Sandvig did not have municipal charter, although litterary souces often call the inhabitants citizens and the towns had their own company of soldiers headed by a captain. The special status of the towns owe to their association with the fortress Hammershus. Many inhabitants worked there.
Allinge, Sandvig and Hammershus formed Bornholm’s only district court until 1693 with its own district judge. The jurisdiction carried on as a unit, with Hasle town bailiff and Nørre Herred’s district bailiff as district judge. The district scribe was often called the town scribe, not withstanding that he was also the scribe for Hasle town court and Nørre district court. In 1695 his name was Per Ovesen and he had been district scribe for at least 10 years. He lived in Allinge at the town scribe farm. The district court sat on Mondays in the court house and the inhabitants could attend the court proceedings. Every year eight ”stokkemænd” were chosen from the towns, they were a kind of jurors. In 1695 five of them were from Allinge and three from Sandvig.
Hammershus had long since lost its past grandeur as the main castle for Bornholm, but still retained some administrative functions and was home for a small military unit. In those years the deputy commander Andreas v. Buggenhagen did not live in the deputy commander house in the castle, but stayed in Nexø. Artillery captain Haagen Mickelsen was the highest ranking officer who had fixed abode in the castle in 1695. He was chief of artillery on all Bornholm. Very few other people lived at the castle, in 1687 there were only 12. The officers and privates could sleep in the castle chambers, but generally lived on their own farms or had a home in Sandvig or Allinge, both close by the castle.
The position of Allinge-Sandvig meant that it was from here contacts were made to Skåne (in Sweden). In the land registry you sense that there was some contact to Skåne, and specially Simrishamn. There was traffic with small boats across the Hammer water. One could always find shelter inland regardless of the wind. The fact that Skåne had become Swedish in 1658 ofcourse meant fewer official contacts between the two territories, but the personal contacts continued. Without having proof, I believe that the separation in 1658 on the contrary indicate a rise in the more shady trade relations.
Smuggling often appear in the land registry.
In addition to the Skåne connection, there have been many contacts in the other Baltic regions. In those days the shipping routes went north of Bornholm and a natural place to anchor for provisioning was in the Sandvig bay.
Furthermore it happended that ships were wrecked in storms at Hammeren (the tip of Bornholm), which gave salvage money and trade in the towns.
Most of the citizens had fields spread around the town common, in small ”løkker”. These small ”løkker” or plots often gave rise to judicial arguments, which had to be resolved at the district court.
On the other hand conflicts over fishing, which was the town’s other main occupation, rarely occurred. The probates show that the sea was everymans source of income. Every man in the two towns had fishing gear and often part ownership in a boat. Besides farming several people in the towns made a living from various crafts.
In a community of perhaps only 300 people family relations mattered a lot for the opportunities one had to create a living for oneself.
Jørgen Hansen (the oldest known relative of the Hansen branch of the Fogh family) from Sandvig died in the days around new year 1690. In his probate from the 4. January 1690 it can be seen that his 8 children inherited something of value. Jørgen Hansen’s occupation is not known, but that he occupied a prominent role in Sandvig is seen from his co-signing of the gift letter to the king in 1659.
The 2 sons from Jørgens first marriage were already well-to-do citizens in 1690. The oldest son, Hans Jørgensen was town captain for the civil defence in Allinge-Sandvig (1685), district– and town bailiff and lived in a manner befitting his rank in one of the beach farms in Sandvig down by the port of call. The second oldest son, Niels Jørgensen had since 1675, apart from a couple of years, been ”arkelimester” at Hammershus. The ”arkelimester” (person responsible for looking after artillery) ranked under the ”stykkaptajn”, artillery-lieutenant and the ”stykjunker”. His annual wage was only 60 rigsdaler (currency in Denmark), but never the less Niels Jørgensen owned one of the most beautiful farms in Sandvig (Strandboulevarden 7), the farm where king Christian the V himself stayed the night of Whit Sunday 1685. Niels Jørgensen died March 1693, only 57 years old, and Hans Jørgensen died about the 10th December same year. Both owned some land in the town common, but it was hardly there they made their money. In the land registry it says that disagreements arose, in connection with their death, about the sharing of the inheritance among the surviving relatives.
It was Hans and Niels Jørgensen’s children who became the principal characters in the family drama which took place in 1695 and 96. The youngest son of Hans Jørgensen, Hans Hansen was charged with assisting the murder of Henrik Nielsen, Niels Jørgensen’s oldest son. Niels Jørgensen’s second oldest son Hans Nielsen is mentioned as blacksmith and farmer in 1690-92. He enters the murder story in the second act, was charged with the murder of his brother, convicted and sentenced to execution in 1696 at Allinge’s place of execution. The sister of Henrik, Lene was married to the vicar Poul Ancher and she tried without luck to save her brother Hans Nielsen from the murder charge.
Hans and Niels Jørgensen’s half siblings appear in the court records, either in witness statements or as interviewed witnesses. One of them, Thor Jørgensen, is even one of the eight ”stokkemænd”, who acts like a kind of jurors in the district court and takes part in convicting Hans Nielsen to death.
The district court 15 july – The notification of the case.
Lisbet Larsdatter, the widow of Henrik Nielsen appeared Monday the 15 july at the district court and asked to conduct a lawsuit with the aim of finding her husband’s murderers. The law permitted her to be the plaintiff, but it had to be at her own expense and risk. It was the duty of the district bailiff, Jens Andersen Stege, to select eight ”sandemænd” from Nordre Herred to be jurors (lægdommere) as King Christian the V’s law described.
Hans Svendsen from Rusker was chosen as chairman of the jurors (sandemænd), and the ordinary members were Laurits Monsen from Rutsker, Peder Bendtsen and Hans Monsen from Klemensker, Peder Esbersen and Niels Hansen from Rø, Jens Hansen from Olsker and Hans Hansen from Ladegården. The eigth jurors task was to research the case, and finally to take ”tov”, which means that they would judge guilty or not guilty. The judge would thereafter together with the eight ”stokkemænd” draw up the final sentence.
Berild Clausen from Klemensker
At the next sitting of the court on Monday the 22 july, the widow had chosen a graduate in law to be her guardian and solicitor. It was Berild Clausen of Bjørnegården in Klemensker, who was far from unknown at the district courts on Bornholm. He had made himself well known during the taxation cases in the middle of the 1680s, and he was one of the farmers whom the bailiff August Deckner suspected of inciting the peasants to rise against the authorities. Berild Clausen had refused to pay ”landegilde” (probably land tax) and was nearly sentenced to Bremerholm (to work in chains at the naval dockyard). Deckner got the obstinate peasant with a conviction from 1688, but Berild Clausen was saved because Deckner fell in disgrace. There is probably something in the gossip, although Deckner didn’t belong to the best of gods children, when Deckner to his defence in the year 1690 told the court that Berild Clausen is ”obstinate and the one who put evil in other peasants, ……he is an unruly head who neither has regard for god nor authority as the whole country and particularly his neighbours can testify. So much so that I fear for my life from him and his likes, and of being assaulted by him on all court journeys”.
Berild Clausen also had a reputation of being an officious personality in court cases, to avoid being subdued by powerful persons. He was not an ordinary copyholder. Although he was a quarreling master, he was learned and in the following court case it is clear to see that he knew the law and knew how best to use the witnesses to promote the case.
The authority, meaning the chief administrative officer Johan Diderich von Weetberg, though accepted Berild Clausen as the widows solicitor, and he thereby obtained authority to arrest and jail suspected persons.
The case of hay stolen during the harvest in 1694.
In the autumn of 1694 – meaning the year before the murder – one reads in the district court protokol about a peculiar case between the two brothers Henrik and Hans Nielsen. Henrik was of the opinion that his brother’s servants had stolen a load of hay from his field in the town common.
When reading the district courts interrogations, one is left with antipathy for Henrik Nielsen. It is reported how Henrik virtually watched for errors on the part of his brother, and then proceeded to blame him for having deliberately made his people steal from him. Henrik had ”gone off his rocker” and had physically punished the brother’s servants with blows and abuse.
Nowadays the case looks rather farcical: The farm boys had mistaken some hay stacks. The case ought to have been easy to solve between sensible people, but personal conflicts blocked that. It took 4 court sittings with mutual accusations between the two brothers, before a settlement was entered into.
A new case arose at the same time where ”stykkaptajn” Haagen Michelsen of Hammershus’s men surprised servants of Hans Nielsen in helping themselves to hay from the castle common by Habbedam. The job of prosecuting Hans Nielsen on behalf of the ”Stykkaptajn” was given to Berild Clausen. Hans Nielsen’s wagon had been confiscated at the castle and was sorely missed as the harvest was in progress. Hans Nielsen tried to have his wagon released, but was met with resistance. Hans Nielsen too took a solicitor namely his cousin Hans Hansen. From a material point of view the case was quite insignificant as there was only talk about a value totaling 3 mark. The case, which the district bayliff Jens Andersen Stege was to judge, was more about honour and dignity.
Both cases ended in settlement, but the 4 principal persons Henrik and Hans Nielsen, Hans Hansen as well as Berild Clausen had crossed swords. All were learned in the law and jealous of honour. The following year the simple cases about some stacks of hay were followed with the same principal people at the district court, but now in a murder case where the first had been murdered, the two next judged guilty in the murder and the last as a successful lawyer.
The district bayliff Jens Andersen Stege
District bayliff Jens Andersen Stege was also town bayliff for Hasle town court and district bayliff for Nørre Herred. He was the first district bayliff not selected by the citizen, but appointed by the king, and thus the king’s representative and the senior administrative officer of Bornholm. The purpose was to centralise the government in the local community. Jens Andersen Stege was an elderly man, and naturally had to ”lean on” the leading circles in the local community to manage his task.
As a judge in the murder case of 1695, the district bayliff’s role must have been difficult for him. He had supported Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen in the case against Henrik Nielsen regarding the stolen hay in 1694. Now Henrik had been murdered and the district bayliff’s previous supporters were accused of murder. The case was furthermore complicated by the disappearance of the body and that nobody had apparently seen the murder. The sister Lene of the victim was furthermore married to the vicar Poul Ancher, who was also vicar in Hasle and Rutsker. On account of Poul Ancher’s participation in the uprising against the Swedish in 1658, he was one of the most welknown and respected men on Bornholm that even the district judge necessarily had to treat with respect and honour.
The District bayliff had had problems with Berild Clausen several times earlier, and now he had to judge a case, where his own supporters stood accused of murder. The district bayliff got his own back by pointing to errors in procedure just as Berild Clausen had done to him during the hay case from 1694: He neglected to summon the jurors (sandemænd) to the court sitting on the 22 july, because stamped paper had not been bought, and therefore the case could not commence. Berild Clausen repayed him by outmanoeuvring the district judge. With the help of deputy administrative officer Christian Tuxen, Jens Andersen was taken off the case and replaced by Anders Pedersen Fyn as ”sættedommer” (old name for a replacement judge). The argument was that Jens Andersen Stege was disqualified on account of being related by marriage to the main suspect Hans Hansen. It has been impossible to find the name of his wife, but it is likely that Jens Andersen was married to one of Hans Hansen’s cousins, i.e. a link further back than what we would call relationship by marriage. The disqualification notion was not used at other occations although family relatives were often on both sides in the case.
The previous district bayliff’s son Hans Hansen is charged with murder.
Hans Hansen was arrested in Knudsker around the 20 july. He had just returned to the island after a trip to København. He had commenced the journey to København early in the morning of 10 july, i.e, that is a few hours after Henrik Nielsen had been murdered.
Hans Hansen was a cousin of the murdered Henrik Nielsen. Hans Hansen must have been in his mid thirties and therefore of similar age to Henrik Nielsen. During his father’s illness in 1693, he had assisted as town bayliff at Hammershus district court, and was named in the Sandvig court protokol on several occations deputy town bayliff. Already in 1692 he had litigated for Mette Elisabeth Maccabeus, the widow of the bayliff Deckner, at the county court, on the order of the principal administrative officer Diderich von Wettberg.
Hans Hansen must have been a pupil of the Rønne latin school. He knew the law and mastered both verbal and written arguments in lawsuits. In 1694 he was valuer and took part in valuing how much council tax his co-citizens had to pay. Already in 1692 he bought land in the town common and later after having taken possesion of his father’s property (today Strandgaden 18 called ”Strandslottet”), he expanded with land around his property. By October 1694 he was copyholder of Hammershus crop and wood. Hans Hansen was wealthy and also likely to have been the most powerful person in Sandvig in 1695.
Ole Lauritsen, his mother’s farm boy, had the job of bringing clothes and food to Rønne while Hans Hansen was jailed. Ole Lauritsen would later turn out to be an important witness for Berild Clausen, partly because he had knowledge of Hans Hansen’s movements and partly had had close contact with Hans Hansen’s farm boy Laurits Jensen.
Hans Hansen had been moved from the jail in Rønne on the 5 August to the prison at Hammershus. His jail was on the second highest floor of the Mantel tower (Manteltårnet), precisely the room where Eleonora Christine and Corfitz Ulfeldt had been imprisoned in 1661. (Eleonora Christine was a daughter of King Christian IV). This prison was ”offered” to more prominent prisoners. Food and clothes were still brought to him at the castle. During the first few days family members could see him and personally bring him food and clothes. It was the responsibility of ”stykkaptajn” Haagen Mickelsen to guard him. At some point the prisoner was isolated and could only meet the guards consisting of a group of eight soldiers and a sergent.
The district court on the 5. August – The examinations commence.
Formalities had to be sorted before the real court sitting could take place on the Monday the 5th August at Hammershus court house, but before that, the widow and her solicitor Berild Clausen had interviewed several witnesses at the widows farm in Sandvig.
Rumors and gossip amongst people had come to the notice of the widow, and very quickly the suspicion fell on Hans Hansen’s farm boy, Laurids Jensen. Laurids had once been hit by Henrik Nielsen in the field during the hay case in 1694, and he had offered various people money up until the time of the murder, for help with killing Henrik Nielsen.
Laurids Jensen had been cross examined in the widow’s farm a few days after the murder. Several witnesses told that the widow tapped him on the chest and said: ”Well Laurids, you know who committed the murder” Laurits had answered: ”No, this he didn’t know. You are trying to make me confess, you threaten to have me locked up and say that I have committed this. I will be satisfied if either they put me in custody or prison, presumably someone will come and get me out again”.
The suspicion that Laurids Jensen was an accomplice to the murder was reinforced, when he and his younger friend Jørgen, also working for Hans Hansen, fled in a boat the night between 20. and 21. July. The boat was jointly owned by his master Hans Hansen and Svend Jensen Ternø. Although the two farm boys had disappeared they were summoned to the first court session on the 5. August. Hans Hansen’s farm girl Bould Hansdatter was also summoned.
Allinge the 9 July 1695.
Through the witness examinations we can follow the events on the 9. July. Henrik Nielsen came to Allinge late in the afternoon. By the harbour he met the two brothers Hans and Ole Jensen who had just arrived from Simrishamn with a mill stone. They enjoyed a tankard of beer or two before Henrik Nielsen invited them up to the church to see the new plaque put up in memory of his father Niels Jørgensen. To gain entry to the church, they had to trouble the church warden Johan Jørgensen (A son of Jørgen Hansen d.1690 and ancester of a branch of the Fogh family). Henrik Nielsen told the church warden that he was tired, as he had just that day been to Rønne High Court to notify the High Court judge of a case. Warding himself off hearing Henrik Nielsen’s business in Rønne that day, the church warden said he could soon enough get to know the contents of a letter that Henrik had in his pocket and was keen to show the warden. A copy of the letter was later found at Henrik Nielsen’s farm and produced for the court as proof of the quarrels between the brothers Henrik, Hans and Peder Nielsen. The letter, which was addressed to Hans Nielsen, announced that Henrik Nielsen was going to prosecute Hans Nielsen for defamatory attacks on him and his wife as well as threats against their lives. The letter became an important document in the second act of the murder case, where Hans Nielsen is accused of the murder.
Henrik Nielsen continued despite tiredness up to Niels Nielsen’s house in Allinge, which presumably was one of the many small pubs in the town. Several of those present in the pubs were questioned at the court hearings. Captain Jørgen Pedersen from Brogård in Olsker, whose late wife was Henrik Nielsen’s aunt, told that there had been no disagreements between those present, when he went home at 10pm. Thor Pedersen told the same story. The Juror (sandemand) Hans Svendsen from Tornegård in Rutsker was also in the house, which is interesting, as he was later voted in as the chair of the eight men, who would judge in the case against Hans Hansen, and who also had an active role in Hans Hansen’s escape from Hammershus, the same day he was convicted. Henrik’s uncle (father’s brother) Johan Jørgensen was also in the house besides the two Simrishamn sailors Ole and Hans Jensen, Peder Pedersen and Laurids Nielsen all from Allinge. Also present was one from Sandvig namely Lars Nielsen. He had offered to accompany Henrik Nielsen to Sandvig, as Henrik had felt a little worried by the situation. But the wife of Lars Nielsen appeared and insisted on getting her husband home. Henrik Nielsen was not yet ready to say goodbye to his friends because there was still much ”to talk about”.
Berild Clausen did not cross examine the company further. He was apparently satisfied with their concurrent explanation that Henrik Nielsen left the house in peace and friendliness. Later during the examinations, Johansen Skomager (shoemaker), told that he had heard there were plans to get Henrik Nielsen drunk that evening at Niels Hansen in Allinge, with the purpose of confronting and murdering him on his way home.
When Henrik left he nearly forgot his ”stick”. It was the stick that was found at the murder spot the day after. The stick, which was exhibited in the court, was of bamboo and Henrik had bought it from Hans Jespersen of Allinge the Sunday before the murder. Hans Jespersen explained that he played a game of skittles with among others Lars Gummeløs on the day the murder had been discovered. Immediately he heard about the discovery of the stick, he went to the scene of the crime to cut a lump of turf with blood on it. Why he did that is not explained.
Berild Clausen produced more witnesses, who had stopped between Allinge and Sandvig on the evening of the 9. July. Sidsel Jacob Ibsens had seen Hans Hansen shortly before sunset walk towards Allinge with a grey dog when she moved her calf in Strandløkken. Malene Hartvig Andersdatter, who worked in Henrik Nielsen’s house and was milking cows in Strandløkken had also seen Henrik Nielsen, who had been talking with an unknown man up by the road. Only during the following court case at the High Court, against Hans Nielsen, did she explain that it was indeed Henriks brother Hans she had seen.
Hans Hansen’s defence
Hans Hansen denied being guilty of Henrik Nielsen’s murder. He stated that it was completely absurd to indict him for this monstrous act as he was a respected person. Rhetorically Hans Hansen asked all the summoned witnesses whether they could tell the court if he during his upbringing had been disobedient to his parents? Or had committed ”rape, murder, theft, rogue acts or other unethical acts?” after he had grown up. On the first day, all the examined witnesses replied that they had nothing to blame Hans Hansen for.
Hans Hansen complained that his own farm hands had to witness against him. He was of the opinion that it was not lawful. Berild Clausen promptly replied that this was a serious case and therefore all citizens of Allinge and Sandvig, who knew something about the case, had been summoned to the court to witness in the case. The (replacement) Judge (sættedommer) supported Berild Clausen in his wish of producing all citizens as witnesses and thereby both his wife and farm hands could be summond as witnesses at the court.
All the witnesses had to listen to the judge reading the form of oath and with up stretched fingers promise to speak the truth. Hans Hansen accused Berild Clausen’s witnesses on several occations of perjury, which was a serious matter that could end in imprisonment. However it was only Ole Lauridsen who was arrested for bearing false witness, and the judge emphasized that he was not to be imprisoned but in custody for later examination. On the other hand what was common for this case was that the witnesses omitted – in the first round – to tell everything they knew.
Berild Clausen used much energy in the court case to uncover Hans Hansens movements during the night between the 9. and 10. July. Hans Hansen was aware that it could damage his case, if he didn’t have a plausible explanation for the evening. Hans Hansen’s own story was that he had gone to meet his wife. She was not to walk alone from Allinge, where she had been to buy buckwheat from some seamen from Skåne. He had spent the evening at his cousin Hans Nielsen’s in Sandvig together with among others Lars Gummeløs from Hasle who was married to Hans and Henrik Nielsen’s sister. Berild Clausen examined Hans Nielsen and his wife in the matter, and they corroborated Hans Hansen’s story.
Hans Hansen’s purpose in København
Hans Hansen had initially luck in arguing for his whereabouts between Sandvig and Allinge on the night of the murder. His wife was actually in Allinge to fetch buckwheat of the seamen from Skåne, but there was uncertainty about the time. Hans Hansen had less luck with the explanation why he the following morning had such haste disappearing to København with the boat, which was anchored off Sandvig that evening.
Hans Hansen had not had time to take clothes, food or chest with him. The only thing he had taken was letters to the treasury. He explained that the ship was ready to weigh anchor earlier than expected, and his people did not get anything to the ship before it set sail. The ship was the Kings ketch Jægeren, and had gone to Rønne first, then to København. His wife Barta had then the 10. July gone to Rønne with clothes for him. She explained in the court that it was first when she came home to Sandvig that she had heard about the murder of Henrik Nielsen. Hans Hansen protested that it was only after his business in København and was on his way home that he first heard about the murder. Some seamen from Bornholm onboard a timber boat at anchor at København’s roads told him.
His business in København had been to deliver letters to the Kings treasury, something he didn’t need to clarify further as he apparently often went there. He had lawful business in København otherwise he could not have used the Kings ship.
It is noteworthy that Hans Hansen’s trip to København wasn’t examined more closely. It was probably due to that everyone knew he could have lawful business in København and he didn’t require or already had travel pass. The principal administrative officer’s stand-in Christian Tuxen observed all the court sittings, which indicated that the murder case had the authorities attention.
The District court the 12. August – Deciding exposures
Berild Clausen asked all the witnesses if they had heard of strife between Hans Hansen and the murdered Henrik Nielsen. Here also everyone denied. During the first court days they neither knew or had heard of strife.
Hans Jensen Skomager of Allinge was the first who of his own accord explained about family strife at the district court the 12. August. Furthermore he reported that he had been drinking beer with a soldier, who was driving for the administrative officer deputy Christian Tuxen, after the court hearing on the 6. August. Svend Jensen Ternø’s wife had joined them and had told that they had received payment for the boat the boys fled in. The following Sunday, the 11. August, Hans Jensen Skomager was accused by Svend Jensens Ternø’s wife of being one of the false prophets. Why, he didn’t know, but he did not want to omit telling the court, if it had meaning.
At the court sessions thereafter, several witnesses remembered that there had been arguments between the two cousins.
It was clear that the witnesses dared not tell the truth at the beginning of the court sessions. As the court case progressed the witnesses told what they had previously omitted saying. Many witnesses explained that they had been threatened to keep quiet about their knowledge of the case.
In the court case one senses a community, where powerful local forces dominated and influenced people in what they should think and dare believe. Every court session brought new exposures and the power structure cracked.
Hans Hansen’s defence
Hans Jensen Bistrup appeared at the district court the 5. August as Hans Hansens council, but at later court meetings he failed to appear. He excused himself in different ways. At the next court meeting he was away in the service of the king. Later he asked to be relieved of the case, since he was not from the district, nor was he educated in law. Finally he reported that he did not want to take on the task. Hans Jensen Bistrup appeared in several county court cases as solicitor, so it was hardly for want of law knowledge, but rather dislike in dealing with the case that made him withdraw. Hans Hansen therefore had to conduct his own case, which he managed very well until, at the end of August, he ended in difficulties explaining himself because of disclosure of unlawful correspondance. Hans Hansen thereafter refused to talk until he got a solicitor who could handle the law. In the first instance he wanted an attorney from København and when that was refused, he had to make do with a law-learned person from the island. Several were suggested, but they all declined the job.
Apparently no-one was willing to stand in court and help Hans Hansen. Even family members had to speak about matters that weren’t favourable to Hans Hansen. It was clear to all that he would be found guilty of murder. In spite of all adversity it would soon become apparent that Hans Hansen had friends, who would risk life and fortune to help him.
The farm hands
The farm boys and girls turned out to be good witnesses in Hans Hansen’s case. Berild Clausen used their witness statements to support the theory that Hans Hansen was guilty of premeditated murder.
The farm hands were totally at the mercy of their master and mistress. They could not leave their place without resignation on one of two hiring-fairs a year. Hammershus district court had several cases about farm hands who had run away from their place. Henrik Nielsen was probably a hard master; for instance on the 29 October 1694 at the district court he advertised for his boy Clemen Sassersen who had run away from the job.
In the district court’s protocol are several cases where people summons each other for degrading and defamatory remarks and cursing; it wasn’t trivial matters people said to each other. Such cases often ended in settlement. No farm hands dared summons their masters to the court although they suffered many verbal attacks. On the other hand it was unlawful and unacceptable, when a man punished another man’s servant. Henrik Nielsen had not refrained from castigating other peoples farm boys. In the summer of 1694 he hit Laurits Jensen with a pole of a carriage during the harvest. There must have been very bad relations between Laurits Jensen and Henrik Nielsen. One of the other farm hands told about one late evening, where they had been sitting sharing a barrel of beer they had been given for helping unload a ship. Henrik Nielsen had during the party thrown an egg at Laurits head and taunted him.
Laurits Jensen had been both taunted and hit by Henrik Nielsen and therefore had the motive to kill him. He had on several occations during the spring of 1695 looked for people to help him kill Henrik Nielsen, for instance Ole Lauridsen, who at that time was farm hand at the widow of Giese Hans Jørgensen. Laurits intended to shoot Henrik Nielsen and Ole Lauridsen should help him dragging the body down to the sea and to sink it. Ole Lauridsen had not taken Laurits seriously; but during repeated examinations, it turned out that he hid matters he was aware of. Berild Clausen therefore locked him up at Hammershus after the first examinations on the 5. August. The murder accused Hans Hansen tried to miscredit Ole Lauridsen partly because he was of the opinion that he carried false witness and partly because he was now vagrant. One could not trust people of that kind.
One may wonder why nobody had confronted Laurits Jensen for spreading these murder threats; but as one of the witnesses (Svend Jensen Ternø) told that so much ” gossip and daft talk” from that boy that he hadn’t taken it seriously. Only after the murder had he told the town captain Anders Lauridsen that he had been offered 50 ”slettedaler” (currency) by Laurits Jensen to help him kill Henrik Nielsen.
Berild Clausen occupied himself much with the conduct and whereabouts of Hans Hansens farm boy Laurits Jensen up to the murder in July. Onw wonders that Berild Clausen hadn’t immediately imprisoned Laurits. Later at the county court, Berild Clausen told the county court judge that he had only been given the case after the boys had escaped, which wasn’t correct. The boys escaped 5 days after Berld Clausen was in court for the first time. A foot dragging district judge, Jens Andersen Stege, may possibly be the real explanation for the missing arrest, because he was not very keen on conducting a case against his previous close companion at the district court.
The knowledge of Laurits Jensen’s whereabouts on the murder night was based on second hand witnesses. Hans Hansen’s farm girl Bodil Hansdatter told that Laurits Jensen during the evening, an hour before sunset, had rowed out to a ship at Sandvig roads and agreed that Hans Hansen could obtain passage to København in the morning.
The farm hand Bente Lauridsdatter of Thor Jørgensen (a brother to Johan Jørgensen, our early Fogh ancestor) had heard that Laurits Jensen had had orders that he in the evening was to row to Stenløkken to fetch ”deller” (timber planks) that had arrived from Allinge.
Laurits Jensen had woken Svend Jensen Ternø early on the morning of 10. July to get him out fishing. Svend Jensen had declined despite a cloudy day, which normally meant good fishing weather. He thought it was far too early to get up. Laurits had told him that he had been at sea and had bagged only 7 herrings, so there was nothing to go for. Svend Jensen had asked Laurits wondering why he had been out so early. Laurits had replied that he had been woken by his master and ordered to go to sea.
Bodil Hansdatter, who in July had worked at Hans Hansen’s, told much later during the court case (25. Nov.), that it was Hans Nielsen who had asked Laurits to join him on the 9. July in the evening and that in haste she had given Laurits food, so that he could leave. She had first seen him again two days later, when he came back with fish from the sea.
The father of Laurits Jensen, Jens Pedersen Sadelmager (saddel maker) from Rø had been in Sandvig on Saturday the 13. July and had asked Hans Hansen’s wife to let his boy come home on the Sunday. He was given permission because he could at the same time run an errand to Dyndale farm, where her husband’s half sister Gertrud and husband Peder Andersen lived. Laurits had told his father and mother, Margrete Lauridsdatter, that he was not guilty in the murder, but he feared that he could be arrested for the murder. Laurits had in the evening returned to Sandvig.
The father, Jens, later told that he had given his son a shotgun without stock, which he knew had been repaired. Laurits Jensen had had opportunity to shoot Henrik Nielsen with two bullets, as he had explained to Ole Lauridsen.
The farm boys flight to Skåne the 27. July
Laurits Jensen and the cow herder Jørgen Pedersen had escaped in a boat to Skåne before the court case began on the 5. August. The younger boy Jørgen, who was only 15-16 years old, was not under suspicion, but was unfortunately the youngest boy at Hans Hansens, and was likely to have to answer orders from the older boy.
It was Saturday evening and a single witness had seen them going with mast and sail over Hammerknuden (Hammer knot). The following day they were gone and the boat which was owned jointly by Hans Hansen and Svend Jensen Ternø was gone as well as Giese Hans Jørgensen’s mast and sail. Rumours had it that they had escaped because they were guilty of the death of Henrik Nielsen.
Svend Jensen’s wife happened to reveal that they had received payment for their share from Hans Hansen, and thereby she enforced the suspicion that the boys escape had been arranged by Hans Hansen to support the suspicion against the boys and keep himself free from having actively part taken in the cruel murder.
The farm hand had disappeared, but the court was still engaged in revealing details of Laurits Jensens movements and behaviour. Maybe Berild Clausen had quickly seen through the farm boys escape as having been planned by Hans Hansen.
Hans Hansen’s smuggled letters
Several witnesses explained that they had been threatened to keep quiet, without telling, who had threatened them. Hans Hansen’s own witness questioning had indirectly a damping affect on the witnesses wish to tell all they knew. The district court was open to everyone and in principle all of them knew who was being examined and what they had said.
Hans Hansen tried systematically to sow doubt about the trustworthyness of Berild Clausen’s witnesses. Repeatedly he wanted to summons the witnesses for false witnessing. He asked for a running copy of the court protocol and had luck in delaying Berild Clausen’s wish to question his wife Barta, who apparently was ill and therefore had lawful cause to not appear at the court.
His tactical defense got into a serious squeeze at the court session the 2. September. His guards exposed a secret correspondence with the cousin Hans Nielsen. In all, three letters were found by sergent Christen Hansen, when he examined the food bowls brought to Hammershus by Hans Hansen’s family in Sandvig. Attached to the cloth wrap they found a letter from Hans Hansen to Hans Nielsen, in which he instructs how his wife should answer when questioned by Berild Clausen. The following days they found two further letters.
Hans Hansen declined to answer questions about the letters. He only hinted that Berild Clausen himself could have fabricated them. The sergent had been provident and had had a report prepared about the finds. He had written the document himself and had it signed by himself and the eight soldiers, so the authenticity couldn’t be doubted.
Two weeks later Hans Hansen presented to the court his explanation about how he had written the letters and what the meaning was. He had let himself be inspired to writing letters by looking at a song, which had been written on a board in the chamber. (One wonders if it was a song by Eleonora Christine still in the cell?) Short of ink, he had used dissolved rust from the window frames. The meaning with the letters was in all simplicity to help his wife witness the ful truth about his movements on the night of the murder. That is to say she would be confused during the rough examination method of Berild Clausen. He said that his wife was simple and had never before been a witness in court. That is why he asked Hans Nielsen to repeatedly read the letter for his wife.
Unfortunately for him the letters were found and the suspicion that he wanted to influence the witnesses was strengthened. When the letters were found, his wife Barta was arrested in her farm and forbidden to leave. She was not questioned before the court hearing the 23. September, where she – wisely enough – avoided revealing her knowledge of her husbands movements. On the question about strife between her husband and Henrik Nielsen, she answered that it had never happended in their house, but did not know if it happened outside the home.
The mystery of the two loaded shotguns.
During the search of Hans Hansen’s farm, two shotguns loaded with live cartridges were found. Only one of them belonged to Hans Hansen. Although they were stored in a locked loft room, neither Hans Hansen or his wife knew anything about the guns. The farm boy Laurits Jensen was also in possesion of a shotgun and there were therefore 3 shotguns at Hans Hansens. It was furthermore remarked several times that the shotguns were loaded with live cartridges, which was suspicious. Hans Hansen’s own shotgun was produced in the court, and it was established that it was swedish, however no conclusions were drawn from it. Berild Clausen’s interest in the shotguns was great as nobody yet knew how the murder had happened.
Later it turned out the other shotgun belonged to Hans Nielsen. Much later Hans Nielsen came up with a plausible explanation for why his shotgun was exactly at Hans Hansens. At the county court hearings the 19. February 1696 Hans Nielsen explained with surprise ” of Berild Clausen’s improper prevarications”, that he had fetched the shotgun at home the 15. July and loaded it with two bullets, because on his way to Allinge, he had seen a seal laying on a rock at the waters edge. When he returned to the beach, the seal had unfortunately disappeared, so he had left his shotgun at Hans Hansens, who at the time was away in København. He got drunk in Allinge and on his way home had forgotten the shotgun. The seals were a problem for the salmon fisheries, they stole the bait from the salmon hooks, so Hans Nielsen’s explanation sounded plausible.
The district court the 23. September 1695 – the jurors give their ”Toug” (verdict).
Hans Hansen didn’t give in. He wanted to confront several witnesses for having falsely witnessed against him and he wanted to produce witnesses both from Nordre Herred’s court and Hasle court.
The district court session on the 23 September was anticipated as judge Anders Pedersen Fyn had announced that the case had to be closed because it had lasted longer than the lawful 6 weeks from the first session. Berild Clausen on the other hand was not inclined to let the case rest. He had gone to Skåne the 16 September to find the two escaped boys to, if possible, get their witness evidence in the case. He had not returned on the 23. so Berild Clausen had sent for his brother Mons Clausen from Nyker as the widows solicitor.
Berild Clausen suspected that the boys escape had been arranged as cover for Hans Hansen’s guilt. This fact was further strengthened, when it turned out that Hans Hansen’s farm girl had confided to one of the harvest people. She had said, if only the boys stayed away, then Hans Hansen would be OK.
Concrete motives for the murder were not formulated by the court, except that there had been disagreements and strife between Hans Hansen and Henrik Nielsen. The town captain Anders Lauridsen spoke on behalf of Allinge and Sandvig citizens that one could not declare him innocent of the criminal act. The eight jurors (sandemænd) gave their ”Toug” by deciding that Hans Hansen could not be spared for being Henrik Nielsen’s slayer. Hans Hansen was in other words sentenced on circumstantial evidence, as neither body or concrete proof was found. He was sentenced to death.
Conspiracy to free Hans Hansen
There had not been a murder case like this in the last 10 years according to the district court protocol. And as it furthermore was one of the leading men who had to be sentenced, then people from towns and land must have met in numbers at the court. The case was clear and Hans Hansen’s friends knew it.
Under cover of the last court meeting the last preparations took place at the same time – a few hundred meters distant – to free the prisoner from his jail.
During the weeks up to the final court session a group of people associated with Hans Nielsen – brother of the murdered Henrik Nielsen – had planned Hans Hansen’s escape. The wife of Hans Nielsen, Anne Marie, worked actively on the plans of freeing the prisoner at Hammershus, although she was soon to give birth. Hans Svendsen from Rutsker, the chairman himself of the eight jurors (sandemænd), who sentenced Hans Hansen was the financial backer in the escape action. He delivered the money, which were necessary to bribe helpers. He also delivered the necessary tools to break the door to the prisoner. Arkelimester (gunner) Peder Michelsen of Duebjerggaard in Klemensker had local knowledge of Hammershus and was the brains behind the escape plan. Jens Hansen from Olsker was also an active participant, although very passiv and unwilling, but as he said, ” pressed by surroundings”. His farm was a suitable hiding place for Hans Hansen the first night after the escape. Jens Hansen was like Hans Svendsen one of the jurors who sentenced Hans Hansen.
Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen were promised 50 slettedaler for their effort. When the first plan fell through, Niels Jørgensen was included in the escape plans because he had access to keys to part of Hammershus. Constable Niels Jørgensen was married to Anne Catrine, who was the sister of Hans Nielsen’s wife Anne Marie Leopolidatter. Niels Jørgensen lived in a house in Sandvig, but also had a room at Hammershus and had therefore a key to get into Hammershus. He was a useful person, as he could get close to Hans Hansen’s prison cell. Anne Marie Leopoldidatter had, as he said, ordered him to help getting Hans Hansen out of his prison. His payment was a plot of barley field in the town common, which was called Waldborg Torn.
At the court day the 2. September, Peder Michelsen had shown Niels Jørgensen, how he could get into the prison cell and instructed him in the easiest way into and out of the jail. It was probably the same escape route used by Eleonora Christine and Corfitz Ulfeldt during their escape from Hammershus in 1661.
There is every indication that in spite of the discovery of the smuggled letters, there had been contacts to Hans Hansen who had an ulterior motive with his insistence to summons witnesses to both Hasle town court and Nørre county court which took place in Hasle. The very first escape plan was intended to free the prisoner with force, when he was being transported to Hasle. The plan was given up because the risk to limb and life was too high. It was therefore planned that the prisoner was to be freed from Hammershus. The first attempt the 12. September failed as Hans Nielsen didn’t meet at the agreed place and because the night was too light. It was full moon, and the moon rose already at 18:12, something they had apparently not foreseen. Next time it ended in excessive drinking of brandy at Hans Svendsens that they had to sleep it off. Time was limited now. Berild Clausen had gone to Skåne to get witness evidence from the farm boys who had fled, and he would soon return with further weighty proofs. Furthermore it was likely that Hans Hansen would be put in irons as soon as the sentence had been given. The final escape action began during the court session itself on the 23. September and would be executed the following night. The night was dark; the moon was in its last quarter and didn’t rise before ten minutes to one.
The Escape from Hammershus
During the 23. September at the court hearing, Niels Jørgensen removed a board in the armery and losened the hatch to the next floor with the help of a pair of pliers, which he had got from Hans Svendsen. The route was cleared so that during the night they could get up to the mantel tower from the cellar and armoury. On the second highest floor was the locked door to Hans Hansen’s cell.
Late afternoon after the court hearing, Niels Jørgensen went to Sandvig with Hans Svendsen and Jens Hansen, where they met with Hans Nielsen in his beer room. After the farm labourers had gone to bed they drank to the success of the action. In the dark night Hans Nielsen rode with Jens Hansen and Niels Jørgensen up to the Ålekiste pond, which possibly is the pond north of Hammershus. From here they climbed a slope and walked along the outer wall to the Blomme tower. Here they swung themselves over the next wall, with the help of a grappling hook, to the castle yard. Here Hans Nielsen remained in the stykkaptajn’s cabbage garden, while Jens Hansen and Niels Jørgensen continued through the cellar in the Mantel tower, then up into the armoury just like they had prepared for in the afternoon. From here access was clear until they reached the door to the cell. With an iron bolt they twisted the shackle of the padlock open so the door could be opened. Together with Hans Hansen they could now retrace their steps to where they came in. Hans Hansen was transported back on Hans Nielsen’s horse to Sandvig. Hans Hansen continued on horseback together with Hans Svendsen and Jens Hansen. Before daybreak they made it to Jens Hansen who lived at 28. selvejergård (free farm, not copy hold), Hollændergård, in Olsker. Hans Hansen spent the night in the outbuilding until the following day.
The murder is revealed in detail
Peder Michelsen arrived the next day to Jens Hansen’s farm. While they awaited sunset, they asked Hans Hansen how he could kill so large and strong a man as Henrik Nielsen. Hans Hansen explained willingly about the murder at Strandløkken. Together with Hans Nielsen he had been standing and waiting by the perimeter of Sandvig that Henrik Nielsen would come from Allinge. It turned late and they began to doubt, if he at all was in Allinge. They therefore decided to walk towards Allinge to look. Hans Hansen walked along the beach and Hans Nielsen by the fence west of the road. At the limit of Strandløkken, about where today the Søjlehus (column house) is, they met Henrik Nielsen. Hans Hansen hit his head with an axe, and he fell to the ground. When Henrik Nielsen rose to his knees, the farm boy hit him from behind with his shotgun. Finally he stopped moving. Hans Nielsen draped his head in his jacket and together they dragged him down towards the beach to the boat, which Laurits Jensen had sailed there. They tied a rope with a stone to Henrik Nielsen’s waist and rowed out to sink him in the sea.
Hans Hansen had also explained that it was not the first time that they had had plans to kill Henrik Nielsen. Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen had one night lurked for Henrik Nielsen; but as Hans Hansen’s shotgun went off by mistake, and the bullet went through his hair, he had interpreted the bad luck as a warning from god, that they shouldn’t kill him.
Later in the court case it emerged that Hans Hansen had also told the story while on the way between Hammershus and Sandvig in Hans Nielsen’s presence. Hans Nielsen had not corrected the events, which during his conviction was regarded as an incriminating testimony against him.
The relationship between Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen
During the trial, Hans Hansen had not revealed Hans Nielsen’s role in the murder. Why? Maybe because Hans Hansen needed Hans Nielsen in connection with his escape. But why was Hans Hansen so willingly telling about the murder to the two helpers Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen? He must have known, that the story couldn’t be kept secret for the future!
This missing sense of reality seems unbelievable today, unless Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen had blindly trusted their helpers loyalty and ofcourse that the mastermind of the escape would not be revealed. Or perhaps Hans Hansen didn’t care about Hans Nielsen’s situation, now that he was free.
The money man Hans Svendsen from Rutsker
It is also a mystery that the Rutsker juror Hans Svendsen, the man who had convicted him as murderer, was so active in freeing Hans Hansen.
Hans Svendsen was a respected man. With luck he defended a farmer in Rutsker, who had been convicted by an ambitious bayliff, during the trial of August Deckner in 1690. Hans Svendsen was regarded as an honourable man and was as a matter of course chosen as chairman of the eight men (jurors). It was no good asking to be relieved of the job on the grounds as he said that he had already had a murder to investigate in 1685. The judge did not accept his apologies, partly because it was long since and partly because there was no time to waste. Hans Svendsen could very reasonably have wanted to be let off the job as he knew Henrik Nielsen and his family. Hans Svendsen was a wealthy man of the neighbourhood and lent money against security in land and buildings. His connection to Hans Hansen one can only guess at, maybe there were financial affairs between them and maybe he owed Hans Hansen a favour for previous actions?
Hans Svendsen probably didn’t know all the truth about the murder conspiracy. He was first told later. When Hans Nielsen was arrested for having freed Hans Hansen, Hans Svendsen defended him. Together with Poul Anchor, who was married to Hans Nielsen’s sister Lene, he offered surety for Hans Nielsen and thereby risked life and wealth. It was only when he at the end of November was made aware of Hans Hansen’s detailed report of the murder that he withdrew his surety.
There are several peculiar events. The 11. September a loan of 148 slettedaler was registered, in the middle of the escape action, provided by Hans Svendsen to Hans Nielsen against a security in his property. It is tempting to ask if Hans Svendsen wanted to complete the formalities regarding the finance before Hans Nielsen promised his helpers payment. Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen were to have each 50 slettedaler (currency) furthermore there was 3 x 16 slettedaler to good causes. Many witnesses had already told that they had been offered 16 slettedaler for help with the murder!
Hans Svendsen was convicted the 7. Februar 1696 at Nørre Herred court to lose his fortune and to work for life in irons at Bremerholm (the naval shipyard in København). In spite of the very clear conviction, he was virtually acquited at the county court the 2. September same year. This fact is unbelievable today. One may guess that other matters may have influenced the acquital, the causes of which are unlikely to be revealed in the preserved source material.
The ideas man Peder Michelsen
Hans Nielsen’s wife Anne Marie had twice asked Peder Michelsen to free Hans Hansen. He had been offered 50 slettedaler for it.
Peder Michelsen, who was active in the release of Hans Hansen by giving advice and contacts, lived in Rønne, but was also royal copyholder on 59. Duebjerggård in Klemensker. He was preocupied by many activities and he has been difficult to be fellow conspirator with; he was either busy on market days in Rønne or otherwise the harvest was due, and he excused himself. Hans Nielsen and his farm boy rode several times in vain to Peder Michelsen. In addition to farming and business ability, he had succeeded Hans Nielsen’s father Niels Jørgensen as arkelimester (gunner) in 1693.
The drunken farmer Jens Hansen from Olsker
Jens Hansen, who was one of the eight jurors that convicted Hans Hansen of murdering Henrik Nielsen, was farmer at the Hollændergård in Olsker. What relationship he had to Hans Nielsen is not known, but there was a connection. Jens Hansen told in court that he was almost harassed by Anne Marie to help with the liberation. Every time he excused himself on the grounds that it was unlawful and dangerous. None the less he was present, when it happened. Maybe he was pulled into the action because influential friends, as Hans Svendsen, said he had to.
He was convicted at Nørred Herred court to lose his property to the king (1/2 of the valuables) and spend the rest of his life in irons at Bremerholmen. At the county court the 8. April his sentence was moderated, as the royal order of 21. September 1695 about sentencing for helping murders escape had not been proclaimed in court, but it was not sufficient for the sentence to be eased. He had a good character testimony from the farmers in Olsker, but he was an alcoholic and simple said the county court judge.
Later his sentence was commuted to a few months prison at Hammershus.
Hans Hansen’s sentence in absentia
Hans Hansen was in time to be found guilty at the district court before his escape. The final sentence was handed down by county court judge Mathias Rask at the county court the 30. October. Hans Hansen had been advertised wanted at all religious communities on Bornholm, but without success. He is sentenced as Henrik Nielsen’s ”murderer, to lose his life, first his hand to be chopped off, thereafter his head, and put on a stake, and his hand fixed next to, and the body placed on wheel and ???”
In a sentence at the county court the 30. April 1696 of Poul Hansen in Melsted, in whose boat Hans Hansen had escaped, it comes to light that he had fled to Blekinge (in Sweden). The court protocol of the 8. August 1701 reads that Hans Hansen lived in Hamburg, and when his wife’s mother died he was still exiled in Hamburg, where his wife and children also lived.
Second act of the murder case – the trial of Hans Nielsen
Hans Svendsen’s and Jens Hansen’s trial was conducted at their ”home court” at Nørre Herreds court. Poul Hansen from Melsted, whose boat Hans Hansen had used when he fled Bornholm, was examined at Østre Herredsting. Furthermore a number of witnesses were questioned at Hasle town court. Berild Clausen was busy. The examinations quickly revealed that the real king pin in Hans Hansens escape was Hans Nielsen and his wife Anne Marie Leopoldidatter. Berild Clausen arrested Hans Nielsen, for his part in Hans Hansen’s escape, and imprisoned him at Hammershus the 21 October. The questioning and convictions at the respective local courts had not completed yet.
Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen had acknowledged their participation in the escape at Hammerhus. Their keenness to co-oporate with Berild Clausen was noticeable, and they had both repeated Hans Hansen’s description of the murder.
At the first court meeting at the district court the 23. October, Hans Svendsen was principal, meaning solicitor, for Hans Nielsen. Hans Svendsen was of the opinion that Hans Nielsen had been unlawfully imprisoned and ought to be released. Hans Svendsen together with the vicar Poul Anchor, Lars Gummeløs and Hans Andersen Thorup, stood bail. This mean that they guarantied with their life and wealth that Hans Nielsen didn’t flee from his possible conviction, and that he would escape staying in prison during the trial. Berild Clausen would not accept the letter of bail, but left it to the authorities to decide if the bail could be accepted.
The 4. November the district bayliff Jens Andersen Stege decided that Hans Nielsen could be released against the surety.
The district bayliff let the eight stokkemænd sign the decision declaration about the release. Berild Clausen lodged a complaint of this decision to the county court the 13. November. The eight stokkemænd admitted at the court hearing that they had not been asked about their opinion in this decision. The district bayliff had almost forced them to sign. Hans Svendsen gave notice that he wished to withdraw his surety for Hans Nielsen and notwithstanding that Hans Nielsen promised to supply another guarantor in place of Hans Svendsen, the county court judge Rask passed the judgement that the bail-letter was unenforceable, and the imprisonment of Hans Nielsen was maintained. Jens Andersen Stege had to give 4 rigsdaler (currency) to Aakirkeby’s workhouse and relinquish the bench in Hans Nielsen’s trial.
Jens Andersen Stege managed at the court hearing the 11. November to provoke Berild Clausen one last time: Hans Nielsen’s siblings Lene, Anne Dorthe and Peder Nielsen had arrived at the court and complained that their brother, in spite of three court hearings hadn’t had his charge specified. Berild Clausen had not appeared at this court hearing, probably because he was busy with trials of the other accused. Jens Andersen Stege asked three times those in the room, if there was anyone who had something to accuse Hans Nielsen of. As this was not the case, he would prepare a court statement to the three siblings that there was no case against their brother.
It is a peculiar affair that the three siblings should stand up for their brother to protect him against indictment for murder of their other brother Henrik Nielsen. Everyone in the near family risked their good name and reputation in the case, but the revealing witness accounts from Hans Hansen’s helpers hadn’t reached the family members yet. It happened on the 20. November at Nørre Herreds court. As these became known, their help for their brother died away. During the later interrogations they merely referred to their previous witness statements at Nørre Herreds court and Hasle town court, and as the county court judge concluded in the final summing up, none of the siblings could have provided information that would have acquitted Hans Nielsen.
Hans Nielsen’s defence
A usual way of delaying a trial was to point to procedural errors at the summoning to the court. This also happened this time. Berild Clausen’s summoning of 21.October was based on an accusation only of Hans Nielsen, which in legal language wasn’t sufficient to jail him and commence the trial. Therefore it had to be repeated the 18. November now with a charge of murder. As usual, 6 court sessions were fixed. The 25. and 26. November the trial could begin in earnest.
Hans Nielsen desired a solicitor, who could conduct his case. The town bayliff Hans Olsen of Rønne was his preferred person, and if he was unable, then he would select Jens Andersen Stege. It wasn’t to be the town bayliff in Rønne, but Jens Andersen Stege took on the task. Already at the following session it was proclaimed that Jens Andersen Stege was absent due to illness. Hans Nielsen therefore like Hans Hansen had to conduct his own case.
The trial drew out because Berild Clausen was busy with trials at other courts. The results of the cases against Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen were particularly incriminating for Hans Nielsen and his pregnant wife Anne Marie Leopoldidatter. His wife could actually also be arrested, but she was heavily pregnant. And two citizens produced surety for her. She got away with a kind of house arrest at the farm in Sandvig. She gave birth to a daughter the 11. November. She was let off being examined at court before she had been churched.
The escape of the farm boys is revealed in details
Berild Clausen’s trip to Skåne led to him finding one of the two boys who fled the 27. July. A court witness from Borregaard in Skåne gave an account of the examination of the youngest boy Jørgen Pedersen. It was confirmed that Hans Nielsen and his wife had arranged that the two boys could sail to Skåne and that they had food for the trip. Furthermore, Haagen Jacobsen and Niels Hansen in Sandvig told that they the 26. July had been approached by Anne Marie, Hans Nielsen’s wife, with the wish to purchase their boat for 8 Mark (currency), without regard to that it was only worth 4. They refused the offer. Anne Marie had begged them an extra time to let go of the boat, because as she said, otherwise her husband would be betrayed. In the murder case this statement was used as proof that the perpetrators had planned the boys disappearence to throw suspicion on them and thereby hide their own participation in the murder.
Svend Jensen Ternø and wife Kirstine were questioned repeatedly, and gradually they revealed that they had been threatened to keep quiet with their knowledge that the boys had been helped on their way in their and Hans Hansen’s boat. They had even been offered payment by Hans Nielsen’s wife for their half share in the boat and for being a witness for the benefit of Hans Nielsen.
Hans Hansen’s escape is revealed in detail
The 26. November constable Niels Jørgensen, farmer Jens Hansen and ”arkelimester” (gunner) Peder Michelsen were questioned at the district court. All three of them were now particularly outspoken and gave details of Hans Hansen’s escape from Hammershus prison. Jens Hansen and Peder Michelsen repeated the description of the murder as Hans Hansen had told them.
Hans Nielsen defended himself by asking questions about the lawfulness of the testimonies. Niels Jørgensen, Per Michelsen and Jens Hansen’s explanations were not valid, he said, because they had been arrested for a crime and were therefore not honest witnesses. Hans Nielsen was of the opinion, probably justified that the three witnessed to save themselves or at least believed that they would receive a lighter sentence.
Hans Nielsen tried to discredit Haagen Jacobsen’s witness statement by pointing out that he was not born in this country, but had come from Skåne. Haagen Jacobsen produced his pass and said that he was only 4 years old the first time he came to Bornholm. Hans Nielsen used the same method at the county court against Svend Jensen Ternø, who was from Blekinge and therefore was a foreigner who couldn’t be trusted. The county court judge had an eye for Hans Nielsen’s methods. He added a comment about it in the county court sentence the 26. Februar 1696: Hans Nielsen had ”made and tried several twist and turns against the evidence, with all kinds of opinions that the witnesses were not strong and good enough to witness against him in this trial”.
Henrik Nielsen had his life threatened by Hans Nielsen
At the district court the 9. December, Berild Clausen presented a letter, which had been found in Henrik Nielsen’s home. The letter was, it appears, a copy of the letter, which he had wanted to show the church warden the 9. July, and which described the reason why Henrik Nielsen had been in Rønne to make preparations for a trial, which he intended to conduct at the county court.
The letter was a summons to Hans Nielsen to meet in court in 14 days. Henrik Nielsen reports in it that he and his wife had been attacked with blows and cuts by Hans Nielsen and the other brother Peder Nielsen, when they were on their way with food for their harvest folk. With intercession from vicar Poul Anchor and their sister Lene they had settled with the promise that Hans Nielsen would never any more attack him. The Monday before the letter was written, a fight had started in Hans Hansen’s house in the presence of the vicar and brother in law Lars Gummeløs. Hans and Peder Nielsen, including Hans Hansen’s wife and her mother had attacked Henrik with abuse. Peder and Hans had kicked and hit him, as well as pulling a knife and threatening him on his life both inside the house and outside. Henrik Nielsen now wanted to conduct the case in court according to the country’s law and order.
Berild Clausen’s purpose of producing the letter was to prove that Hans Nielsen had threatened Henrik Nielsen’s life, and that the letter could have been the cause of the murder happening just that day, the 9. July.
Henrik Nielsen had undoubtly not kept quiet about his complaints of his brothers acts. Why would he otherwise have wished to show the letter to the church warden? In the evening in Niels Hansen’s house in Allinge, with heavy drinking, it is likely that Henrik Nielsen talked about the family conflict and that he wanted to summon his brothers to court. With the content of the letter, Berild Clausen had proven that there were concrete motives for the murder, which was supported by Hans Hansen’s farm boy Laurids Jensen, who had told his parents that had Henrik Nielsen not gone to Rønne that day, he would have been alive. Later it came to light that Hans Nielsen the same day had been in Rønne, wherefrom he had returned at 5. pm. Both Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen knew that Henrik was binge drinking in Allinge and expected that he would be drunk, when he returned to Sandvig.
It would have been interesting to know what they talked about that evening in Allinge. Hans Svendsen and the uncle Jørgen Pedersen sat and drank together with Henrik Nielsen in Allinge. Maybe Berild Clausen knew that it was useless to examine those present about what had been talked about.
Hans Nielsen is sentenced to lose his life the day before Christmas Eve’s day 1695.
The judge Anders Pedersen Fyn had appointed the final sentence of Hans Nielsen to Monday the 16. December, but he was prevented due to severe winter weather, so that he and several other could not get to Hammershus court. The last and final court session therefore took place on Monday the 23. December 1695.
Hans Nielsen tried to discredit the widows solicitor Berild Clausen by accusing him of working on the witnesses to witness against Hans Nielsen. Berild Clausen had been able to plan their statements against him without Hans Nielsen being able to contradict them without compromising himself. Whereas Hans Nielsen hadn’t had the opportunity to seek witnesses. He was imprisoned in solitude and, as he said, in ”the smell of the necessities of nature that I must do in here (in his cell), my head and my mind are quite strange so that I don’t know what I say myself”. He furthermore complained that he had never been granted a solicitor, who could conduct his case.
Hans Nielsen attacked Berild Clausen for working for his own gains. He, who had one of the best copy holder farms, Bjørnegård in Klemensker, did not have the need to take over his farm in Sandvig. Whether that had been the drive behind Berild Clausen’s work was probably not true, but though not out of the blue. Berild Clausen had taken over the beach farm in Sandvig of Hans Hansens the 14. November, even before it had been administered after the sentence of Hans Hansen. The surviving wife could not manage the mortgage committments on the farm as well as pay the cost of the trial. After the costs had been paid, half of the value (of Hans Hansen’s property) would fall to the king and the rest to Henrik’s widow. Berild Clausen had gone too far in helping himself the widow thought. At court (26/11) she is cited as having said that Berild Clausen ” has no say in the escaped Hans Hansen’s estate before the administration of the will has taken place and all concerned have had their share, and if then Berild Clausen has something to demand, she is of the meaning that he should ask her for his pay and not Hans Hansen’s estate, in which estate she says Berild Clausen does as he likes”. These were hard words from his employer, but the collaboration continued without the difference gaining importance.
Hans Nielsen told that he had wanted to arrest the two farm boys for the murder, but the widow didn’t want that because it wasn’t economic. In stead the widow went for him even though there was only little to gain.
Berild Clausen’s certificate from the Skåne court with one of the farm boy’s witness statement Hans Nielsen judged as a fake.
Furthermore Hans Nielsen accused Berild Clausen like Hans Hansen had done, for having written the letters himself, which were found the 29. and the 30. August among the food bowls.
In spite of the many accusations against Berild Clausen, the judge didn’t think that this could extend the case over the lawful 6 weeks.
The judge was convinced that Hans Nielsen and his wife had been the driving force behind the murderer Hans Hansen’s escape from Hammershus the 23. September. Furthermore, their active part in getting the two farm boys out of the way, gave a serious suspicion that the arranged escape should throw all guilt at the boys and thereby free Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen. Hans Nielsen was not, with regard to the murder of Henrik Nielsen, able to prove that he wasn’t present at the place of the murder at the time Henrik Nielsen was murdered. Together with the threats of murder against Henrik Nielsen in the discovered letter and the several witnessed accounts of family strife, he was sentenced in line with Hans Hansen of being guilty in his brothers death. He was sentenced as his brother’s highwayman after Christian 5ths law 6th book chapter 9 and article 12, which says ”highwayman lies in wood or in hiding or on roads, or some break into mans house or property and murders some human, then if he is taken in the act, he has forfeit his life and condemmed to be broken on wheel, and his estate fall to the king and the murdered’s heirs”
The wife of Hans Nielsen, Anne Marie Leopoldidatter was sentenced to live the rest of her life at the womens workhouse (Spindehuset) in København and to lose her share of the estate; one half to the king and the rest to the widows heirs, after the cost had been deducted.
The county court sentence
Hans Nielsen appealed both sentences to Bornholm’s county court by contra summoning against the widow Lisbet Henrik Nielsen and her guardian and solicitor Berild Clausen. The bulk of the previous witnesses were again questioned and some made new revealing statements. Hans Nielsen’s attempt to show the witness statements as false misfired.
The county court judge Mathias Rask upheld on the 26. Februar the district court’s sentence of Hans Nielsen and his wife Anne Marie Leopoldidatter. Furthermore Hans Hansen’s farm boy Laurids Jensen, was sentenced as murderer and should, if he was caught in the kings country lose his life.
The 22. May 1696 the sentences were upheld at High Court in København: ”Hans Nielsen ought to, for his bad deeds, lose his life as a well deserved punishment and for others as example and detest by execution by the sword from life to death. Then the estate ought to be due to the king, when the killed Hendrik Nielsen’s widow for the cost of the trial have in advance enjoyed 300 rigsdaler”.
Hans Nielsen was returned to Bornholm and the 28. July 1696 he was accompanied by the Olsker-Allinge vicar Jacob Jensen Schade to the place of execution at ”Tjivehöj” near Allinge. It was common procedure that murderers should be executed at the nearest place of execution. With the newly purchased sword his head was severed from his body.
Post script about smuggling – an important sideline.
Svend Jensen Ternø had again been questioned the 26. Februar 1696 at the county court. He told that Hans Nielsen’s wife Anne Marie had told him about an incident, where Hans Nielsen and Hans Hansen had bought ”lin” and hops from a boat at sea. They had been surprised by Henrik Nielsen, when they stood on the beach with the goods. He had said that he couldn’t let that pass and had threatened with reporting them to the customs officer, because it was smuggled goods. Anne Marie had therefore wished ”God father and son and the Holy Ghost will once for all rid us of this person in this town, then there would be peace and quiet in town, and said she that it was Henrik Nielsen she wished to be rid of”.
The local community Allinge and Sandvig’s role at the end of the 17th century had maintained the connection to the old danish posessions in Skåne and Blekinge and much of the town’s economy was tied up with this legal and illegal link. Many Allinge and Sandvig citizens had economic returns from it. Several citizens from Skåne and Blekinge lived in Allinge Sandvig, like at the fishing villages Tejn and Gudhjem and these had good connections over the Hammer sea.
The old bayliff Jens Andersen Stege had close relations to Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen, who suceeded him as deputy bayliffs, when he couldn’t do his job at the court. With Jens Andersen Stege as judge, the two had been able to act for their own gains.
The farmer and money-man Hans Svendsen lent money to Hans Nielsen and was therefore dependent upon the towns trade and good contacts.
At the first district court sessions nobody told about the conflicts between Henrik Nielsen, Hans Hansen and Hans Nielsen. They dared not because there was a chance that they would later suffer for it, partly if Hans Hansen could get off and partly they were themselves dependent upon maintaining status quo, so that their businesses didn’t suffer. Berild Clausen must have known these connections and therefore he had to turn to the farmhands witness statements. They didn’t have much to lose. Hans Hansen was aware of the danger that the farmhands could say too much and therefore he tried to discredit their witness statements.
The citizens only began to talk, after the farmhands had revealed decisive matters in the case. Now they could see in which direction it was going. To save their own skin they had to talk and hope that the trial stayed with the murder, and didn’t rip open the town’s unofficial trade. It is surprising that it was Svend Jensen Ternø who exposed the real connection, as he must have had good ”trade connections”, as an immigrant from Blekinge, and was an important person to maintain contacts. Maybe this was also the reason why Hans Hansen owned a half share in his boat.
The murder of Henrik Nielsen should be seen in connection with the economic situation of the place. There could have been many who wished for Henrik Nielsen’s death, if he had threatened with destruction of the illegal trade, which was the basis for many lucrative returns over and above the traditional income of their small scale farms and fishing.
It is thought provoking that Berild Clausen gave up his good copy hold farm in Klemensker and moved to the murderer Hans Hansen’s beach farm in Sandvig. He later took over the job of Peder Ovesen as scribe for the district court, Hasle town court and Nordre Herred’s court. Furthermore his brother Mons Clausen married Henrik Nielsen’s widow Lisbet Larsdatter and gave up his copy hold farm in Nyker to move into the widow’s farm in Sandvig. In 1714 he became district bayliff and from 1718 town bayliff in Hasle as well as bayliff in Nørre Herred. Both had success at court and maybe they also had success by taking over two of Sandvig’s best farms and thereby gain access to supplementary income by trading with Skåne?
 A scribe also acted as the local police authority