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Nigel Morland

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Nigel Morland

Post by Karen on Sat 24 Jul 2010 - 6:22

Here is the fourth installment in a 4 Part Series on "Crimes That Shocked The World," and was written by the novelist and criminologist, Nigel Morland, who, it has been recorded, had once visited Inspector Abberline during the latter's retirement. This would have been just a few years before Abberline passed away in 1939.

Crimes That Shocked The World (4)

THE MANIAC THAT THREW GERMANY INTO PANIC
By Nigel Morland

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Some people have claimed that Peter Kuerten was the worst man that ever lived. He was by no means that, but he was such a world figure of mystery that at the time of his deeds the great Edgar Wallace was sufficiently enthralled by what was going on that he went and stayed in Dusseldorf to be "on the scene of the crime." It was in 1929 that the grim impact of the Dusseldorf horror began, raging for more than a year and reaching such proportions that Europe was shocked and the town was the focal point of unbelieving attention.
In the beginning, a child was slaughtered. Soon after this the record of criminal attacks was stepped up - children, girls and women suffered, and, in two cases, men. But there was no over-riding pattern to guide the confused police.

Tangled Scheme

The scheme of the crimes was so tangled that at first the investigating officers thought that several criminals were involved. Small children were wantonly slain and girls knifed or half-strangled with ropes. The stories received by the police were confused and uncertain, yet out of them grew the picture of a single assailant.
Letters came, apparently from the guilty man explaining where dead victims would be found. Police rushed to the scene.

[The article at this point becomes too faded to be transcribed.]

LONDON, at the time of Jack the Ripper, was a peaceful haven compared with Dusseldorf. The panic spread to more than one country, and many of the people who attack or frighten women at night were freely regarded as the Dusseldorf "maniac" at work in wider fields.
Every expert of the great German police machine were attempting to solve the problem. Criminologists, mediums, experts of all types, and cranks by the dozen poured into Dusseldorf. Mountains of incoming letters deluged the police with advice, warnings, or wild solutions.
Not only was every available man working on the case but the unceasing public interest had to be dealt with, and every hint followed.
It grew to such proportions that crime investigation and ordinary police work in the city was almost at a standstill.
The unknown chalked up no fewer than 30 wanton attacks in year, and they might have continued, with increasing public fear, but for the quick-witted manifestation of ignorance on the part of a servant girl seeking a new job in Dusseldorf.

"Gentleman" Guide

When she arrived in town, she was spoken to at the railway station by a gentleman who offered to guide her to a girls' hostel. Because he took her to a lonely deserted park, she refused to continue. In the middle of the argument, a quiet respectable man intervened and led the girl away, taking her back to his flat, where he courteously provided her with refreshment.
In his turn, he set off with her to a girls' hostel, but on the way through a wooded park the quiet man suddenly changed. He thrust his attentions on the girl and then tried to choke her.
This unfortunate young woman fought off the second of the night's encounters with such strength that the man gave up.
When he demanded to know if she remembered where he lived, she professed complete ignorance and asked for his address, which he naturally refused before he fled.

She went at once to the police with her story. It was easy for her to lead a squad to the apartment she had visited and there the police - fully armed and ready for anything - were able to arrest a mild-looking, kindly-seeming little man of 48 named Peter Kuerten.
Kuerten was no trouble at all. Then police records revealed a fantastic history. He had been imprisoned at various times for no fewer than 20 years of his life, one term covering the whole period of World War I.
It was shown that he had been sentenced 17 times, for a variety of crimes including fraud, burglary, and assaults.
Physically, he looked harmless - a humble, gentle man who could not conceivably have committed all the appalling crimes laid at his door.

Dismaying Total

But, as for statistics, a dismaying total was drawn up against him, including 22 cases of arson and 24 attempted strangulations, plus a staggering list of assaults of every kind. It was the record of a crime wave in the lifetime of a single man who had done as much as a criminal gang.
Examination revealed Kuerten was neither unbalanced or dull-minded. His intelligence was high and he was perfectly clear about his crimes, which appeared to be, without exception, crimes of premeditation.
If his crimes and the commission of them had so alarmed the public he certainly did not seem to be in any way mentally disturbed. When he was finally tried there was a list of nine murders against him, and seven attempted murders - there was much else which could not be proved sufficiently for the court's purposes.
There seemed no answer to what he has done, and no reason for it, unless it was some mystic form of blood lust. The Germans were as baffled as the rest of the world and did about the only thing they could do to conclude the horrible story - cut off Peter Kuerten's head.

(Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Source: Nassau Guardian, Weekend, March 26-27, 1960 pp. 3-4

***************************************
Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"
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