LEIDEN – In the court in The Hague, 44-year-old Maria S., the Leiden poison mixer, convicted of dozens of poisonings. She is held responsible for the death of certain 23 mensen. She would have killed the people, to collect insurance money.

Even her own lawyer, mr. Valiant, felt that never before had there been a "greater inhuman sitting on the bench of the accusation.". He performed his task with "a feeling of disgust and horror.".

In total there were more than ninety poisonings on the charges. Some of those crimes S. also known. She will be transferred to the women's prison in Gorinchem for her sentence.

‘Good Mie’

Maria S. was better known in Leiden as "Goeie Mie" and had before her crimes became apparent, an excellent reputation. She was seen as a person who often took care of the elderly and the sick. Two years ago it became clear that this caring woman had a rather sinister double agenda.

The woman walked out in December 1883 against the lamp after the death of the Frankhuizen family. Became the father of the family, after eating barley porridge, brought to a doctor in appalling condition. The victim died and the doctor soon realized that there was a poisoning. At Frankhuizen's home, the mother and a son had also died.

According to local residents, S. the previous day was still in the home of the victims, while the rest of the family was not at home.

Arrest of Goeie Mie. Fragment from a lithograph by Roelof Raar (1885)

Insurance

A day later, S. (15 december 1883) arrested. Insurance papers for a funeral for the underage Frankhuizen were found with her. A few days later she confessed that she had killed the family.

As usual, many people take out insurance off, to cover the costs of a later funeral. Sometimes this can be several times can be done for one person. And it is also possible for someone else take out insurance, for example from outside the family.

In the house of S. became several of this kind insurance papers found.

Poisoning

Traces of arsenic were found in the Frankhuizen family's bodies found it. That is a remedy that causes vomiting and diarrhea quite quickly persists for a long time. The victims often die of dehydration.

The drug is normally not for sale, but many pharmacists are not so strict with the regulations that arsenic should be mixed with whitewash.



More cases

In the weeks that followed, more and more people reported to the police, with suspicious deaths involving S. might have played a role.

‘Good Mie’, as the woman was called in Leiden because of her "mercy", often cared for the elderly and the sick. In many cases she took out funeral insurance. In many cases, the woman also received part of the inheritance, as payment for the care she had provided and because she had often developed a good relationship with the survivor and their next of kin.

Many of the victims of S. came from her own family circle: a sister-in-law, a cousin. She received for the death of her cousin Willem 149 gulden. In all, she would be two- have earned up to three thousand euros with the insurance.

For the investigation, sixteen bodies were exhumed and examined. Arsenic was found in fourteen bodies.


Hoe ging het verder?

"Goeie Mie" is still the record holder when it comes to the number of poisonings. Many experts then turned to the question "why?’.

Money is probably the most important reason, but there is more to it, says historian Stefan Glasbergen. The woman already had a lot in her life experienced.

Maria Swanenburg grew up in a poor family. Five of her siblings died before growing up. She didn't have much herself better luck. Six of her nine children died at a young age. Short after the sixth death, the murders began.

Money doesn't always seem like the most important inspiration. She often has little control over her behavior. For example, she has been at the vigil of two of her victims, all present poisoned, by putting arsenic in their coffee. It is not clear what was the reason for this, for there was no question of monetary gain here.

Yields

For the death of her cousin Willem, "Goeie Mie" received one amount of money 149 gulden. Converted to current standards, this is an amount from € 1 658,-. The total amount she earned, is converted to current amounts between € 22.000,- in € 33.000,-.

In addition, she often also received payments for care and sharing legacies. Not huge amounts, but for one 19e century woman from the poor part of Leiden, still a fair amount money.

Goeie Mie would still be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the record holder for poisonings. The exact number varies, according to the sources. They run from 93 tot 97. Also the death toll (23 tot 27) is not clear.

The book was published this year ‘Good morning – Biography of a serial killer’ about the Maria Swanenburg, written by Stefan Glasbergen.

Sources:

history – Stefan Glasbergen – ‘Good Mie’ (1839-1915) - Poison mixer from Leiden

Heritage Leiden – Story: Good morning

is History – Good Mie Swanenburg

Wikipedia – Maria Swanenburg