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Ursinus, Sophie (1760–1836)

Ursinus, Sophie (1760–1836)

German murderer. Born Sophie Charlotte Elizabeth Weingarten in 1760; died on April 4, 1836; daughter of an Austrian diplomat; married Ursinus of Berlin (a privy counselor), in 1779 (died 1800).

Sophie Ursinus was born in 1760 and grew up in an affluent family, the daughter of an Austrian diplomat. In 1779, she married a wealthy elderly man, the privy counselor Ursinus of Berlin. He allowed her to have a younger lover, a Dutch officer named Rogay; the affair ended with Rogay's death. Doctors said he had suffered from tuberculosis. Ursinus' husband died on September 11, 1800.

More deaths followed the relatively young widow. Ursinus' aunt Christina Regina Witte died mysteriously on January 21, 1801. Later, it was determined that Ursinus had killed Witte, as well as the Dutch officer and her husband. Under police interrogation, Ursinus' servant, Benjamin Klein, said that Ursinus had given her husband arsenic because she did not want to be bothered with caring for an old man; she had poisoned Rogay because she suspected he would leave her. She had killed her aunt in order to inherit her estate. She also attempted to kill Klein, because he was planning to quit working for her and he knew too much. Although she gave him a dose of the poison, he recovered. Later, after she was convicted of murder, Ursinus gave him a generous pension.

Although Ursinus was suspected of all these murders, only the killing of her aunt could be proved against her. Sent to prison, she lived out her life in customarily grand style. She occupied a large suite of rooms on the top floor of the prison, a huge stone fortress at Glatz. She was allowed to have servants and fill the rooms with her own furniture. In addition to her fortune, inherited from her husband, she was also allowed to keep the money she had gained from the death of her murdered aunt. Ursinus gave parties in her suite that local aristocrats attended. Dressed in fine style, she was an attraction for many tourists curious about this upper-class woman murderer who entertained them with stories of her innocence.

Ursinus died on April 4, 1836. Her lavish funeral was attended by hundreds of aristocrats. Members of the clergy praised her generosity to the poor, neglecting to mention the murders she had committed, while children sang hymns praising her.


Nash, Jay Robert. Look for the Woman. NY: M. Evans, 1981.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer

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