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10 Jahre Wiesmoor-info     August 2001- August 2011

A gruesome murder shakes all of Ostfriesland
CRIME  133 years ago Hiemke Johanna Tebben from Westerholt was murdered/ A gravestone recalls the deed.
Thade Fimmen was found guilty of the murder as well as the robbery.  He took the verdict calmly.
By Harm Poppen
WESTERHOLT--A narrow tombstone on the east side of the Westerholter church recalls still today of a crime in 1878 that held all of Ostfriesland breathless.  The inscription of the tombstone reads:  "Here rests in innocence in the hope of a joyous resurrection H. J. Tebben, murdered by Thade Fimmen.  Born july 31, 1858.  Died July 24, 1878 at Westerholt."
     The fact that the tombstone immortalizes not only the name of the victim but also the perpetrator sets this monument apart from others.
     The infamous crime is still today in the memory of many Holters through stories even though the crime was committed more than 133 years ago.  This makes it clear how much the deed affected the people in all Ostfriesland.
     In order to refresh the memory and not allow the event to pass into oblivion, the murder should be described again. Some facts and backgrounds were actually investigated and were not contained in the description of the murder case in previous descriptions.
     What happened on July 24, 1878 and the time thereafter?
     Hiemke Johanna Tebben was the daughter of the married couple Johann Willms Tebben and Bora Tebben nee Eilts.  By profession, Johann Tebben was a shoemaker and a grocer.  He was the proprietor of a small farm (about 3 acres) in the Westerholt municipality on Dornumer Street.  Today on a piece of land is the home of the former Westerholter dentist Johannes Prause.  In addition to the daughter Hiemke, there was a son Tebbo and a daughter Hiema.
     Daughter Hiemke Johanna Tebben, 19 years old, worked in her parents' business, earning hourly wages in extra income in the nearby moor between Neuschoo and Tannenhaven.  She gradually endeavered to complete her dowry because she was engaged to the Westeerholter Heinrich Theesfeld and both wanted to marry in the near future.  The wedding dress, sewn by the mother, hung in the bride's wardrobe.
     Based on police records and publications in the Ostfriesland's Daily News as well as statements in the newspapers, the murder and subsequent arrest and conviction of the alleged murder are reconstructed as follows:
     According to the mother's statements, her daughter Hiemke walked to work in the moor around 8 o'clock on the morning of July 24, 1878.  On the way back from the moor to Westerholt, Hiemke was warned by a woman on the Holtfehner Way, the present day Aurich Street, that there was a stranger man walking around in the area with a knife.  She should rather take another way home.  She is said to jokingly answer that she could defend herself with her milk bucket.
     In the afternoon around 3 o'clock, farmer Willms with his helper Werdemann from Terheide were driving on the Holtfehner Way toward Aurich.  At the top of a pine forest in Willmsfeld (today called Seeberg's Forest) they saw a female figure lying on their side of the slope of the ditch going to Westerholt.  The skirt had been pulled up over the head from behind.  At first glance, they both thought that the woman was sleeping and therefore drove on.
     About 20 steps further, they discovered a large uddle of blood, became hesitant and turned back.  They pulled back the skirt of the presumed sleeping woman and discovered that the throat of the young woman had been slit.  Flies were already flying out of the large wound.  They were convinced that the woman was no longer alive.
     Thereafter they drove back to Westerholt and informed the mayor and the police.  The mayor identified the body immediately as the nineteen year-old daughter of the shoemaker and grocer Johann Willms Tebben from Westerholt.  Two doctors conducted a post-mortem examination on the corpse and determined in addition to the main wound, bloody punctures and small stab wounds below the cut-through carotid artery.  In addition, the doctors founs signs of an attempted rape.
     With great sympathy from the townspeople, the murder victim was buried on the north side of the Westholter Cemetery.  It was reported that she was buried in her wedding dress.
     This murderous act shocked all of Ostfriesland because the "Harlingerland Journal" and other newspapers reported the event.  The women especially did not trust themselves alone out of the house because of the murderer running around free and there was the fear his bloody deed could happen again.
     Several witnesses reporting through the commentators in the Ostfriesen newspapers could give information and assumptions of the culprit.
     The suspicions concentrated on the carpenter Thade Fimmen from Südarle because witnesses had seen him on that July 24 in the Neuschoo and Willmsfeld, respectively indicating they mor or less recognized him.
    The suspicious Thade Fimmen from Südarle was no empty sheet of paper.  Because of various thefts in northern Ostfriesland, also in Neuschoo, he had already been sentenced to fours years in prison.  Fimmen was 31 years old and married.  The attempts by police to arrest Fimmen remained unsuccessful because he was not found at home.  According to his wife's statements, he was looking for work. 
     On August 5, 1878, the coroner of the Royal High Court in Aurich issued a fact sheet which said among other things that despite all efforts by authorities, they were unsuccessful in apprehending the "murderer Thade Fimmen."  It would be in the public interest to bring him behind bars and spare his life and deter new crimes.
     A description of Fimmen has him medium size, dark blonde hair, a dark full beard and a timid appearance.
     On August 13, the Ostfrische Courier reported that the blood-stained clothes of the culprit were found in the vicinity of his Südarler residence.  In the neighborhood remnants of bread and honey were discovered that Fimmen presumable ate.
     About this time, the district in Aurich offered a 300 Mark reward for the capture of the wanted murderer.
     The fugitive was seen in Neuharlingersiel and is said to have fled into a cornfield.  The entire community in Wallinghausen was in fear and terror.  A girl is said to have surprised Fimmen in the open at breakfast.  At the end of August, a large number of the Ostfriesen police and many citizens combed the forests around Aurich--without results.  "Despite beating the underbrush for the loatful person, they could not capture him." was reported in the newspaper.  The fugitive seemed to have vanished from the scene.
     On Septembe 14 he reappeared in Plaggenburg.  A merchant recognized him as he walked by the village blacksmith.  Because no one else dared, the citizen of Plaggenburg, accompanied by a school assistant gave chase in the direction of Ogenbargen.  On the way he informed the forest ranger Schellak who immediately grabbed his rifle and joined the chase.  The owner of a peat wagon who wanted to go to Plaggenburg demonstrated courage and upon good persuasion, turned around and allowed the group to ride along.
     The man on foot was hauled in and forced to take a seat on the wagon.  The wagon headed badck again in the direction of Aurich.  At the forest ranger's house at Plaggenburg, the man, presenting himself as a rope maker, tried to escape.  The ranger shot at him.  The men grabbed him again in the dense forest, bound him this time and finally brought him to Aurich where he could be identified by the court as the sought after Thade Fimmen.   
    " Finally the country has been rescued from a great terror" reported the local newspapers, not without satisfaction.  The Norder offical Captain Meyer even decreed an official notice of the arrest of Thade Fimmen and the delivery to the prison in Aurich.
     The proceedings came before the jury in Aurich from the 10th to the 12th of March, 1879.  A reporter noted:  "A huge crowd of people flocked together today, some with wagons from a great distance.  Long before the beginning of the proceedings, the inner and outer cortyard was filled with people who had crowded the still locked door of the local jury.  The crowd was so large that only a tenth could find a sitting place.  Sitting on the accused prisoner's dock sat Thade Fimmen, accuser of the murder and two thefts.  After the jury had been instructed, the president gave a speech to the jury in which he exhorted them of the judgement of the present case which had been on the minds of the residents for months and the subject of premature judgement and let direct evidence be presented in public hearings.  He urged them from the heart not to discuss the slightest with no one except those in their own circle.  And further:  on the defendant, a man of rather slight statue, but strong stock build, pale complexion, dark hair and a full beard, pierceing dark eyes, appears with almost a cheerful facial expression and answers the questions with certainty and impartiality.  To the question if he is guilty, the defendent answered, "No."
     In the course of the three-day trial, Fimmen always repeated that he did not commit the alleged murder; that some of the wittnesses who with certainty had seen him in the area during the time of the deed did not know him, and that, moreover, he was not in the area on July 24.
     On July 22 he is said to have gone from Südarle to Norden to look for work on Norderney.  In Norden he found out the crossing would not be wort it.  He is said to have turned around to look for his luck in Wilhelmshaven.  On the evening of July 23, he is said to have come to Wittmund and the following day traveled in the direction of Wilhelmshaven.  When he found no work there, he returned back to Wittmund on July 25.  The nights he spent out in the open.
     On Sunday evening in Esens, an unknown man, supposedly from Arle, told him that he was wanted for murder.
     Consequently, Fimmen, in front of the court, said that he walked to Oldenburg, Bremen, Hannover and to Celle, begged his way through, returned back to Ostfriesland in mid-September, stopped by his wife in Südarle about two hours before his arrest.  On the road to Sandhorst to Wittmund he was picked up.
     The Solicitor General as the representative of the defendant was convinced that Fimmen committed the murder as well as the robbery.  The defender requested with the adjudication that only one of the two robberies the defendant admitted be considered.
     On March 12, after one and a half hours of deliberation, the court proclaimed its verdict:  Thade Fimmen was found guilty of the murder as well as petty and grand theft.  The question if he implemented a planned or deliberate murder was in the negative.
     The court sentenced Fimmen to fifteen years in prison and ten years loss of civil rights.
     It was reported that the defendant took the verdict calmly as it was handed down.
     After the convicted man sat behind bars, Ostfriesland returned to peace and quiet.  From this point on, doubt in the population whether Thade Fimmen, who was sentenced only because of testimony and evidence, was actually the murderer of Hiemke johanna Tebben.
                 From under the picture of the tombstone.
"In memory of July 24, 1878" is written on one side of the tombstone for Hiemke Johanna Tebben.  The stone is located on the eastern wall of the Westerholter Church.
                 From the Province
Esens, July 25  (Murder)
No sooner is the mysterious murder and robbery attempt in Goldewind that we hear again of a new heinous deed.  The body of the unmarried daughter of shoemaker Johann Tebben from Westerholt, 19 year-old Johanna was found yesterday afternoon at 3 o'clock, 1/4 hour from Terheide in the sanddune on the road.  Her throat was slit.  We hear that the search for the person in question is carpenter Tade Fimmen from Südarle is underway.