The strange case which follows is authentic. It presented a bizarre problem to the Berlin police a century ago. From the evidence that follows, the police were able to reconstruct the tragedy in substantial detail. Can you?
On July 17, 190_, some children hunting for mushrooms in a forest not far from Berlin discovered the dead bodies of two men lying near a large tree in a secluded ravine. The children, terrified, ran home with the news, and officers of the Kriminalpolizei, or detective police, hurried to the spot.
It proved an unusually interesting case to the detectives, for they readily recognized the dead men as ex-convicts, Heitmann and Schultz. The men had formerly served long terms for robbery and had recently fallen under suspicion of hanving committed a series of daring robberies which had been made in and around Berlin. (Several of the victims of the robbers had been brutally murdered.) Thus far the police had been unable to obtain any conclusive evidence against the two ex-convicts. None of the loot taken in the recent robberies could be found in their possession, and no sale of the stolen goods could be traced to them through any pawnshop or receiver.
The bodies bore no wounds, and no signs of a struggle were evident. They were lying near together, in contorted positions. Two new and empty suitcases of the cheapest type lay a few feet off. Between the bodies was an empty wine botttle, and near by were several crusts of bread. Both men were armed with murderous-looking knives. At a little distance stood a lunch basket containing a whole loaf of bread, part of another, half a huge sausage, and two bottles full of cheap wine, with cork stoppers. At the bottom of the basket, folded up, was a brown burlap bag of about 2 by 3 feet.
A few paces distant the police noticed a spot where the earth had been trampled considerably, and a careful examination revealed spatters of blood on several leaves. Four cigarette stubs were picked up from this trampled spot and carefully saved a evidence. The bodies, the empty wine bottle, and the basket were also removed to headquarters, where an autopsy showed that both men had died of a deadly poison. A small quantity of sediment remaining in the bottle showed the presence of the same poison, as did also the wine in one of the two full bottles in the basket. The other bottel of wine had not been poisoned, and it was noticed that the cork of this bottle was marked in ink with a tiny cross.
The four cigarette stubs proved to be of Virginia tobacco. Both of the dead men had in their pockets packages of cigarettes made of Turkish tobacco.
It was estimated that the two men had been dead about forty-eight hours.
Meanwhile a further examination of the ravine had been made, with startling results. Only a few feet away fromt he trampled spot the police discovered a shallow grave containing the body of a man stabbed twice in the heart. This man, who was readily indentified as one Mueller, know as “The Rat,” also had been convicted of theft in the past. He had not been unders suspicion, however, for the recent daring robberies, for the reason that the police believed him too timid to have committed such brutal crimes. His record was tat of a sneak thief. Still, ha had recently been observed in the company of the other tow, in Berlin, and a delicatessen keeper in the suburban town nearest to the forest testified that he had sold the bread and sausage to “The Rat” on the morning of July 15th. Cigarettes found in his pocket were of Virginia tobacco, of the same brand as the four stubs found in the ravine.
Finally, just as they were about to leave the ravine, the police discovered in a huge hollow tree a large quantity of silver, jewelry, and other articles of value, covered over with dead leaves and twigs. Among this store of loot were most of the recently stolen articles for which the police had been searching.
The questions to be answered are:
1. Who died first?
2. Were the deaths of Heitmann and Schultz premeditated murders?
3. From what evidence is your answer to the second question logically deduced?
4. How do you reconstruct the tragedy.
(See the comment section below for the answers.)
The above mystery is borrowed from The Second Baffle Book (NY: Doubleday, Doran, & Company, Inc., 1929).