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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 26, 1809
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1785
Victim profile: Dorothea Blankenfeld, 24
Method of murder: Beating
Location: Meitingen, Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany
Status: Executed by the sword in December 1809

Theresa Antonini (1785-1809) was a Berlin-born career criminal who helped murder a young woman for her jewels and money while aboard a coach headed from Danzig to Vienna in 1809.

Antonini plotted with her husband, a pirate, to kill Dorothea Blankenfeld because she wore expensive clothes and valuable jewels. The pair became even more excited when they learned that the young woman was also carrying a substantial amount of money.

After contemplating various methods, they decided to bash in the unfortunate woman's brains with a poker. They attempted to abscond with the body but their coach was overtaken by the police after the innkeeper became suspicious. He ran to Blankenfeld's room where he came upon the blood-splattered crime scene. He notified the police and the culprits were immediately captured.

Theresa Antonini was sentenced to death and was beheaded for her crime.


  • Look For the Woman by Jay Robert Nash. M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1981.



German and Austrian Prisons - Three celebrated cases

By Arthur Griffiths

The records of the times show many isolated instances of atrocious murders perpetrated on defenceless travellers. A peculiarly horrible case was the doing to death of the beautiful girl, Dorothea Blankenfeld, at the post-house of Maitingen near Augsburg by her travelling companions, who had accompanied her for many stages, ever thirsting for her blood, but constantly foiled for want of opportunity until the last night before arriving at their destination.

The victim was a native of Friedland, who started from Danzig in November, 1809, on her way to Vienna, where she was to join her intended husband, a war commissary in the French service. She had reached Dresden, but halted there until her friends could find a suitable escort for the rest of the journey. She was young, barely twenty-four years old, remarkably good looking, of gentle disposition and spotless character. The opportunity for which she awaited presented itself when two French military postilions arrived in Dresden and sought passports for Vienna. It was easy to add the Fraulein Blankenfeld's name in the route paper, and she left Dresden with her escort, who had already doomed her to destruction.

The two postilions were really man and wife, for one was a woman in disguise. They gave their names as Antoine and Schulz, but they were really the two Antoninis. The man was a native of southern Italy, who as a boy had been captured by Barbary pirates and released by a French warship. He had been a drummer in a Corsican battalion, a laqnais de place, a sutler and lastly a French army postilion. His criminal propensities were developed early; he had been frequently imprisoned, twice in Berlin and once in Mayence with his wife, for he had married a woman named Marschall of Berlin, and he had been constantly denounced as a thief and incendiary. At Erfurt he had broken prison and effected the escape of his fellow-prisoners. Theresa Antonini had been a wild, obstinate and vicious girl, who after marriage became a partner also in her husband's evil deeds and shared his imprisonment. The pair were on their way south to Antonini's native place in Messina, very short of money, and they took with them Carl Marschall, the woman's brother, a boy barely fifteen years of age.

Dorothea Blankenfeld was a tempting bait to their cupidity. She was fashionably dressed, her trunk was full of linen and fine clothes, and she really carried about two thousand thalers sewed in her stays, a fact then unknown to her would-be murderers.

A scheme was soon broached by Antonini to his wife to make away with the girl, and young Carl Marschall was prevailed upon to join in the plot. They waited only for a favourable opportunity to effect their purpose, devising many plans to murder her and conceal their crime. The whole journey was occupied with abortive attempts. They selected their quarters for the night with this idea, but some accident interposed to save the threatened victim, who was altogether unconscious of her impending fate.

At Hof a plan was devised of stifling her with smoke in her bed, but the results seemed uncertain, and it was not tried. At Berneck, between Hof and Bayreuth, they lodged in a lonely inn at the foot of a mountain covered with wood, and here the corpse might be buried during the night. But Theresa Antonini had discarded her postilion's disguise, and as two women had arrived, the departure of only one the next morning must surely arouse suspicion. The following night the notion of choking the girl with the fumes of smoke was revived, but was dismissed for the same reason, the doubtful result. Death must be dealt in some other way if it was to be risked at all. So they drugged her, took her keys from under her pillow, and opened and examined her trunks, finding more than enough to seal her doom.

They arrived next at Niirnberg, a likely place, where many streams of water flowing through the city might help to get rid of the body. But a sentry happened to have his post just in front of the inn, and this afforded protection to the threatened girl. At this time Carl Marschall proposed to mix pounded glass in her soup, but the scheme was rejected by Antonini, who declared that he had often swallowed broken glass for sport without ill effects. At Roth, a suitable weapon was found in a loft, a mattock with three iron prongs, and a pool of water for the concealment of the body was discovered in a neighbouring field, so the deed was to be perpetrated here, after administering another sleeping draught. The mischance that a number of carriers put up that night at the inn again shielded the Fraulein. Insurmountable objections arose also at Weissenberg and Donauvvorth, and as they had now reached the last stage but one, it seemed as if the murder might never be committed.

The last station was Maitingen near Augsburg, where the girl was to leave the party, and here fresh incitement was given to guilty greed by her incautious admission that she carried a quantity of valuables on her person. Somehow she must be disposed of that night. The boy Carl was to be the principal agent in the crime; it was thought that his youth would save him from capital punishment, an inevitable sentence for the others if convicted. The lad showed no reluctance to the act, and only hesitated lest he should not be strong enough to complete it, but his sister said that Antonini would help as soon as the first blow was struck, and she further tempted him with the promise of a substantial gift.

Carl had discovered in the post-house a heavy roller which he hid in Antonini's bed-room. Then he dug a hole in the yard, intended for the disposal of the body. Antonini bought some candles, and on the pretence of using a foot bath, much warm water was prepared to cleanse the blood stains. At supper Dorothea drank some brandy and water mixed with laudanum, and was taken off to bed half stupefied. About midnight the murderers viewed their intended victim and found her asleep, but in a position unfavourable for attack, as her face was turned to the wall. Now a change of plan was proposed, to pour molten lead into her ears and eyes, but on heating the fragments of a spoon over the candle, it was seen that a drop which fell on the sheet merely scorched it, which indicated that the metal cooled too quickly to destroy life.

Another visit was paid to the victim at four o'clock, and now Carl was ordered to strike the first blow, which fell with murderous effect; but the poor girl was able to raise herself in bed and to plead piteously for her life. A fierce struggle ensued; repeated blows were rained upon her and she sank upon the floor in the agony of death, while Antonini tore at the money she still carried on her person. As the wretched woman still breathed and groaned audibly, Antonini savagely trampled and jumped on her body until life was quite extinct. When afterward examined, the body was found to be grievously bruised and swollen, the collar bone was broken, and there were nine wounds made by a blunt instrument on the brow and other parts of the head.

The house was disturbed at first by the piercing shrieks of the victim, and the postmaster listened at her door but heard nothing more. It was noticed the following morning that although the party was to have started at five o'clock, they were not ready to leave until nine. The attention of the postmaster, who was looking out of the window, was attracted by a curiously shaped bundle which the men dragged out of the house and flung into the carriage, something hke the carcass of a dog, or it might be of a human being. Then the party entered the carriage and drove away, but it was observed that there was only one woman in the carriage instead of the two who had arrived on the previous evening. The rooms upstairs were now visited and the terrible catastrophe was forthwith discovered. Walls, floor and bed were drenched with blood and it was plain that an atrocious murder had been committed. Information was at once given to the authorities, and the carriage was promptly pursued. It was overtaken at the gates of Augsburg, and the culprits were seized and lodged in gaol. The suspicious looking bundle, wrapped up in a long blue cloak, had been tied up behind the carriage, and when examined it was found to contain the wounded and much battered corpse of a young woman.

In the course of the protracted criminal proceedings which followed, the boy Carl Marschall was the first to confess his guilt. The Antoninis were obstinately reticent, but at last, after nineteen long examinations, Theresa, when confronted with her brother, also acknowledged her share in the deed. Antonini was persistent in his denial and sought continually to deceive the judge by a variety of lying statements, but even he yielded at last and made a disjointed but still self-incriminating confession. Husband and wife were both convicted and sentenced by the court at Nurnberg to death by the sword. Their boy accomplice, Carl Marschall, in consideration of his youth, was condemned to ten years' imprisonment at hard labour. Antonini escaped the punishment he so well deserved by dying in prison; but his wife was not so fortunate and suffered the penalty of death upon the scaffold, hardened and unrepentant to the last.

Perhaps no more brutal murder than this committed by the Antoninis has ever been recorded, though at that time, when the activities of the brigand and highway robber were not entirely suppressed, doubtless many atrocities were perpetrated, the true stories of which have remained forever in obscurity.

The history and romance of crime from the earliest time to the present day (Volume 8)



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