Store Klingbjerg 6
Mockery, murder and Haderslev’s last execution
Oluf Lassen couldn’t take it when people mocked him. Especially when his friend Lars Petersen mocked him and called him a “Skoflikker” – a term that could be used in a less than flattering way when referring to shoemakers. Oluf retaliated by calling him a “luseknækker” – a derogatory term meaning a feeble, scruffy guy. Oluf and Lars often went drinking together, as they did on that fateful night of 14 March 1825. They had gone to Jens Nielsen’s tavern at Store Klingbjerg 6. They began to argue, and Lars began to tease Oluf. Oluf went for Lars, but the other pub-goers intervened, giving Oluf a good beating instead. The landlord Jens Nielsen separated them and threw Oluf out. Oluf walked home but returned not long after with the apprentice from his father’s shoemaker’s shop. Both were carrying large knives.
In front of the stairs leading up to the tavern, they were met by Lars and fencing master Carstensen. Carstensen drew his sword and wounded the boy. So enraged was Oluf that he plunged his knife into Lars’ chest, piercing his left lung. The others heard Lars shout: “That’s it. I’ve had enough”. But what they didn’t know was that he was fatally wounded.
Things settled back down inside the tavern. It was 11 pm and dark. Suddenly, master builder Bruhn burst into the tavern and said that Lars had fallen into the gutter*. A lantern was grabbed, and to their surprise they found Lars lying in a pool of blood. The police and a doctor were called, but Lars was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the meantime, Oluf had run home. His sister Dorthea and the other apprentice had followed Oluf and seen it all. Once home, Oluf went into his parents’ bedroom and showed them his bloody hand and the knife, which he threw at the wall, breaking the tip. Oluf said: “I think I’m done for”.
Later that night the police arrived, arrested Oluf and took him to the jail on Lavgade.
While Oluf was in prison, he was visited by a pastor and a priest. They tried their hardest to get Oluf to repent for what he had done. Oluf confessed to the murder, but he would not repent. He tried to commit suicide a couple of times with glass and sharp stones. The verdict on Oluf was reached on 24 January 1826. He would be executed on 28 February 1826 – just under a year after the murder. Oluf shall “by means of an axe … be brought from life to death”. However, he would be spared the breaking wheel, i.e. having his bones broken.
When Oluf heard his sentence, he asked to speak with a clergyman, and through these conversations, he repented and got back on to the right “Christian path”.
Haderslev’s last execution.
An execution site was set up in a field outside the town. The date of the execution had been announced far and wide as a deterrent to people in the hope of preventing it from happening again. The convicted person was typically transported to the execution site in a cart. Sitting in the cart with Oluf were the clergymen who he had talked with. An execution was generally quite the crowd-puller, and Oluf’s was no exception. Oluf’s parents were not among the crowd, however, having left the town earlier that day.
The executioner and his assistants had been summoned from Tønder. In the field, there was a scaffold, a coffin and a grave dug. Oluf was allowed to say a prayer, he placed his head on the block after being tied, and the executioner did his duty. The executioner then lifted Oluf’s severed head into the hair and showed it to the crowd. He them removed his white gloves and threw them to the ground – a symbol that he was not guilty of the killing he had just carried out.
Oluf Lassen was the last person in Haderslev to be executed. A memorial stone was raised in the field where Oluf was executed. It was named Ole’s stone. The field has now been built on, but the memorial stone still stands in a private garden west of Christiansfeldvej and south of Marie Margrethesvej (on Clausensvej).
*In the past, it was normal to drink beer instead of water, as the urban water was dirty. However, the beer contained less alcohol than it does today. Schnapps was nevertheless a strong drink.
*Can mean: to fall in a drunken stupor on the street.
Over time, there have been various discussions of whether Oluf was the victim of mockery, or if he himself bore some of the blame for his life ending as it did. What’s more, during the trial, the prosecutor is said to have emphasised the fact that Oluf’s mother bore part of the blame, having made him her favourite and given in to him during his childhood. While Oluf was in prison, he told one of the priests that if his mother had treated him differently and not protected him when he had done something wrong, he would not have become a killer.
*If you look at the church records (Hovedministerialbogen 1788FD-1803FD) from Vor Frue Parish, you can read that Oluf Lassen was originally christened Ohle Lassen. It is not known for sure why he came to be known as Oluf. But one possibility is that as his mother Annecken originally bore the surname Oluf, it became his nickname. Another possibility is that the way the name Ohle was pronounced back then sounded like Oluf. And when it was later written down in articles, reports, etc, the sound of the word Ohle corresponded to Oluf.
But the fact that Oluf was also referred to as Ohle can be seen from his memorial stone, which bears the name “Ole’s stone” to this day. And that Oluf was also known as: Black Ole.