Caroline Horsnick (1828-?)

by Lyn Horton


Appearing before the Central Criminal Court in London on 10 May 1852 were German woman Caroline Horsnick (alias Cramer) and her accomplice, Joseph Strassuer.  Caroline pleaded guilty to stealing three bracelets, eight rings, other articles and some money.  Aged 23 at the time of this offence, she had previously had a clean record. Because of the nature and value of the crime and because they pleaded guilty, Caroline and Joseph were sentenced to 10 years’ transportation.

Caroline seemed to be a well-presented young woman. She had made quite the impression on her employer, Frederick Arnold Englebert D’Alquin who met her in the Yorkshire Grey Coffee-House after she answered an advertisement in the Times for a lady’s maid. D’Alquin was a German physician who thought Caroline a ‘most superior woman’. He felt she was definitely more suited to being a lady’s maid than working in public houses. Caroline herself told authorities on board the ship that she was a fancy needlewoman. But she also told D’Alquin she was accustomed to hard work and had been so all her life. She presented a written character letter to D’Alquin with a seal advising ‘she had been living six years with a counsellor on the Continent’. To all apparent purposes, Caroline seemed perfect for the position.

After employing Caroline, D’Alquin had allowed her to go out and make some purchases, but while she was gone he noticed the kitchen door had been left opened. Upon her return she asked if D’Alquin or his wife had been in the kitchen. He told her that she needed to take more care as they had been the victims of robbery twice before and ‘that it was not like Germany’.  Caroline maintained she had lost a valuable brooch her brother-in-law had given her and it was likely a beggar who stole it, because he had been seen loitering around the window. On the 16 February D’Alquin’s wife noticed a sovereign missing and the couple had noticed a man standing close by their terrace. D’Alquin’s wife said the man was a friend of Caroline’s and had visited her several times. D’Alquin noted a conversation between Caroline and her friend. Caroline came back inside and asked D’Alquin for writing paper so she could tell her mother how happy she was and that her brother-in-law who was waiting outside, would take the letter back to Germany with him. An hour later, D’Alquin sent Caroline out to buy flour and she did not return. He had noted she was ‘heavily dressed’ for a trip around the corner and his suspicions became aroused. This unusual behaviour led him to check his wife’s belongings and he noticed that the jewellery box, money, dresses and shawls were missing.

The evidence produced by several witnesses after the event was damning. Charlotte Simons, a chambermaid at the Hotel de l’Europe in Leicester Place told the court that the prisoners had arrived at the hotel on the 16 February and shared a bedroom at the hotel. Charlotte noted there was a jewellery box on the table. The police inspector, Joshua Monckton, said that when he entered the hotel room he saw the woman counting and giving some money to Joseph. When the officer attempted to lead Joseph away he produced a razor from his waistcoat and cut his own left wrist. After dropping the razor onto the floor, Caroline proceeded to pick it up and followed suit. They were taken to Charing Cross hospital and were found to have money and keys to a portmanteau which housed the jewellery box and jeweller’s tool. It appeared to the police that Joseph was a jeweller. In addition, Joseph was found to be carrying two seals that were like those used on a character reference. A further search of the prisoner’s belongings produced two cloaks, a sheet, an ivory brooch, a lady’s dress, a shawl and two pieces of ribbon. Except for the sheet, D’Alquin testified the rest belonging to him.

John Watson was next to give evidence. A foreman at a pawnbroker business owned by Mr Tate of Cambridge Street, Golden Square, Watson produced several jewellery items, seals and fourteen duplicates presented to him by Caroline on the 17 February. She had told Watson she was going to make a fresh start in America that afternoon and needed to sell them quickly. Her spoken English was broken and she produced some of the explanation in writing. Watson said if she was the rightful owner he would purchase the tickets, but he must check out where some of the duplicates had been pledged previously. His suspicions became aroused when cross referencing was not accurate and he went to the police. The police asked him to make an advance of 3/- to Caroline so they would have an opportunity to follow her.

Other pawnbrokers attested to Caroline’s guilt. Samuel Miller, who also produced two bracelets, had not been able to understand her imperfect English and asked her to write her name. She wrote it as Madame D’Alquin and told him her husband was a physician. John Mercer, assistant to Mr. Burgess, pawnbroker of Long Acre, also produced jewellery and other items presented by Caroline. John Button, assistant to Mr Vincent, pawnbroker at Queen’s Buildings, Brompton, produced household items but said he did not recognise Caroline. D’Alquin confirmed all the property belonged to him.

As for Joseph Strassuer, he said he knew nothing of the robbery but was sentenced to 10 years’ transportation. Where Joseph went after the trial is a mystery. His name was listed as Stressor, Strassuer and Strasney throughout the trial. He also required an interpreter because he could not understand English well enough. He was aged 26 years at the time. So was he Caroline’s boyfriend, partner or brother-in-law as she claimed?

Caroline arrived in Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Duchess of Northumberland on 21 April 1853. The ship’s surgeon described her demeanour and health as ‘good’. However, in his journal it appears she suffered neuralgia on 9 February 1853 and was hospitalised and was then discharged on 22 February. A woman of 5 feet 2½ inches (158.75 cm) tall and of German origin, she had light hair and grey eyes. She was pockpitted and had a large scar on her right wrist (Was this the razor scar that the policeman had said she made to her left wrist?). Caroline said she was married, a Protestant and could read and write. Her mother was also named Caroline and her brother was Charles, both residing in Germany. Her husband was Lewis and he had gone to Italy.

In Van Diemen’s Land it seems Caroline settled down, with no recorded offences against her name. She was in the service of four people before she was granted her ticket of leave in April 1855. However, interestingly, without any apparent reason, Caroline’s conduct record mentions on 21 May 1855 that she was ‘not to enter service in Hobart Town.’ Fellow convict John Green  applied to marry her on 13 December 1853 and a later application was made by a Thomas Green. Caroline and Thomas Green, a 45-year-old bootmaker, married on 1 May 1854 at St George’s Church, Battery Point. Caroline was noted as a widow, but she had mentioned on her record that her husband had gone to Italy. Had he died there or just deserted her?  She received her conditional pardon on 28 August 1854. Caroline and Thomas do not appear to have had children together and no substantiated death records have been found.

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