The murder of Marie Lock-Hansen is the single most investigated killing in the annals of Danish crime. It was a murder that shocked a nation, yet remains a case that is little known outside Denmark, despite the immense effort by police and public interest in the case. Over 50 years, 100,000 man-hours have been spent by authorities investigating the murder and an astonishing 20,000 people have been questioned. Regular documentaries and books add to the intrigue, and everyone in Denmark seemingly has a theory. While many unsolved crimes usually have a single prevailing view, the killing of Marie Lock-Hansen may genuinely be one of the most mysterious, with little indication of a real motive. The theories range from mistaken identity or a devious husband to criminal lawyers and, of course, the KGB. Such is the continued interest in the affair that some have called “the murder case that will not die”.
Marie Lock-Hansen was seemingly living a good life. Born in Denmark in 1924, she had grown up in poverty, with two of her siblings dying at an early age. She came from the working village of Lisbjerg, just north of Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, where a farming community has existed since at least the Viking age. Marie was the first in her family to take the Higher Preparatory Examination that allowed her access to university.
She was eager to break away from poverty and rural life that stretched back generations. However, Marie’s ambitions for herself didn’t always tally with expectations of a woman in the 1940s. After marrying Leif Jørgensen in 1946, the couple were divorced in 1952. Two years prior she had begun working at the engineering company Søren Jensen and Lock-Hansen in Aarhus, and following her divorce married one of the owners, Oscar Lock-Hansen, in 1953. He was 10 years her senior and the couple were unable to have children, Marie taking on her husband’s adopted daughter. Alongside his work at the company, Oscar had taught engineering at Aarhus Technical College. He eventually sold his share in Søren Jensen and Lock-Hansen and began to devote his time entirely to teaching.
The money received allowed the couple to move to an affluent address in Højbjerg, south Aarhus, and even employ a maid. Marie enjoyed the life that money allowed her, dressing well, with friends noting her eye for taste. She enjoyed antiques and trinkets, and the couple’s villa was said to have immaculate decor. Marie had seemingly settled into the role of a housewife and didn’t work full-time. She had initially set up her own business by the name of “ROLOCK” that provided duplication services for documents. It was based in Fiskergade, where Søren Jensen & Lock-Hansen had premises. She later moved the business to the basement of their house. Marie provided photocopying services to her friends and a handful of clients who primarily worked as colleagues of her husband. The enterprise had shrunk since having its own premises, with Lock-Hansen no longer needing to work at the level she once had. By all accounts, it only survived as Marie wanted something to occupy her time.
November 10, 1967, seemed like a typical morning for Marie. Her business was unusually swamped that day, and she’d asked her friend and neighbour Lizzy Christensen to help, arriving a few minutes after Oscar had left for work. The two set about their business and at 10am the maid, Irma Rasmussen, also came. Marie would usually help the maid in her chores for around 50 minutes before breaking for morning coffee around 10:50. This morning was no different, and the two women carried out their usual routine, asking Lizzy to join them. Lizzy decided against the break and instead continued working in the basement. Just as they were about to start their coffee, the doorbell rang.
Lock-Hansen opened the front door to a man and spoke with him. Irma Rasmussen, still sat in the living room, couldn’t hear the entirety of the conversation, but it seemed as if he wished to show Marie something. He was told that they were swamped with work, but if he was quick, he could enter. The man carried a folder. The two went across the hall to a small office and closed the door. Just seconds later, there was a scream, and three gunshots rang around the house. The man had secreted a gun inside the folder. Irma ran toward the commotion and came face-to-face with the assassin as he calmly tried to flee the scene. The killer told her to “be calm” and shot her when she became panicked. The bullet hit her in the right side of the groin and passed through the small intestine, bladder and main nerve in the right leg. Meanwhile, in the basement, Lizzy Christensen called out in alarm, and Irma shouted that both she and Marie had been shot. Interestingly, the culprit could clearly have also murdered Irma, which suggests that Marie was deliberately targeted and with a specific purpose. The conversation at the door seems to have an air of familiarity.
Lizzy Christensen bound up the stairs and quickly ran to a neighbour to raise the alarm. As she did so, she passed a man walking away from the house. His calm manner meant she gave him no heed. Irma Rasmussen, meanwhile, survived her ordeal and gave a description to police. The gunman was between 35 and 40 and smartly attired in a dark cotton overcoat. He wore a hat, glasses and carried a briefcase. Had he not just gunned down two women in cold blood, he could have quickly passed for a businessman.
Oscar Lock-Hansen was called out of his classes and returned home to the villa. The news of the tragedy wasn’t broken until he reached the front door. Upon hearing the news, he fell to his knees and let out a scream of anguish. “They’ve killed her!” he cried.
The police began the biggest manhunt ever seen in Denmark. With a Who’s Who of Aarhus richest living in nearby villas, there was undoubtedly immense political pressure to gain a result. Witness statements from a butcher and driving instructor who were in the street suggested the man seen by Lizzy Christensen had entered a vehicle, a green Morris Mascot Mini Cooper. These statements indicated he exited onto Oddervej, one of the city’s busiest roads that the house faced. Interestingly, soon afterwards, the family of the driving instructor received a strange phone call from a man asking about the Højbjerg shooting. Only the police and family knew she was a witness.
An account from much later, however, suggests the man may never have entered a car at all, with a new witness claiming that a man carrying a folder and matching the killer’s description, in fact, entered the nearby forest which led to the Navy’s Operational Command (SOK). Other accounts suggest the man actually got on a bus from Højbjerg headed toward the centre of Aarhus.
The murder was a sensation, with the high-society couple and affluent location giving the hint of a scandal. The seemingly “professional hit” style of the killing led to all manner of speculation, and the case quickly became a media circus. While many have openly criticised the police in the years since the killing, that might be unduly harsh. The likes of crime director Jørgen V. Iversen and crime commissioner Preben Nibe were said to be dedicated to the problematic case and otherwise excellent officers. 40 detectives had been assigned to the affair, and they were mostly diligent. Forests were searched and lakes dredged. But, the fact was, there was very little to go on, and the police were inexperienced and no proper procedures for dealing with such a case existed. The crime scene, for example, was never secure, meaning vital clues may have been lost. Key witnesses were not questioned to the depth that may have been required. With a description that could fit many men, the killer perhaps deliberately wished to blend in. The only real clue was the ballistics report, the car and investigations intop the background of Marie and Oscar Lock-Hansen.
The gun was a Walther P38, a German weapon that was the most common handgun in ownership at the time in Denmark. It had been the service pistol of the Wehrmacht at the outbreak of the Second World War and was in production throughout the conflict. Between 1945 and 1946 it was manufactured for the French military. Production ceased between 1946 and 1957 before it once again became the standard sidearm of the West German Bundeswehr between 1957 and 1963. While the gun offered no clues, being one of the WW2 issued weapons and from the then Czechoslovakia, the ammunition used was of more interest. The gunman had used Geco 55, bullets that were used mainly by West German police. However, around 2,000 rounds had been imported into Denmark, with the majority being sold to the Danish military. The military issued Walther P38’s to troops in Greenland and troops being trained for those operations received instruction at the aforementioned Navy’s Operational Command that was located near the Lock-Hansen’s villa.
Irma Rasmussen aided police in the creation of a sketch of the suspect. The image was never released to the public as Irma was displeased with it, feeling it bore little resemblance to the man. However, the police distributed the artwork privately to police forces across the country, and the image became the one associated with the case. Rasmussen was said to have near-photographic memory, and if she had rejected the picture, this was likely a mistake by the police. Indeed, Rasmussen would be shown thousands of images of suspects over her lifetime and dismissed them all. Before she died in 2003 at the age of 87, police mistakenly showed her a photo of a man they had once run by her in 1968. Irma’s memory was such that she was still able to recall the image being shown to her 35 years before.
In a case where every theory has been explored, Rasmussen herself has come under suspicion in some circles. Police initially reported that she had stated in the ambulance that it was she who opened the door, not Marie Lock-Hansen. The killer was seemingly unconcerned about Rasmussen identifying him, despite having an open look at his uncovered face, and the shot taken toward her was apparently designed not to kill. In 1968, Rasmussen demanded the police stop monitoring her.
The Lock-Hansen couple too came under suspicion. Indeed, while they presented a public image of total respectability, keeping up appearances to friends and colleagues, this was not the whole truth. Before the death of Marie, the marriage had allegedly already been troubled, and there was rumour and innuendo that Oscar had problems with alcohol. In 1965, 2 years before the murder, he had suspected his wife was having an affair. On November 3, just seven days before the murder, Oscar Lock-Hansen had signed legal papers that comprised a will and an agreement along the lines of a prenuptial, with Marie having the rights to everything should there be a divorce or Oscar died.
In his 2017 book, Marie’s Murderer, the journalist Peer Kaae suggests that this document holds the key to the killing. Oscar already had a “son” by the name of Steen from a previous marriage to a woman named Vera. However, Oscar and Vera had adopted their daughter, Elisabeth (called Lisbeth), following the news that Oscar was infertile in 1947. Oscar began divorce proceedings when it became plain that Vera had had an affair with a political colleague and friend, Jørgen Peter Andersen. All parties wished to hush-up events due to both Oscar and his wife’s lover being involved in politics. Oscar agreed to lie and publicly acknowledge Steen as his child, paying a hefty amount of child maintenance in exchange for not being publicly shamed as a cuckold and infertile. Kaae suggests that this new document was designed to disinherit the son and that it was to be registered the afternoon of the killing. Jørgen Andersen, realising that the form couldn’t proceed with one of the signatories dead, came and killed Marie.
In 2018, a new book was published by Lene Pors, a young girl at the time of the killing. Pors is the adopted daughter of Jørgen Andersen. In the book, In the shadow of Højbjerg, she portrays a man she describes as “a psychopath”, being an immaculately dressed pillar of society and member of parliament on the outside while subjecting his family to extreme and sadistic violence in private. While she readily accepts the man was a monster, she remains unsure as to whether he was capable of murder.
“His behaviour was extremely violent. He was a double man.”
Lene Pors, TV2
While somewhat plausible, the theory doesn’t fit the entirety of the facts. The document would have failed just as well if Oscar died and there is no evidence that its existence was known outside the two signatories and lawyers. Equally, upon Oscar’s death, the son would have inherited immediately had the document not been passed, making the husband a more likely target for assassination. Further, with Oscar having information that could have brought down the political career of Andersen, it seems a dangerous move to kill his wife, and he was distinctly noted by police to have said “they’ve killed her” after being informed of Marie’s death. Indeed, Oscar always seemed to know more than he was willing to share, drunkenly telling a friend seven years later that he knew who had killed his wife before vowing to never speak of it again.
The car, meanwhile, might very well be one of the keys to the affair. Sigvald Storm Mortensen, a lawyer, reported that his green Morris Mascot Mini had been stolen before the killing, making it an excellent shout for the getaway vehicle. The car was frequently used by his law firm and was usually parked in a car park near his office in Frederiksgade. The vehicle was soon found and examined, police concluding that it had nothing to do with the murder. Storm Mortensen was the lawyer for Oscar and Marie Lock-Hansen. The coincidence seems unlikely. However, his alibi was watertight, being in the USA at the time.
However, while Mortensen was in the United States, the affairs of the firm’s clients were being dealt with by partner Hugo Schmidt. Schmidt has been linked with the killing in several works with the primary theory, again, centring on the agreement between Oscar and Marie. Despite the husband’s attempts to portray married bliss to the press, it is said there was tension between the couple, and divorce was likely. Proponents of the theory contend that it is the divorce aspect that is key, not the will. Oscar wanted out of the agreement and told his lawyer so. The lawyer then killed the client. Stretching credibility, this theory fails to explain why Oscar would agree to such a thing in the first place, nor why one of Aarhus’s best lawyers would murder one of his clients when he had no personal stake in the matter. That said, the man matched the description given by Irma Rasmussen and was 39 years old at the time of the murder. He had ready access to Mortensen’s car and owned a Walther P38. The police are said to have tested the gun over a year later and found it wasn’t the murder weapon.
The theory surrounding an illegitimate son and the insane rage of a former lover is not the only theory in the case, and Oscar himself came under suspicion. Some have suggested that he had his wife killed, enlisting Hugo Schmidt to do the job and gave himself an alibi by being at work. Other speculate that Marie had been swindling her rich husband all along. Some suggest she may have even blackmailed him into signing the legal documents at the centre of so many theories. With humble origins and as his former secretary, there was undoubtedly a strong smell of classism in the suggestions and no evidence that Marie married for money. Likewise, Oscar, despite his suspicious comments, seemed to deeply love his wife. Following her murder, he kept the house exactly as it had been during her life. He sank into many years of depression and turned to alcoholism, some saying he eventually died of a broken heart.
One theory was that Marie had been killed in a case of mistaken identity, with some suggesting she had been confused with Grethe Bartram. Bartram bore a passing resemblance to Lock-Hansen and during the Second World War had become notorious for her treason and collaboration with the Nazis as part of the Gestapo, exposing 53 Danish resistance fighters for money including her own brother, husband and friends. She had been pardoned from a death sentence by King Christian X in 1956 and moved to Sweden where she died in 2017 aged 92.
Others suggest that a student angry at Oscar carried out the killing, the police pulling several young men in for questioning. Police investigated Oscar’s one time comments that Marie had a secret lover, but again, found no evidence to support the theory that she was engaged in an affair at the time of her death.
Yet one more theory that was presented to police during the original investigation was that Marie had seen something she shouldn’t. Located close to the Danish Navy’s Operational Command, Marie often took her dog for walks nearby, and a few days before the killing the pet had found a piece of discarded sausage left on her usual path. The animal eagerly ate the meat and became quickly sick. Taken to the vet, the dog was still there on the day of the murder, conveniently out of the house. When Oscar had allegedly confided in friends that he believed his wife was having an affair, he also told them that he thought she had met a man on one of these trips out with the dog, travelling with the mystery man to Copenhagen. Friends are said to have confirmed this was true.
Some have speculated that Marie was carrying on an illicit liaison with somebody working at the base or even meeting for more nefarious reasons. These theories suggest Marie potentially worked for the SOK. A former employee at the site has claimed Marie did indeed come around the base with an officer in 1961. He speculated that the officer was transferred to Greenland.
“I personally think it could be some spy who killed my wife. Not because she had anything to do with those circles, but because it was mistakenly thought that she knew something”
Oscar Lock-Hansen, contemporary press comment
Writing in 2002, Eigil V. Knudsen revealed that a name and phone number had been written in Marie’s journals, “Antik-Andersen”. Knudsen states that this was a reference to her penchant for collecting antiques and the man was an antique dealer by the name of Kristian Andersen from Sønderborg. On February 17, 1967, Andersen had been murdered at his apartment in an alleged robbery gone wrong. Anderson was public with his money and enjoyed showing off, carrying wads of cash and having a habit of flashing his well-stuffed wallet around at the local bar. The police passed this off as a coincidence, with Marie having bought antiques from the man before his death. Some have linked Andersen’s name with Gustav Holm Haase who was arrested in March 1968 and convicted of smuggling radio equipment that was to be utilised by East German agents in Denmark. There is, however, no evidence then men are linked.
Others, meanwhile, contend that Marie had been working for the opposition and publishing Soviet propaganda in her basement. In 2017, author Knud Simonsen published The Mystery of Marie where he alleges that Schmitt was working with the USSR. While the book is described as a “documentary novel” and written as fiction, Simonsen insists that basis is real and Schmitt ordered the killing which was carried out by a Soviet hitman. The foundation, he claims, was that Schmitt was the man with whom Marie was having an affair and was involved in producing secret documents and letters through her basement business. Retired crime commissioner Preben Nibe described the theory as insane.
The journalist Poul Blak, author of The Unlikely Killer, meanwhile, says that he was told by Deputy Crime Commissioner Aage Haxell that the police knew the truth of the Højbjerg murder and that it “had something to do with either East Germany or the Eastern Bloc.”
“[Deputy Crime Commissioner Aage Haxell] said he had confidential information. And by confidential, he meant that I must not let it be known that I knew of it, and for the same reason, I must of course not quote him on it either. Aage Haxell told me that in principle, the Højbjerg murder had been solved. I can not reproduce it verbatim here so many years after, but that was the meaning of what he said.”
Poul Blak, PingvinNyt
In October of this year, a new book was published by Christine Jønck based on the accounts of a source she names only as “Vibeke”. Vibeke states that her now-deceased husband killed Marie Lock-Hansen in 1967, saying “I do not just believe it, I know it was him.”
“He was a salesman and had been in Jutland on the day of the murder. I could not understand why he did not come home because I was having dinner. The next day he went for breakfast, and while he was away, two civilian officers came and knocked at the door. They wanted to talk to my husband. They came inside, waited and talked to him when he came back. They suddenly took him to the police station, and then I did not hear of it anymore. But it was strange, because we also had a green Morris Mascot, just like the one that was wanted in connection with the murder.”
Vibeke, without evidence, claims her husband had been a spy for East Germany and believes the picture created by Irma Rasmussen in 1967 is a good likeness. Interestingly, however, while it might seem that the police might have checked on everyone who owned a green Morris Mascot, this was not the case, and they were more pointed in their approach, suggesting that the police may have had reasonable suspicion.
In October 2007, the historian Allan Vendeldorf wrote an article on the case titled The Table Catches. He states that the Lock-Hansen house had already been under surveillance before the killing, and a small green van was utilised by the intelligence services outside their home. On March 21, 1968, the press confirmed that the Danish Security and Intelligence Service the Politiets Efterretningstjeneste (PET) was investigating the case.
While the latest book may offer little new, it shows how much interest the case still holds across Denmark, with the speculation around the affair continuing to grow. With few leads, everyone has a favoured theory, be it espionage, revenge, greed or infidelity. Preben Nibe, the former lead investigator on the case, doesn’t believe any of them. The whole matter fills 57 meters on the shelves of East Jutland Police, and it seems that the matter is no nearer being solved than the moment the killer walked out of the Lock-Hansen’s front door.
There are points of note, the “stolen” green Morris Mascot is a huge coincidence. However, why a lawyer would be involved in a murder with nothing to gain, nobody can say. While the KGB have reared their head, it seems that when there are no answers to be found, blaming the Soviets has always been the last resort of investigators with nothing else to go on. Many of these theories, which also appear in cases such as the Oslo Woman, Somerton Man and Isdal Woman amount to speculation based on Cold War fears rather than anything truly solid. Equally, while there is no evidence, the guilt of Representative Jørgen Peter Andersen seems to be the theory that holds the most weight. That said, the phrase “no evidence” appears to be one that occurs over and over again, and the case of Marie Lock-Hansen seems destined to forever remain unsolved.
It might just have been the “perfect” murder.
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