Sunday, 23 October 2016

Dying in bed is dead boring

Voor de versie in het Nederlands s.v.p. hier klikken.
It is often said that most people die in bed. Well, maybe most but certainly not the three persons acting in this story, a story starting in war torn Holland in 1942. But first, let’s introduce the actors. In alphabetical order we see Johannes Marinus Dronkers (46), Jan Bruno de Langen (21) and John Alphonsus Mulder (26).
I will not delve too deep into their past as this post is about their future or rather about their last day on this planet. But here are some personal details.

Dronkers was born in Nigtevegt (Utrecht) on April 6, 1896. His wife was 33 years old Elise Antoinette Eleanora Seignette. They married in Velsen (North Holland) on June 10, 1926. I am not aware of any children. Some time later they moved to Oegstgeest (near Leiden) and in 1932 to The Hague. Their last address there was 55 Valeriusstraat.

De Langen and I shared a few things. We have both been born in The Hague and his grandparents are my great grandparents. That makes me his 1st cousin once removed. Jan Bruno was born on April 21, 1921. He and I shared some 50 years on this planet, yet we never met. However, I know he met our Queen Wilhelmina while in London during the war, some compensation at least. Also that he was awarded the Bronze Cross for escaping occupied Holland. He landed in Normandy in August 1944 with the Princess Irene Brigade and fought his way up north. Despite this seemingly heroic behavior he remained a lifelong bachelor.
Identity card of Jan Bruno de Langen
Identity card of Jan Bruno de Langen issued July 11, 1941
(Courtesy of David Tremain)
Mulder grew up in the Dutch East Indies. He was born in Surakarta on Java island on September 24, 1915. Apparently he was involved with a newspaper there (Het Nieuws van den Dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië) as in 1939 he came to Holland and acted as their correspondent in The Hague. Later he became a civil servant in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences. When he was 47 he married 21 years old Erika Hedwig Sauer. It is July 11, 1962. She was born in German Bad Kreuznach on August 14, 1940. They became the parents of two daughters: 1. Hedwig Elisabeth Lucia Maria, born January 11, 1963 and 2. Lucia Maria Christina Petra born May 18, 1964, both in The Hague.
Het Nieuws van den Dag voor Ned. Indië
Mulder's employer in 1939. Although the name of the editor in chief in 1934 is also
Mulder there is no known relationship.
These three men had a couple of things in common. Firstly, they all lived in The Hague. In the early forties of the 20th century all three worked for the PTT, the equivalent of the GPO in the UK. And together they got the idea to escape to England probably to join the armed forces there.
They were not alone in trying to reach England. All in all some 1.700 people, among which 50 women, reached the UK during the war. Around 500 managed to do so crossing the North Sea. Others went via France/Spain and many other routes. In The Netherlands these people are commonly known as Engelandvaarders, those who sailed to England.
Anyway, they prepared a small motor vessel in a place called Hellevoetsluis which is situated south of Rotterdam and, as the crow flies, approximately 20 miles south of The Hague. Initially I had no idea why they would leave from there. The only reason I could think of is because of the possible less prominent presence of German soldiers there. But whether that offsets the risk of three young men travelling repeatedly from The Hague to Hellevoetsluis to make preparations… However, there are also stories that the Germans had reasons to allow them to flee occupied territories and even facilitated their escape…
The three left Hellevoetsluis on May 16, 1942. The shortest distance to the other side, to Harwich, is some 125 miles. Two days later they were spotted and picked up by a Royal Navy trawler, the HMT Corena and handed over to Field Security in Harwich.
HMT Corena
HMT Corena
Like all people who fled to England they were interrogated by the Dutch Security Service of the Dutch government in exile. Whereas De Langen and Mulder were set free soon, Dronkers was interviewed time and again by one of their top spycatchers Colonel Oreste Pinto. Pinto did not trust Dronkers at all. Eventually he discovered secret codes in the Dutch-English dictionary Dronkers brought with him. In the end he confessed being a member of the NSB, the Dutch nazi organization, as well as a spy for the German Abwehr. He was brought to trial in the Old Bailey before Justice Wrottesley on November 13, 1942. Dronkers was found guilty and condemned to death. He was hanged in Wandsworth Prison on December 31 next, 46 years old...

Update Dec. 9, 2016: After reading the below mentioned book Rough Justice, I have to review the role of the Dutch Secret Service mentioned in the paragraph above. The author of the book clearly demonstrates that the Dronkers case has been dealt with by MI5 from almost the beginning to the end. The Dutch have hardly been involved. The same goes for Colonel Oreste Pinto who on hindsight overestimated his achievements in the Dronkers case. And that is a mild way of putting it. His role in the "exposure"of Dronkers at best was minimal. 
Model of Wandsworth prison gallows
Picture of a scale model of the Wandsworth gallows.
There is a 7 ft drop underneath the hatch.
The Sun, Sydney Jan. 2, 1943
Little is known about De Langen's life after the war. According to newspaper reports he was a peculiar man. I can hear you think, newspaper reports? What newspaper reports? Well, he seemed to have kept hundreds of mice in his house as well as a collection of old newspapers and rags. As a consequence of complaints by his neighbours the Municipality was about to clean out the house when a fire broke out. De Langen fell victim of this incident which according to newspaper De Telegraaf was possibly deliberately caused by himself. The date was May 19, 1993, Jan Bruno de Langen lived to be 72 years...
De Telegraaf, 21 mei 1993
"Mice man killed in fire"
De Telegraaf, May 21, 1993
As mentioned earlier Mulder was married and had two little daughters. He had a history of moving around in The Hague prior to his marriage. When he came from the Dutch East Indies on September 20, 1939 he settled in 6, Teunisbloemlaan. Less than 20 years later he moved to the address 1998 Melis Stokelaan. In the meantime he lived at another nineteen (!) addresses. In addition to all this moving around he also disappeared from The Hague for two periods viz. 6 weeks in 1946 and almost a year during 1950/51. Whereto I don't know. As a civil servant he seemed to live an unremarkable life. But on August 9, 1964 he made an end to his anonymous existence. The next day readers of the Algemeen Handelsblad saw the following headline.
"Man murders wife and two kids" preceded by "Perpetrator makes fatal jump"
Headlines in Algemeen Handelsblad, August 10, 1964
The complete article including its gory details reads as follows.

[quote] Yesterday afternoon 48 years old J.A. Mulder from The Hague murdered his wife (24) and two children with an ax. After doing this he wounded himself and subsequently jumped from a floor of the Roman Catholic institution for unwed mothers Maria Stella situated on the Scheveningseweg where the event took place. He fell down eight meters on a paved garden path in the backyard right in front of a police officer. Two hours later he died in the Zuidwal infirmary without having regained consciousness. Both a nurse and a female visitor have been seriously wounded. The couple was separated from bed and board.
On August 3 the perpetrator resigned from his job as a deputy clerk in the nursery education department of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences.

Around 2 pm, it was visit time, the man, living in the Melis Stokelaan, came to visit his kids. His wife stayed in the Maria Stella institution ever since January, together with her two kids, a girl of 1½ years old and a girl of just over 2 months. Twice a week the man paid a visit. Yesterday afternoon that was also the case.

First he went to the basement, to the baby department. A the time there were about twenty babies in two rooms. In one of those rooms with 39 year old nurse Gerarda supervising, was mister Mulder’s youngest, 2½ months old Lucia.

Although she had a bleeding wound Mrs Van Werkhoven ran out of the room to warn the head of department. But she was unable to reach her on the phone. She went back to the baby room to help the child. She soon got assistance from two nurses. These nurses witnessed part of the drama and initially fled from the scene. One of the nurses took the baby from her cradle and went to the Nebo infirmary on the other side of the street. There the baby’s death was established.

In the meantime the reasonably calm perpetrator left the room to go to the second floor. His wife and their 1½ year old elder daughter Hedwig lived there in a room. He assaulted his wife with the ax immediately after he entered her room and hit her several times causing her almost instant death. Next he killed his elder daughter.

By now there was panic in the institution. Two visitors, 25 year old car mechanic H.A. Warnaars and the 27 year old carpenter H.A.M. Bouwmeester ran upstairs. Through a glass partition of Mrs. Mulder-Sauer’s room they saw the drama develop further. Mr. Warnaars went back to the adjacent room to grab a chair. To avoid the escape of Mr. Mulder, Mr. Bouwmeester kept the door of Mrs. Mulder’s room closed.

After Mr. Warnaar’s return Mr. Bouwmeester went down the stairs to call the police. Within minutes a patrol car with two officers was present. One of the officers went upstairs immediately, the second one called for assistance and subsequently went to the back of the institution.

When the officer upstairs entered Mrs. Mulder’s room, the culprit was squatting in the window. Mr. Warnaars planned to attack the man with the chair but he was wildly waving his ax. Instead Mr. Warnaars grabbed the severely wounded child to return her to safety. The doer, not hit by the chair, injured himself with the ax and jumped from the window. He landed eight metres down on the paved path in the backyard right in front of one of the officers. The man was transported immediately to the Zuidwal infirmary where he died two hours later without having regained consciousness.

Duty clothing
In the meantime the nurse and Mrs. Van Noppen, both assaulted by the killer with his ax, had been transported to the Nebo infirmary. Mrs. Van Noppen has been admitted there with a broken shoulder and in shock. The nurse, after having been treated, returned to Maria Stella. Although she was hit with the ax her duty clothing protected her against serious injury.

The drama took place within several minutes.

According to a later report by the police the sequence of events was slightly different: the perpetrator is supposed to have killed his wife and elder daughter first and afterwards his youngest daughter in the baby room.
The man married at a later age. However, the relationship between the partners was not good.

After his wife and two kids left the marital home on the Melis Stokelaan, the perpetrator repeatedly tried to make her return.

Although he was known in Maria Stella as a difficult man, Miss Van Werkhoven noticed no particulars when he paid the visit yesterday. When he entered she had said good day to him.

Mrs. Mulder’s parents, who live in Bad Kreuznach in Germany, have been alerted by the police. They arrived this morning in The Hague. [unquote]

The date was August 9, 1964. Mulder killed his family with an ax and himself by jumping from an 8 meters high window. Mulder has become 48 years old... 

I thought it was quite coincidental that three young men who seemingly fled occupied Holland to start a new future elsewhere, all died in such an unpleasant manner. It may be dead boring but I think I rather die in bed...

Rough Justice by Davis Tremaine
On September 5 last year I received an email from one David Tremain. He stumbled upon a post on this blog about my second cousin Jan Bruno de Langen. His interest in Jan was raised because he was writing a book about the presumed spy Dronkers. He was curious to know whether I possessed information about Jan's life after the war etc. In the months that followed I was able to provide answers to certain "Dutch questions" David had. Now his book has been published. Among others he writes extensively about the three men who sailed to England. On the inside cover David wonders whether Dronkers was really guilty? Or was he made an example of by the British authorities. And why wasn't he turned, as MI5 had done to many other enemy spies. He deals with all these questions based on National Archive files recently made public. I feel David wrote a very interesting book about a less well known, hitherto secret subject.
Jan Bruno de Langen ex Rough Justice
Picture of Jan Bruno de Langen from Rough Justice
The book can be ordered from publisher Amberley Publishing. The ISBN number is 9781445661582. It is also available as an ebook through, ISBN 9781445661599. Prices are quoted in UK Pounds and as you may know the rate of exchange against the dollar and most other currencies including the euro, was never so advantageous. So ...

For Dutch readers, in particular those from The Hague, who have this nagging idea somewhere in the back of their minds that more spectacular things happened in August 1964, the following newspaper page will serve. On Saturday August 8, one day prior to Mulder killing his wife and kids, there was the (in)famous Rolling Stone concert in the Kurhaus-theater in Scheveningen. Apparently the concert was so exciting that the audience wrecked the theater. Not a chair remained in place and the police had the place evacuated.
Algemeen Handelsblad, August 10, 1964
"Rolling Stone Concert ends in chaos"
"Police was afraid not to get out alive"
Both Mulder and the Stones appear on this page.
Algemeen Handelsblad, August 10, 1964


  1. May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to your home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at

  2. Jerry, you have my permission to display the header of Peter's Blog. Good luck with your site.

  3. Thank you so very much for giving permission. You can see your linked header under All, Historical and the Netherlands. If you could say something (preferably good) about here and there, I would greatly appreciate it.


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