Unsolved Murders

Franz Von Rintelen

Age: 65

Sex: male

Date: 30 May 1949

Place: South Kensington Station, London

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Franz J Von Rintelen collapsed at South Kensington Underground Station and was taken to the St Mary Abbot Hospital where he later died.

He was found by station staff at 6.30am sitting on a seat in a collapsed condition holding a workman's ticket, after which the staff called an ambulance for him.

Following his death, his identity was at first a mystery because the name announced was JV Francis, but it was later found to be Francis JV Rintelen.

He had been a spy in World War One, having gone to the United States to spy but had been captured and had spent some years in United States and British jails. He was latterly described as a 'Master spy'.

He was the author of The Dark Invader, a book about his espionage activities in America and it was said that he hated Hitler and the Nazi's and all they stood for. It was noted that when he had been exempted from all restrictions by an Aliens Tribunal in London in 1938, he had said, 'My ambition is to wear the uniform of British Naval Officer. I would be proud to wear the uniform of most junior officer. I want to serve Britain'.

He had left Germany after the German government quashed publication of his book and sought to have it published in England.

He had lived in England for 20 years and had become a British subject.

It was said that for the first eight months of the Second World War that Captain von Rintelen was a free man and that he gave a number of highly coloured lectures and spoke in favour of Federal Union. However, he was later detained. It was said that within a week of his detention he was speaking with a number of journalists in Fleet Street to whom he stated that he thought that his detention in the Isle of Man was unfair and begged former friends to work for his freedom.

Franz Von Rintelen had been born to an aristocratic family and was destined for a career as a German officer, having trained in languages and diplomacy. When the First World War broke out Franz Von Rintelen was at the naval war staff at the German Admiralty and was said to have soon become the Kaiser's number one spy in the United States. However, he was trapped on 13 August 1915 by an Admiralty message which detained the ship that he was travelling in from America to Germany at Ramsgate in Kent.

Franz Von Rintelen wrote about his arrest in his book, stating that after the ship was stopped, he was taken and interrogated by British officers but released after his papers were examined and apparently found to be in order. However, he stated that as he was returning to the liner in a pinnace, that he was ordered back to port, put under the escort of a detective and a naval officer and driven to Scotland Yard where he was delivered over to the American Government after which he was sentenced to five years hard labour.

It was said that he knew the Highlands of Scotland intimately, but that only a handful of people in Banffshire and Aberdeenshire had ever met him. It was said that it was whilst in the role of a German 'tourist' that he had enjoyed what he had described as his 'Highland fling' and that his search for information as a German agent had taken him to the Highlands in the midsummer of 1914. It was said that even during the anxious days before the war, Franz Von Rintelen had not been regarded with suspicion and that his visit to the Moray Firth area and his stay in Turriff and Rothiemay had gone almost unnoticed by the local crofters and villagers. However, it was noted that all the while, he had been gathering information, listening to conversations in public houses and in the marketplaces. It was also noted that whilst he was in the Highlands, he had dressed for the part as a cycling 'tourist', wearing the conventional Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers. However, it was also noted that although he was outwardly a contented, eager young 'tourist' without a care in the world, inwardly he was a man living in fear and felt that the net was closing round him. It was said that when fellow-lodgers at the Station Hotel in Turriff began to talk of him with suspicion and a stone with a message attached to it which read, 'You are watched and suspected' was thrown through his window one dark July night, that he made a hurried exit down some ivy outside his window and cycled south and made his escape to Germany on a Dutch boat from Lowestoft.

He had been living in Evelyn Gardens in London at the time of his death.

It was said that he had many tales to tell about his life in Bonn and that when he was a boy he would often stay with his grandmother who he said used to give him stirring accounts of life under Napoleon who as a girl she had seen returning from Moscow. It was said that she had been brought up as a French speaking Rhinelander, but that when Bismark raped the kingdom of Hanover, she had given orders to her household that henceforward no German should be spoken.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Torbay Express and South Devon Echo - Monday 30 May 1949

see Gloucester Citizen - Monday 30 May 1949

see Belfast Telegraph - Monday 30 May 1949

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Monday 30 May 1949

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 01 June 1949

see Thanet Advertiser - Friday 03 June 1949

see Thanet Advertiser - Tuesday 07 June 1949

see Western Mail - Tuesday 31 May 1949

see Dundee Courier - Tuesday 31 May 1949

see Northern Whig - Tuesday 31 May 1949

see Liverpool Echo - Monday 30 May 1949

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Tuesday 31 May 1949

see Amazon