Image copyright Metropolitan Police Image caption Richard Wagner allegedly exhibited signs of hypnosis
This week, official New Brunswick crime records showed that one of the perpetrators of the 1944 murder of a teenage girl and her three-year-old sister, allegedly by Richard Wagner and his first wife, has been arrested.
This helped the police to confirm the whereabouts of the body of the third girl, who was never found.
However, even more surprising than the fact that a suspect in a nationally significant crime had been caught is the fact that a suspect in a completely different crime has not been caught in the same time frame.
Richard Wagner’s wife, Helga Engvall, and the three other members of Wagner’s German family have been accused of killing and torturing two teenage girls in 1938.
Image copyright Metropolitan Police Image caption Richard Wagner, second from right, allegedly acted as master in the family opera house
The victim in that case – Edith Landwehr, 15, and Helga Landwehr, 14 – were seen leaving a church in Tiverton, New Brunswick, in August of that year. When they didn’t return home they were reported missing.
Four days later their bodies were found hanging from a rope near a nearby creek.
The Engvall sisters were alleged to have been tortured, and then killed, according to official public records, much like the infamous incident which led to Wagner’s arrest decades later.
Image copyright Metropolitan Police Image caption The Engvall sisters were alleged to have been tortured and then killed
The current New Brunswick police director, Rodger Côté, told BBC North America that while he could not comment on whether other suspects could also be on the loose in New Brunswick, he said that “it may still be possible to apprehend others implicated in this case in the future”.
What is the Von Karajan Syndrome?
In the run-up to the arrest of Wagner’s wife, the New Brunswick health department posted on its website a message about the Von Karajan Syndrome – a brain disorder that had an impact on several musicians in the area.
The authors described the syndrome as a neurological abnormality which appeared following the death of Wagner’s first wife, and that the suspicion the father of his children experienced psychotic behaviour had helped to drive the original investigation.
Image copyright Metropolitan Police Image caption The Engvall sisters were allegedly tortured and then killed
The victims in the Engvall case, and Wagner’s own experience, is clearly an important one in triggering any such investigation – but what about the Von Karajan Syndrome – particularly when so many similar cases have been pinned on Wagner?
How the cases differ
Although a gene linked to Von Karajan Syndrome was identified, that was 40 years after Edith Landwehr and Helga Landwehr died.
While the medical research that led to that discovery was extensive, scientists have said it was poor and over-simplistic compared to modern neuroscience.
So, what links this case with Wagner’s own experiences?
According to Dr Kristen Shrude, a physician specialist who helped to with the New Brunswick public records information, it was a combination of factors, including exposure to foreign tours by Wagner in the first half of the 20th century, and stressful family circumstances.
Dr Shrude said the Von Karajan Syndrome is also a “happy accident” which developed when Wagner’s first wife and her children were playing cards in a garage in New Brunswick, New Brunswick, in 1918.
New Brunswick and to a lesser extent Quebec were sister-states and Dr Shrude believes the episode of playing cards was the catalyst for Wagner’s family “moving south” to a rural area in Quebec, where they were exposed to the World War One-era malaria outbreak and isolation which was common to poor and rural communities.
Image copyright Metropolitan Police Image caption Richard Wagner’s death in 1966 was ruled a suicide
However, she said Von Karajan Syndrome is a neurological disorder, not a psychiatric one.
Dr Shrude said that Dr Benito Ellis, the pioneer researcher of the syndrome, could not determine whether it was caused by the same gene that produced von Karajan Syndrome, as so many other cases are, or whether it was caused by other factors.
She also said the authorities did not record on their records a diagnosis of Von Karajan Syndrome until the 1950s.
Dr Shrude is asking more questions about this case and are conducting follow-up examinations of the Welsh patients’ records, in order to see if this one could also