Sunday, September 25, 2011

Martha Petromany, Husband-Killing Syndicate Matron - Romania, 1906

Knees ("Knez"), in the period in question, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is described was being located in Hungary. Today Knez (Satchinez in the Romanian language); is located within the borders of Romania.


Various spellings are given in English language sources, including: “Petromany,” Petrobany,” “Petrozeny.”


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Vienna, Dec. 14.—Five men and two women were recently arrested at Knez, in the Temesvar district of Hungary, for having poisoned their wives and husbands.

Martha Petromany, a woman who is known as the "poison mixer," was also placed in custody for having sold them arsenic to commit the murders.

A judge who has been investigating the cases now reports that there has seen wholesale poisoning in the district, and further arrests have been made. Catherine Biber is accused of poisoning her son-in-law, because he was a drunkard, and also her parents, in order to obtain the family estate.

Vassa Ardaloan is charged with poisoning a wealthy widow aunt, whose sole legatee he was; Lenka Rogyok with poisoning her husband, who had willed his properly to her; Nicholas Glass with poisoning Anton Braun, to marry his widow, and Julia Wulcslsich with poisoning her elderly husband to marry a young lover.

The poison in all cases is to have been provided by Martha Petromany, who is alleged to have charged $4.50 in each case. The attention of the police was directed to the murder epidemic by an anonymous letter.

[“Poison In Hungarian Town – Five Men and two women arrested for having killed their wives and husbands.” The Anaconda Standard (Mt.), Dec. 15, 1906, p. 15]

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): BUDA PESTH, November 22. – The bodies of 25 persons poisoned by arsenic have been exhumed at Knez, Hungary. Two peasant women have been arrested who sold poisons to people who wished to rid themselves of married partners. Five male and two female peasants have been charged with murder.

[“Austro-Hungary. A Hungarian Sensation.” Syndicated (Press Association), The Waganui Herald (N.Z.), Nov. 23, 1906, p. 5]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): The village of Kneez, in the courts of Temesvar, in Hungary has been revealed to the world as a community of poisoners.

Within a year, it is estimated, one hundred persons have died of poison in this village of 1,000 inhabitants. The imagination reels against at the condition of things that prevailed there, as now unveiled by officers of the law. Husbands poisoned their wives, wives poisoned their husband, parents poisoned their children, children poisoned their parents. No relation, not even that of lovers, was a bar to murderous designs.

The poisoning habit had taken a permanent hold on these people. Whenever one person could obtain anything by the removal of another poison was resorted to. It was a terror that stalked by noonday and in the night time.

The cheerful cup of coffee handed to a husband by his smiling wife at breakfast time might contain the fatal dose, or, perhaps, it was the glass of native wine poured for him at supper after his long day’s work in the fields. Often the victim knew of his or her danger, but there was no escape in a village where everybody was related to everybody else and had acquired the poisoning habit.

The only resource was to poison the person you suspected of trying to poison you, and thus it came to pass that Kneez was filled with persons seeking to poison one another.

The arch poisoner was a woman named Martha Petrubany. She is handsome young woman of the rich Hungarian type of beauty, with abundant black hair, flashing dark eyes, clear cut features and ruddy cheeks. She married a wealthy farmer some five years ago solely on account of his possessions. A young man of talents and good prospects who was the leading local lawyer became her ardent admirer. Mme. Petrubany’s highest desire was to see her old husband out of the way to marry the lawyer and combine his superior social station and the old man’s property.

Petrubany was very slow dying and his wife decided to hasten the process. The old man suffered severely from malaria, and he believed that a certain kind of drug, made of hot wine and other ingredients, afforded him most relief. He used to take a pint every evening, This complex and highly flavored beverage, with its mixture of spices, sugar and so forth, afforded an admirable opportunity for introducing a certain quantity of powdered arsenic. His wife used to prepare the poisoned drink every evening, with seeming loving hands, and see that the poor old man drank it down to the last drop. In this way she succeeded in killing him by a process of slow poison in three weeks. At the time he was buried there was not the slightest suspicion of the cause of his death.

Then a shock awaited the widow. The lawyer, probably having an inkling of what had happened, did not care to marry her.

Mme. Petrubany’s love changed to fury, according to the well-known rule. The lawyer was removed by arsenic, as the husband had been. His servant, Sarah Hazok, assisted Mme. Petrubany in carrying out this crime.

Then these two women formed sort of poisoning bureau for the benefit of wives who wished to get rid of their husbands. They obtained arsenic in wholesale quantities to kill the rats in the barns on the farms.

Every wife who had been ill-treated by her husband or who wanted to marry another man could be sure of obtaining assistance from Mme. Petrubany and her accomplice. They never refused assistance, because that would have led to complaints. They furnished the poison and gave crafty advice as to how it should be administered.

They pointed out that the best way was always to put it in medicine, in case the victim happened to be ill and that had been ordered for him by the doctor. They charged as much as they could obtain from those who needed poison, but as they never refused help their price sometimes fell as low as $5 to poor women.

The husbands learned what was going on, and some of them sought help from Mme. Petrubany in removing their wives, and obtained it.

Then the poisoner, who knew all the family affairs of the villagers, sent an assistant among them and offered to remove obnoxious persons. Kneez was rapidly becoming depopulated by poison, and many fled from it in terror.

At last a woman named Poskar, who had resolved to kill her husband and had bought the poison from Mme. Petrubany, accidentally killed her child. Then she became conscience- stricken and went to the authorities at Temesver and confessed what she had planned to do and what she knew concerning other things that had happened in Kneez.

At first the authorities refused to believe that such wholesale enormities could be possible. They regarded their informant as an insane woman and sent her to be examined by the doctors.

Then another woman, who poisoned her husband and had been unnerved by her daughter’s attempt to poison her in retaliation, confessed to her deed. This made the authorities feel that the circumstances warranted inquiry.

An expedition composed of doctors, representatives of the public prosecutor and policeman, was sent to Kneez and began operations in the local graveyard. The grave of the last informant’s husband was opened and his remains were found to contain arsenic in such quantity that it had clearly caused his death.

Astounding scenes followed. All day long the investigators dug up new graves, taking them in order, beginning with the most recent ones and not considering whether there was any definite information regarding the death of the occupants. The earth was strewn with decomposing remains. The inhabitants endeavored to interfere with the operations and a regiment of soldiers was summoned to guard to graveyard.

Out of the first twenty-five graves opened the remains of thirteen bodies revealed arsenic in sufficient quantities to cause death. This satisfied the authorities that crime in Kneez had progressed to a point beyond anything they could have imagined.


The woman Petrubany and her accomplice were arrested at the outset of the investigation. Then the village doctor was arrested, for he had apparently signed a certificate of death from natural causes in many cases which he must have known were not natural. He has since confessed his offence, and has explained that he would have been poisoned himself had he refused to acquiesce in the crimes.

The village butcher was arrested on the charge that he had sold sausages mixed with arsenic to those who needed them.

Wholesale arrests followed these. Four husbands and eight wives were arrested for poisoning their spouses.

Two of the women poisoned two successive husbands and one of the men poisoned three wives.

A peasant named Valassa Ardelan was charged with poisoning a rich aunt in order to obtain possession of the fortune which she had bequeathed to him.

Nicholos Glass, a widower, is said to have poisoned his neighbor, Anton Braun, so that he might marry the latter’s widow.

Katherine Bider is charged with murdering her son-in-law, Michael Kuhn, because he was a drunkard, She is also suspected of murdering her father and mother, with whom she was on bad terms. They died suddenly, but their bodies have not yet been exhumed, as they have been dead three years.

Lenka Bogyck poisoned her husband, Acon, because he would not remove to another village, where her married daughter lived.

In many cases the poisonings were committed from the most trivial motives, Julia Wuicsitch poisoned her husband because he could not buy her a new dress.

The crimes are of such a wholesale character that it seems impossible to deal with them according to ordinary standards of justice. It is not considered advisable to execute half the inhabitants of a considerable village. The Petrubany woman will be prosecuted relentlessly, but in many of the cases no action will be taken.

Probably Kneez will be deserted by its remaining inhabitants, and in that case a great many of them will go to the United States.

[“Town Poisoned - And Wiped Out of Existence by Modern Lucretia Borgia. - Fair Young Fiend - Poisoned Her Rich Old Husband So She Could Marry a Young Lawyer, Whom She Also Poisoned. Then With Another Woman She Went Into the Wholesale Poisoning Business.” The Manning Times (S. C.), Mar. 20, 1907, p. 6]


Related cases (Knez, 1906):




Satchinez (also; Knies; Romanian Satchinez; Serbian, Knez, Knees; Hungarian, Temeskenéz; Gypsy; Ogav-Chinizitican) is a commune in Timiş County, Romania. It is composed of three villages: Bărăteaz, Hodoni and Satchinez.

Knees / Satchinez was registered between 1332-1337 and allegedly based by a certain Paul Chinezu. In the 18th, century, the village had been populated by Serbs. Population during the 1997 census was 4626 inhabitants. Registered were 2246 men and 2380 women. The number of households was 1331. Knees lies in the Banater Heide, ca. 30 km Northwest from Temeswar and is in the district Temes. Knees, is also in the municipality with Baratzhausen and Hodoni.



For more than two dozen similar cases, dating from 1658 to 2011, see the summary list with links see: The Husband-Killing Syndicates


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