Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“The Witch of Vladimirovac,” Anujka de Poshonja (Anna Pistova), Professional Husband-Poisoner – 1928



NOTE: Anujka de Poshtonja, “The Witch of Vladimirovac” is known, in English languages sources under various names: Anna Pistova,  Anyuka Dee, as well as the nicknames “Banat Witch,” “Little Mother Anjuschka.” Her crimes took place in Panchova, Banat (Banyat, Banci) district, present-day Serbia, then, Jugoslavia.

In the following articles there is a great deal of redundancy, yet each offers important information not highlighter in the others. As is typical for such English language sources, there is great variation in the spelling of names and places, due both either transliteration, multiple languages in use in the region in question or by simple error.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 8): A 92-year-old woman called the Witch of Vladimirovac," near Belgrade, Jugo-Slavia – her name is Anna Pistova – is accused of having made a practice during many years of supplying deadly love potions and intentional poison draughts to a large number of unhappy Serbian wives. Her trial was at Pancevo, and six rich farmers' widows were tried with her.

The police regarded Anna, known throughout the country as "Little Mother Anjuschka," as a harmless herbalist. The mysterious death of Burgomaster Carina of Novoselo last year created an unusual sensation, however, and resulted in the arrest of the wise woman and Mme. Carina. A strong force of police fetched Anna from her miserable cottage at midnight, because she is venerated by the peasants, who would have defended her.

—Neglected Wives.—

Carina's widow, a 29-year-old woman, educated in Switzerland, is remarkably pretty. Her husband was 20 years older, and their married life was wretched. The bodies of Carina and 12 other husbands have been exhumed and an analysis made at Belgrade University has shown in all cases evidence of vegetable poison. Anna's defence is that she gave the love potions to neglected wives, and it was their fault if they overdosed their husbands. Carina's widow and the five other accused with her insist that they only tried to revitalise their husbands' love without intending to kill them.

[“Fatal Love Potion. – Overdosed Husbands. – Six Widows And A Witch On Trial.” The Kadina & Wallaroo Times (Kadina, Australia), Jun. 18, 1930, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 8): Anna Pistova [Anujka de Poshonja], aged 92, the so-called witch of Vladimirovac, near Belgrade (the capital city of Jugo-Slavia, formerly Serbia), will be tried on murder charges, together with the widows of six rich farmers, as the result of an accusation that she supplied deadly love potions to unhappy Serbian wives. The police regarded her as a harmless herbalist until the mysterious death of the Burgomaster Carina, of Novoselo, last year. It caused a sensation, in the district, and led to the arrest of Pistova and Carina’s widow. A strong police force brought Pistova from her squalid cottage, at midnight, to avoid a rescue by the peasants, who venerate her. Madame Carina, a pretty woman, of 29, led a cat and dog life with her husband, who was 49. The bodies of Carina and 12 other husbands were exhumed, and the autopsies disclosed vegetable poisoning. Pistova says it was the wives’ fault if they overdosed their husbands. The widows declare that they merely tried to revitalise their husband’s love, and did not intend to kill them.

[“Witch And Wholesale Poisoner,” The Worker (Brisbaine, Australia), Jun. 26, 1929, p. 19]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 8): Vienna.— Anna Pistova, age ninety-two or ninety-three, is to go on trial shortly in Pancevo, Yugo-Slavia, on the charge of furnishing poison to wives who wished to get rid of their husbands. Six wives who tried her “love potions” on their husbands and became widows are to be tried with Anna, or after her case is settled. Some say she has led to the deaths of 60 husbands, and of many wives, for men also patronized her.

While Anna is called the “Witch of Vladimirovac,” a place not far from Belgrade, and is an exceedingly aged person, it appears that she is by no means a peasant crone. Her story as now told is one for a novelist, but it is difficult to say how much truth it contains. The United States is not the only country in which a woman on trial for murder is provided with a romantic past.

~ The Village Enters. ~

The story is that Anna was the daughter of a rich cattleman of Rumania, who moved to Vladimirovac 80 years ago, and that she received an excellent education. The villain, goes the story, entered her life when she was twenty-one. As is always the case with more than ordinarily heartless female killers, she had to be more than ordinarily beautiful.

The villain was a young officer, who finally cast Anna aside and left her a pessimist and misanthropist.

Anna sought seclusion after the affair of the heart, and with her knowledge of five languages gave herself up to medical and chemical studies. She came out of her grief sufficiently to marry a landowner named Pistova, by whom she had 11 children. Only one survives, a prosperous merchant.

Her husband’s death sent Anna back to the test tubes and beakers.

She built a laboratory onto her house and evolved from herbs many real or supposed remedies for diseases, but she is charged with having plenty of arsenic around. She dispensed many of her remedies to wives who were not inconsolably distressed when their husbands tried the remedies and left the wives with property and prospects of other husbands. As has been said, it is charged that not a few husbands who bought remedies of Anna were careless about leaving them around where their wives could sample them with disastrous consequences for the samplers.

That is the defense. Anna’s counsel assert that she was not responsible if wives or husbands took overdoses of her medicines. Some of the fatal medicines are said to have contained vegetable poisons which were exceedingly difficult to detect, but some of them appear to have contained arsenic.

~ Called ‘Em Tonics. ~

Arsenic is used as a tonic and some people became arsenic addicts. The husband of Mrs. Florence Maybrick was an arsenic addict, which fact made Mrs. Maybriek’s conviction of poisoning him to death with arsenic extremely doubtful as to the charge having been proved. Anna’s defense is somewhat along the same lines. She says that the death dealing medicines containing arsenic which she dispensed were first rate tonics for the purchasers, if used properly.

Anna herself is said to be a walking advertisement for her own tonics, if she takes them. She is described as looking not more than fifty-five years of age, instead of ninety-two or ninety-three; has her hair curled dally and uses cosmetics.

[“Aged Poisoner May Have Killed 60 – Claims ‘Love Potions’ Were Given as Tonics.” The Pawling Chronicle (N.Y.),  (Date unknown (circa June 26, 1929), page number unknown]

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FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 8): A record murder trial has just begun at Panchora, Jugoslavia, where ninety-three-year-old Anyuka Dee is charged with having murdered more than fifty men.

She is known throughout the district as the “Banat Witch.”

Legends throw a veil of mystery around her lonely life, and as the wives of wealthy farmers liked to go to her for help in case of illness and also to consult her on other difficulties, she drew a large income, which enabled her to lead a life of comfort. Recently it was charged that Anyuka Dee, in addition to saving lives with herbs, also destroyed them with arsenic if she were paid to do so.

Post-mortem examinations in this farming district being of a careless nature, murderers have little to fear from official inquiries. Anyuka Dee was accused by the gossip of a client who complained to another woman that her husband would not die, although she had given him arsenic for nearly a year. More than fifty men and women, who are alleged to have administered poison furnished by the “witch,” also will be arraigned.

The trial of Anyuka Dee will last at least a month. She is firmly convinced that she will not be executed on account of her ago. She even hopes that she will outlive her prison term, if she is sentenced. The old woman is vain. She uses lipstick and powder and waves her hair every day. Having plenty of money, she frequently orders new dresses and has developed a large appetite.

She persuaded the prison authorities to allow a dentist to make her another set of teeth because, she said, with the old ones could not eat enough to keep herself in trim.

[“Jugoslav ‘Witch’ On Trial at 93 As Slayer of 50 – Adviser of Farmers’ Wives Accused of Poison to Many Men for Pay,” New York Herald Tribune (N.Y.), Jun. 23, 1929, section II, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 8): Vienna, July 6 – Anyuka Dee, a woman 93 years old, charged with having more than fifty men, was sentenced today to fifteen years in jail. She was convicted specifically of supplying poison to fifteen women who wished to get rid of their husbands.

The trial took place at Panchova, Jugo-Slavia. For a score of years and more the old woman had been known throughout the district in which she lived as the “Banyat witch.” For a consideration she would supply arsenic in the wives of the wealthy farmers of the countryside with instructions how to administer it.

[Accused of 50 Murders, Woman, 93, Gets 15 Years – ‘Banyat Witch’ Supplied Poison to Wives Who Tired Of Their Husbands,” The Sun (Baltimore, Md.), Jul. 7, 1929, p. 2]

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FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 8): Vladimirorvac, Jugoslavia, July 10 – The arrest her of Anujka de Poshtonja, a 90-year-old Rumania [sic] woman who is charged with selling slow-acting poisonous mixtures during the last 50 years to married peasant women who wished to rid themselves of their husbands, has revealed a story of witchcraft and murder which recalls the dark days of the Middle Ages.

Anukka, who stoutly denies the charges, has been renounced and feared for half a century as a “witch” by the superstitious peasants in this district. She will soon be brought to trial with a number of other peasants alleged to be involved in the crimes.

The police charge that about 20 wealthy husbands have been mysteriously done away with in this district. The investigation in progress is declared by authorities to involve many prominent persons in this and nearby towns.

One of the most recent cases to attract attention was that of Gaja Marinkov, rich and wealthy proprietor of Banci, who was suddenly taken ill and died within a few days. Relatives who lived with him, and who benefitted by his will were accused by the police of poisoning him, but no trace of poison could be found.

Fearing foul play and suspecting Anujka, Gaja Marinkov’s eldest son told the police that he went to Anujka’s house and inquired discreetly whether she could supply a poison to kill off an old relative of his. Anujka, he said, asked how old he was and many similar questions, and finally said that for a great price she could supply something. The young man then pretended to doubt its efficiency to kill a healthy man and the old woman is declared have replied:

“If it was good enough to kill Gaja Marinkov it will do for anyone.”

Soon afterwards Lazar Ludushki, a wealthy peasant, died under similar circumstances a week later Mrs. Ludushki married another peasant from the same village. Within a few months a rich uncle of her second husband died under astonishingly similar circumstances and his lands were added to Stana Ludushka’s wealth. But this led to Mrs. Ludushka’s detention and an investigation by the authorities, and information she gave the police is alleged to have involved Anjuka.

When Anjuka was arrested she tried at first to frighten the young police sergeant who came to her, he reported.

“I work with the devil, young man,” she said. “If you imprison me you’ll remember it to your dying days. “Don’t play with the forces of evil.”

When accused of having sold poisons she protested that she had only supplied “magic water,” and claimed to have cured many people of ills by its use.

Investigations show that several of the richer peasants of Ilanci have died suddenly and mysteriously in the last few years.

[“Say Rumanian Woman Sold Poison To Kill Undesired Husbands – Police Claim Over 50 Wealthy Men Succumbed to Concoctions of ‘Witch.’” syndicated (AP), The Niagara Falls Gazette (N.Y.), Jul. 10, 1928, p. 7]

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FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 8): Vladimirovac, Jugoslavia – The arrest here of Anujka de Poshonja, a 90-year-old Rumania [sic] woman, who is charged with selling slow-acting poisonous mixtures during the last 50 years to married peasant women who wished to rid themselves to their husbands, has revealed a story of witchcraft and murder which recalls the dark ages of the Middle Ages.

Anujka, who stoutly denies the charges, has been renounced and feared for half a century as a “witch” by the surreptitious peasants in the district. She will soon be brought to trial with a number of other peasants, alleged to have to be involved in the crimes.

The police charge that about 20 wealthy husbands have been mysteriously done away with in this district. The investigation now in progress is declared by authorities to involve many prominent persons in this and nearby towns.

One of the most recent, cases to attract attention was that of Gaja Marinkov, rich and healthy peasant proprietor of Banci, who was suddenly taken ill and died within a few days. Relatives who lived with him, and who benefited by his will were accused by the police of poisoning him, but no trace of poison could be found.

Fearing foul play and suspecting old Anujka, Gaja Marinkov's eldest son told the police that he went to Anujka's house and inquired discreetly whether she could supply a poison to kill off an old relative of his. Anujka, he said, asked how old he was and many similar questions, and finally said that for a great price she could supply something. The young: man them pretended to doubt its efficiency to kill a healthy man and the old woman is declared to have replied:

“If it was good enough to kill Gaja Marinkov it will do for anyone.”

Soon afterwards Lazar Ludushki, a wealthy peasant, died under similar circumstances and a week later Mrs. Ludushki married another peasant from the same village. Within a few months a rich uncle of her second husband died under astonishingly similar circumstances and husbands added to Stana Ludushka's wealth. But this led. To Mrs. Ludushka's detention and an investigation by the authorities, and, information he gave the police is alleged to have involved Anujka.

When Anujka was arrested she tried at first to frighten the young police sergeant who came to her, he reported.

“I work with the devil, young man,” she said. “If you imprison me you’ll remember it to your dying day. Don’t play with the forces of evil.”

When accused of having sold poisons she protested that she had sold only “magic water,” and claimed to have cured many people of ills by its use.

Investigations show that several of the richer peasants of Ilanci have died suddenly and mysteriously in the last few years.

Folk of the district are agog over the forthcoming trial.

[“Sold Poison To Rich To Kill Husbands - Women Who Wealthy Husbands To Die Are Made Victims,” syndicated (AP), Carbondale Free Press (Il.), Jul. 12, 1928, p. 4]

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FULL TEXT (Article 8 of 8): A murder trial has begun at Panchova, Jugo-Slavia, where 93-year-old Anyuka Dee is charged with having murdered more than fifty men. She is known throughout the district as the “Banat Witch.” Legends throw a veil of mystery around her lonely life, and as the wives of wealthy farmers liked to go to her for help in cases of illness and also to consult her on other difficulties, she drew a large income, which enabled her to lead a life of comfort. Recently it was said that Anyuka Dee, in addition to saving lives with herbs, also destroyed them with arsenic if she were paid to do so.

Post-mortem examinations to the district being of a careless nature, murderers have little to fear from official enquiries. Anyuka Dee was accused by the gossip of a client who complained to another woman that her husband would not die, although she had given him arsenic for nearly a year. More than fifty men and women, who ore alleged to have administered poison furnished by the “witch,” also will be arraigned. The trial of Anyuka Dee was expected to last at least a month. She is firmly convinced that she will not be executed on account of her age. She even hopes that she will outlive her prison term, if she is sentenced. The old woman is vain. She uses lipstick and powder, and waves her hair every day. Having plenty of money, she frequently orders new dresses and has developed a large appetite.

[“A Jugo-Slavian ‘Witch’ - Faces Murder Trial,” The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), Aug. 12, 1929, p. 17]

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[Sources of photos: 1) cropped head: “Exposing the Evil Eye in America,” Long Island Daily Press (N.Y.), Aug. 19, 1929, p. ?; 2), half figure: ‘Science’s New Rests of the Evil Eye Legend,” Salt Lake tribune (Ut.), Jul. 31, 1932, magazine section, p. 4]

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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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