Friday, September 23, 2011

Maria Oliviero, Italian Female Serial Killer Bandit - 1864

EXCERPT from Italian Wikipedia:

At the age of twenty, Maria Oliviero murdered her sister, hacking her 48 times with an axe for slander and joined the gang of her husband, Pietro Monaco. She was arrested in 1864 and went on trial in February, was charged with 32 crimes: kidnapping, violent robberies and thefts, fires, and murders. She confessed to the murder of his sister, but for the rest she claimed she was coerced into participating.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): A Turin letter states that among the Neapolitan provinces which have to contend with the dreadful scourge of brigandage there is that of Cattanzaro, which possesses the advantage of having a band which is led by Maria Oliviero, an exceedingly handsome woman, not yet thirty years of age. Barbarity is her chief characteristic, and the sight of blood renders her as excited as a wild beast. She was the wife of a famous brigand, Moneco, of the Albanian village of Spezzano, who was killed in an encounter with the Italian troops near Rossano. In this very encounter Maria was also wounded, but she continued to discharge her musket, kneeling on the dead body of her husband, with a firmness and a courage which even commanded the admiration of her opponents. Having at last been struck in the right leg, she fell into the hands of the troops, was brought before a court-martial at Cattanzaro, and condemned to be shot.

The sentence was, however, commuted to thirty years penal servitude. While she was expiating her crimes in the prison at Cattanzaro the gaoler fell desperately in love with her. The cunning woman pretended to feel an equal affection for him, and one day she told him that while she was with her husband she had concealed in at place near Rossano a large sum of money, which had been paid for the ransom of a rich farmer. The gaoler went quickly to the spot and found the money.

This fact had naturally the effect of making his love for Maria still more ardent, so that she had no difficulty in convincing him that tender affections are bettor manifested in freedom than within the four walls of a dungeon. Before, however, making their escape Maria succeeded in sending word to her brothers, who are brigands, that on a certain evening she would be at an appointed spot, not far from Cattanzaro, attired in man’s clothes, together with her deliverer. Maria was punctual at the rendezvous, and her brothers also. The unfaithful turnkey was killed out of hand, and the money he had found replaced in Maria’s pocket. Once free, this woman organised a band of brigands, and began her operations in that tract of mountains which lie between the river Crati and Cattanzaro.

The barbarities since perpetrated by Maria are almost incredible. The village of Spinelli, Cotzenei, and Belvedere have been literally sacked by the band she commands. The dread which the name of Maria Oliviero inspires among the rural population of Cattanzaro is so great that the Italian government have been obliged to send two battalions of the line to pursue the cruel fury.

While the band led by this woman is desolating the country of Cattanzaro, we hear from Rionre that Bersaglieri have succeeded at last in capturing the famous brigand, Sacchitiello, together with the two still more famous mistresses of the brigands Crocco and Schiavone.

The strangest thing about the capture of Sacchitiello, and the two women, is that they were taken in the house of the captain of the National Guard of the village, where they had been concealed since the month of July. This fact shows how difficult it is to get rid of the Neapolitan brigands, since, in certain cases, the commanders of the National Guard give them safe shelter in their very houses.

[“A Female Brigand – Her Atrocities,” Camden Democrat (N.J.), Mar. 4, 1865, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): From the Liverpool Post. – We recently published some intelligence respecting brigandage in Italy which discloses one of the most abnormal of the phenomena connected with that barbarous anachronism. The system which is now going on in the name of religion and Divine right is not like ordinary brigandage. It seems a relic of some ancient state of society which has long since passed away. If those monstrous and carnivorous animal forms which we have seen in stucco at Sydenham were to reappear, again in the flesh, they could hardly be more out of date. It is not merely that the loyal and devout brigands, in their zeal for the service of the Church and the Ex-King of Naples, do not content themselves with vulgar robbery and murder, and delight in mutilation and burning alive, but that women are actually found to join in these things, and to emulate the men in cruelty and ferocity. This extraordinary combination of devotion and loyalty with brigandage and cannibalism, is a marvellous phenomena, and warns us what fanaticism may become when divorced from morality. No doubt the appetite for plunder may be at the bottom, but there is also very sincere faith that at least one of the ends sought to be attained sanctions the nefarious means employed to promote it.

The band of NICOLI MASINI has for four years been the terror of the Basilicata. During all this time it has been incessantly engaged in robbing and murdering, mutilating and burning alive the unfortunate wretches who happened to fall into its hands. It consists of about seventeen persons, but three of them are women, who are described as being more blood-thirty and pitiless than the men. Whatever the inferiority of woman may be to man in physical strength and power of mind generally, in this case it would appear that the brigandesses have vindicated for themselves not merely a bad equality, but a bad preeminence. One of the most curious circumstances of the case, too, is that these ladies appear to have been originally carried off by force. Their connection with the brigands appears in its origin to have been a kind of Sabine rape, only upon a very reduced scale.

Another difference seems to consist in this band of brigands not having been able to procure or to maintain a wife apiece for each man, as the Romans are said to have done. It had to be content with three wives, the rest of the gang, of course, remaining bachelors. Whether it is one of the exaggerations of romance with which each incidents are pretty pure to be decorated, or whether it is simple matter of fact, we do not know; but, according to the statement before us, these three brigandesses are young and beautiful. What, however, lends a color of probability to this is, that it is not likely the bandits would have been at the trouble of carrying off brides who were elderly and plain. The whole gang is now, luckily, in custody, and will soon be brought to trial. As the counsel for the ladies are not, we suppose, in a position to produce the marriage certificates of their fair clients, and as the Italian law might not hold those scraps of paper to be a sufficient justification for any crime which a wife might commit, it only she did it in company with her husband, it is presumed that these cannibalesses will not be allowed to escape with impunity. There are said to be no less than 314 distinct charges against them for crimes the they are known to have committed. What proportion the number of crimes that may not have been brought home to the band bears to this, is of course impossible to say. The known number gives an average of rather more than eighteen crimes a head for the brigands and brigandesses uniformly. Among these charges, besides more robbery, the crimes of mutilation, murder and burning alive are said to figure conspicuously. To extend an ill-judged lenity [sic] to such persons, is practically to offer a direct premium for the perpetration of the crimes to which they have devoted their lives.

This phenomenon of female brigandage is not, however, by any means peculiar to the band of NICOLA [Nicoli?] MASINI. We have seen that these brigandesses have an average of eighteen crimes against them in common with the men. But they have not yet risen to a level with one of their fair predecessors, a certain MARIA OLIVIERI, of Calabria. This incomparable heroine, when she was arrested about a year ago, had no less than forty distinct capital charges against her. Forty murders she was known to have committed, and one of her victims was her own sister. She also was described as young and beautiful; and if in these qualities she did not surpass the three amazons of MASINI's band, she must be at least allowed to hold a far higher rank as a homicide. The most authentic account given of her states that she was a very fine-looking young woman indeed, and was certainly not more than twenty-three years of age. Forty murders would, therefore, be at the average rate of almost a couple for every year of her short life. Whether the brigandesses as well as the brigands are primarily actuated by the desire of plunder, but seek to turn their favorite avocation to account in the service of their church and their king, must furnish the element of an interesting problem. Those who patronise and encourage such worthies, of course take care to impress upon their credulous, superstitious minds that by serving the cause of Divine right, and fighting the good fight of the soldiers of the faith, at the same time that they are filling their pockets with the money found in farm-houses and upon travelers on the highway, they will be laying up for themselves treasures in heaven. And of course the ignorant brigands firmly believe what their priests tell them. In the eyes of fanatics of this sort morality, and religion have nothing whatever to do with each other. So long as they do the bidding of their spiritual guides, repeat by rote the set number of prayers, abstain from eating meat on fast-days, and go through the other prescribed formalities, they are in no fear about their soul's health. The Italian brigand, and therefore, we suppose, this new development, the Italian brigandess also, is traditionally a very pious animal, as he understands the meaning of piety. Having fulfilled the higher obligations of his law, he feels he may safely dispense with such insignificant duties as honesty and morality. What, indeed, would be the use, he seems to argue with himself, though perhaps half unconsciously, of so strict an adherence to his religious rites if it did not purchase a corresponding immunity from the inconvenient restraints of more secular virtue? This would apply in the case of mere vulgar brigandage in ordinary times, when there was no forlorn and fugitive King, no persecuted faith to champion. But now the brigand not merely enjoys the privilege of a moral carte blanche, in consideration of a strict observance of pious forms, but he is enjoined to use his carbine and his dagger in the service of his church and his king; and, what is more, he serves himself profitably in serving them. Of old time, the traditional brigand was generally depicted with his wife to cheer the solitude of his retreat. But she was a domestic household personage of the ordinary type. She might, indeed – if his cave in the rocks, or his hole burrowed in the side of a hill, were scented out by the minions of justice – seize a carbine or a dagger and fight for her life; but murder and robbery were no part of her ordinary duty. That department was left to the brigand. The sphere of activity in which the brigandess occupied herself was the preparation of the meals, the sorting and storing away of the booty, and the like. But this is an age of progress with development in all things, and the brigandess is asserting her equality with her lord and master the brigand. Still, there must be some new principle at work to account for this singular phenomenon. That women might like to vote at elections, and even to represent their fellow-citizenesses in Parliament, or to dress like bloomers, one can understand. But why should woman, naturally more timid than man, brave all the perils of brigandage when she might stay quietly at home and leave such dangerous work to her husband? It is because women, being more susceptible to superstitious influences than men, have, for obvious reasons, been worked upon for sinister and evil purpose by those who are interested in promoting brigandage in Italy.

[“Brigandage In Italy.; Beautiful But Cruel Female Robbers.” (From the Liverpool Post) New York Times (N.Y.), May 28, 1865, p. 2]







For similar cases, see: Female Serial Killer Bandits

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