Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Poisoned Five Husbands": Anna (Karoline) Przygodda - Poland / East Prussia - 1903

Note: English language sources give the name as Caroline yet recent German newspapers give "Karoline." Court reporter Hugo Friedlander gave the name "Anna." There are several variants of the last name which appear in English language newspapers: “Pryzgodda,” “Preschgodav,” Presegodav.”

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 5): An extraordinary murder trial opened at Allenstein, East Prussia, on June 19th, the wife of a wealthy land-owner named Caroline Przygodda being charged with poisoning four husbands, and with attempting to murder a fifth by the same method.

The accused, who is a little woman, rather pretty, and of the most amiable manners, denied her guilt.

It appeared, according to the many witnesses who gave evidence, she married her first husband, Johann Bachur, in 1883, and he died in 1888, aged twenty-six. Six months later she married William Kempka, who had been steward to Bachur’s estate, and a year later he also died, aged twenty-eight.

She then promptly married the new steward, Augustus Fanneck, and after his death, two years later, aged twenty-nine, she went to the altar with a neighboring landowner named Ivan Wieschollech, aged twenty-eight, who also lived only two years after the wedding.

Her fifth husband was another neighboring landowner, Adau Przygodda, and it was owing to his suspicions being aroused that inquiries were set on foot. The early deaths of her first four husbands were pointed to, and their bodies were ordered to be exhumed.

On an analysis being made of the internal organs, unmistakable traces of arsenic were found, while evidence was given showing that all shared similar symptoms at the time of their deaths.

The fifth husband gave evidence against his wife, who greeted his appearance in the box with a glance of the deadliest hatred.

He stated that she frequently uttered mysterious threats that she would get rid of him as easily as she had his four predecessors. Some of the dishes she prepared for him had a peculiar taste, and this caused him to suspect that she was attempting to poison him. The case was adjourned.

[“Poisoned Husbands. Wealthy Woman Charged With Murdering Four.” Marlborough Express (Blenheim, New Zealand), Aug. 22, 1903, p. 4]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 5): The trial of Caroline Przygodda, charged with poisoning four husbands and with attempting to poison a fifth, was concluded at Allenstein. The prisoner being found guilty of murder, was sentenced to death.

The evidence showed that all the husbands were healthy young men when they married. Each in succession suddenly lost his health, complained of terrible pains in all his limbs, violent headaches, loss of appetite and growing weakness. The wife administered arsenic to each of the victims in small quantities, mixing it in meat, soup and various dishes. She watched them one after another literally sinking into the grave, and their sufferings left her unmoved. She calculated how long the poison would take to complete its fatal work, and all four husbands died about a year after she began administering the poison.

The motives of the murderess remain a mystery, but it is stated that a fortune-teller once informed her that she was destined to have six husbands before attaining happiness with the seventh. It is suggested that the woman shared the superstition common in East Prussia, and got rid of her husbands to fulfil the prophecy.

Several experts entrusted with the task of examining the prisoner’s mental condition came to the conclusion that she murdered her husbands from sheer delight in homicide.

[“Poisoned Five Husbands.- A German Tragedy.” The Star (Christ Church, New Zealand), August 29, 1903, p. 4]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 5): In the village of Bobbau [sic], near the Russian frontier, a woman names Przygodda, keeping an inn there, has been arrested on a charge of murder. Sitting at dinner with her husband, she was observed to put a white powder with his food. This excited the husband’s suspicions, especially as it suddenly occurred to him that he was the woman’s fifth husband, and that his four predecessors had all died suddenly. Frau Przygodda was arrested, and a quantity of arsenic was found in her possession. The bodies of her former husbands were thereupon exhumed. Even the ground in the neighborhood of their remains was found to be impregnated with the poison.

[Untitled, Marlborough Express (Belenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand), Nov. 7, 1903, p. 2? (“supplement”)]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 to 5) (Translated from German): Berlin, June 19. - A trial that is unlikely to be found in the legal annals began. Thursday in front of the jury in Olsztyn. The village of Röblau is located in the Ortelsburg district, not far from the Russian border. The inhabitants of this village generally live in good economic conditions. This may well be one of the main reasons that they have a reputation for being peaceful people. It is seldom heard that the public prosecutor is obliged to intervene against a resident of Röblau. The excitement was all the greater when, in the spring of 1902, the rural silence was disturbed by the sudden arrest of the innkeeper Przygodda. Mrs. Przygodda was now to be married for the fifth time.

One day her fifth husband reportedly made the observation that his wife had poured a quantity of arsenic into his food. For this reason, the two spouses, understandably, decided to withdraw. Innkeeper Przygodda filed a complaint, especially since he had discovered that his wife kept large amounts of arsenic hidden. Then he remembered that the first four men had suddenly passed out of life. All four were owners of farms and were in favorable economic circumstances. The prosecution ordered the excavation of all four bodies. It turned out that the earth near the four graves was already saturated with arsenic. The medical examination also showed that all four men had consumed so much arsenic that they absolutely had to die.

Since there is no recognizable motive for this terrible crime, but the facts speak against Mrs. Przygodda in spite of her persistent denial, so one doubted at first the woman's sanity. At the request of the public prosecutor's office, she was observed in the provincial insane sanctuary in Kortau for a long time. It turned out, however, that the accused is mentally completely recovered. She was therefore brought back to the remand prison and is now answerable to the jury for four committed and one attempted murder. Since the defendant and most of the witnesses speak German only very poorly, Senior Secretary Döhlert was called in as an interpreter. The trial is scheduled to take three days.

The defendant, a small, somewhat sedate woman with not unintelligent facial features, is in the early forties. She declares herself not guilty. Her husbands had all succumbed to serious illnesses and died a natural death. In response to questions from the chairman, the defendant explains that her first husband died of typhus, the second suffered an internal injury while carrying a sack of potatoes and died after a few days. Her third husband had returned from a military exercise with a large ulcer on his neck and died shortly afterwards. She could not give any further information about the death of her fourth husband. He was drunk, slept in the snow for several hours and then probably died of the effects of a cold that he caught on that occasion.

The presiding judge reproaches the accused that when the bodies of their four spouses were exhumed for autopsy, the earth near the graves was already found to contain arsenic and that, according to the medical findings, all four spouses had died of arsenic poisoning.

The fifth husband, the landowner and host Prygodda, a tall, handsome man of 30, testifies as a witness: He married the defendant on November 3, 1901. His wife was quarrelsome and also drank schnapps. He was told that his wife had repeatedly uttered herself, that she had already “turned the corner” four men, and that she would also succeed in the fifth.

He had been warned against the marriage, to marry a woman of whom four men had died in quick succession. One day he noticed his wife sprinkling powder into his food. The matter seemed suspicious to him, he had had the dishes examined, and the same arsenic was actually found in the same. He made further inquiries in the house and discovered large amounts of arsenic that his wife had kept hidden. He then filed the complaint. The witness goes on to say that when he once quarreled with his wife, she said to him: "You will die too when your time comes."

The defendant claims that this is God's destiny, nothing can be done about it. You didn't mean to threaten him.

We will report on the mouse movement of the process.

[“A Female Bluebeard. Four-time Husband-killer” (“Ein weiblicher Blaubart. Vierfacher Gattennmord.”), Neues Wiener Journal (Vienna, Austria), Jun. 20, 1903, p. 8]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 5): In Allenstein, Prussian Silesia, on the morning of 18.d. M. the three-time murderer Karolina Przygodda from Röblau executed by the Breslau executioner Schmietz. The Przygodda had poisoned her three [sic] husbands one after the other with arsenic. She protested her innocence until death.

["The end of a poisoner." Das Vaterland Morgenblatt (Vienna, Austria), Jan. 21, 1904, p. 4]



FULL TEXT:  Berlin, 19. Juni. – Ein Proceß, wie er in den gerichtlichen Annalen kaum seinesgleichen finden dürfte, begann. Donnerstag vor em Schwurgericht in Allenstein. Im Kreise Ortelsburg, unweit der russischen Grenze, liegt das Dorf Röblau. Die Einwohner dieses Dorfes leben im Allgemeinen in guten wirthschaftlichen Verhältnissen. Dies mag wohl eine der Hauptursachen sein, daß fie den Ruf genießen, friedfertige Leute zu sein. Nur selten vernimmt man, daß die Staatsanwaltfchaft genöthigt ist, gegen einen Bewohner Röblaus einzuschreiten. Umso größer war die Erregung, als im Frühjahr 1902 die ländliche Stille durch die plötzliche Verhaftung der Gastwirthsfrau Przygodda gestört wurde. Frau Przygodda foll jetzt zum fünftenmale verheiratet sein.

Ihr fünfter Gatte will eines Tages die Beobachtung gemacht haben, daß seine Frau ihm eine Quantität Arsenik ins Essen geschüttet habe. Aus diesemAnlaß kam es erklärlicherweise zwischen den beiden Ehegatten zu einem hestigen Austritt. Gastwirth Przygodda exstattete Anzeige, zumal er festgestellt hatte, daß feine Frau große Mengen Arsenik verborgen halte. Da erinnerte er sich, daß die ersten vier Männer ganz plötzlich aus dem Leben geschieden waren. Alle vier waren Besitzer von bäuerlichen Gehöften und befanden sich in günstigen wirthschaftlichen Verhältnissen. Die Staatsanwaltschaft ordnete die Ausgrabung aller vier Leichen an. Es ergab fich, daß schon die Erde in der Nähe der vier Gräber mit Arsenik durchsetzt war. Die ärztliche Untersuchung erwies auch, daß alle vier Männer so viel Arsenik genossen hatten, daß sie unbedingt. sterben mußten.

Da ein erkennbarer Beweggrund zu diesem fürchterlichen Verbrechen nicht vorhanden ist, die Thatsachen aber trotz behlarrlichen Leugnens gegen Frau Przygodda sprechen, so zweifelte man zunächst an der geistigen Zurechnungssähigkeit der Frau. Auf Antrag der Staatsanwaltschaft wurde fie längere Zeit in der Provinzial-Irrenanftalt Kortau beobachtet. Es ergab fich jedoch, daß die Angeschuldigte geistig vollständig gefund ist. Sie wurde deshalb in das Untersuchungsgefängniß wieder zurückgebracht und hat sich nun wegen vier vollendeter und eines versuchten Mordes vor dem Schwurgericht zu verantworten. Da die Angeklagte und die meisten Zeugen nur sehr mangelhaft deutsch sprechen, so ist Obersecretär Döhlert als Dolmetscher hinzugezogen worden. Es sind drei Tage für die Verhandlung angesetzt.

Die Angeklagte, eine kleine etwas behäbige Frau mit nicht unintelligenten Gesichtslzügen, steht iin Anfang der Vierzigerjahre. Sie erklärt sich für niehtschuldig. Ihre Männer seien alle schweren Krankheiten erlegen, eines naturlichen Todes gestorben. Ueber Befragen des Vorsitzenden erklärt die Angeklagte, ihr erster Mann sei an Typhus gestorben, der zweite habe sich beim Tragen eines Sackes Kartoffeln eine innere Berletzung zugezogen und sei nach wenigen Tagen gestorben. Ihr dritter Mann sei von einer Militärübung mit einein großen Geschwür am Hals heimgekehrt und sei kurze Zeit darauf gestorben. Ueber die Todesurfaide ei ihres vierten Gatten könne sie keine näheren Auskünfte geben. Er sei betrunken gewesen, habe mehrere Stunden im Schnee geschlafen und dürfte dann an den Folgen einer Erkältung, ie er sich bei dieser Gelegenheit zugezogen hatte, gestorben sein.

Der Vorsitzende hält der Angeklagten vor, daß man, als die Leichen ihrer vier Ehegatten zur Obduction exhumirt wurden, bereits die Erde in der Nähe der Gräber arsenikhaltig fand und daß nach dem ärztlichen Befunde alle vier Gatten an Arsenikvergiftung gestorben sein.

Der fünfte Gatte, der Gutsbesitzer und Gastwirth Prygodda, ein großer, schöner Mann von 30 Jahren, sagt als Zeuge aus: Er habe die Angeklagte am 3. November 1901 geheiratet. Seine Frau sei zänkisch gewesen und habe auch Schnaps etrunken. Es sei ihm erzählt worden, daiz seine Frau sich wiederholt geäuerst hade, sie habe bereits vier Männer “um die Ecke gebracht”, es werde ihr auch beim fünften gelingen.

Er sei vor der Heirat gewarnt worden, eine Frau zu heiraten, der in rascher Aufeinanderfolge vier Manner gestorben seien. Eines Tages bemerkte er, wie seine Gattin ihm ein Pulver ins Essen, hineinstreute. Die Sache sei ihm verdachtig vorgekommen, er habe die Speisen untersuchen lassen, und thatächlich wurde in denselben Arsenik constatirt. Er habe weitere Nachforschungen im Hause angestellt und größere Mengen Arsenik entdeckt, die seine Frau versteckt gehalten hatbe. Daraufhin habe er die Anzeige erstattet. Der Zeuge erzählt weiter, daß er, als er einmal mit seiner Gattin gestritten hatte, habe sie ihm gesagt: “Du wirst auch sterben, wenn Deine Zeit gekommen sein wird.”

Die Angeklagte behauptet darauf, das sei Gottes Bestimmung, dagegen lasse sich nichts machen. Sie habe ihm nicht drohen wollen.

Wir warden über den Mausgang des Processes berichten.

[“Ein weiblicher Blaubart. Vierfacher Gattennmord.” Neues Wiener Journal (Vienna, Austria), Jun. 20, 1903, p. 8]


FULL TEXT: In Allenstein, Preußisch-Schlesien, wurde am Morgendes 18. d. M. die dreifache Gattenmörderin Karolina Przygodda aus Röblau durch den Breslauer Scharfrichter Schmietzhingerichtet. Die Przygodda hatte hinterein an der ihre drei Ehemänner durch Arsenik vergiftet. Sie beteuerte bis zum Tode ihre Unschuld.

[“Das Ende einer Giftmischerin.” Das Vaterland Morgenblatt (Vienna, Austria), Jan. 21, 1904, p. 4]



Anna Przygodda was executed in the prison yard of Olsztyn (currently Poland). A full account of the event can be found printed in the "Prussian criminal history of executed criminals." [Michael Kirchschlager, Preußische Kriminalchronik hingerichteter Verbrecher: Nach den Akten erzählt, 2007. Chapter: “Anna Przygodda – Ein Weiblicher Blaubart (1903),” pp. 177-202.]


9 DEATHS - 4 husbands die, 5th survives attempted murder, 5 children die

Jul. 20, 1859 – Anna born; Puvlitz, Ortelsburg district.
Feb. 15, 1883 – marries Johann Bachur; 3 children, 1 died.
May 22, 1888 – Johann Bachur, 21, dies. Bachur child (3 wks) dies.
Dec. 1888 – Marries Kempka, 27. Kempka newborn child dies.
July 22, 1889 – ? Kempka dies?
Nov. 26, 1889 – married August Panneck, 26.
Sep. 18, 1891 – August Panneck dies. Panneck, 2 children, both die.
Apr. 19, 1892 – married Wiescholleck, 28. Wiescholleck, 3 children (boy, 2 girls), boy dies.
Nov. 16, 1899 – Wiescholleck dies.
Nov. 3, 1901 – marries Adam Przygodda, husband #5.
Jun. 18-19, 1903 – jury trial, Allenstein. Found guilty of 3 murders Bachur, Kempka and Wiescholleck; acquitted of Panneck murder charge. Sentenced to death.
Soon after Jun. 19, 1903 – hanged in the prison yard at Olsztyn.






27-page study of the Pryzgodda case published in 1913: Hugo Friedlaender, Interessante Kriminal-Prozesse Von Kulturhistorischer Bedeutung; Darstellung Merkwürdiger Strafrechtsfälle Aus Gegenwart Und Jüngstvergangenheit Nach Eigenen Erlebnissen, Eingeleitet Von Justizrat Dr. Sello-Berlin, Vol. VIII; pp. 1-27, Chapter 1. “Unglückliche Ehen! Ein weiblicher Blaubart vor den Geschworenden”; 1913 Hermann Barsdorf, Spamersche Buchdruckerei, Leipzig.



More: Champion Black Widow Serial Killers


For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed



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