Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Poisoned Five Husbands": Anna (Caroline) Przygodda - 1903

Note: English language sources give the name as Caroline yet recent German scholarship gives 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 3): 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 3): 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]


The following report adds a few other details, including the name of the village where the crimes occurred, that are missing from these longer articles. There is a village called Bobbau is in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, however, and not near Allenstein (Olsztyn) at all. Perhaps there was a village by that name near Allenstein.

FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): In the village of Bobbau,* 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.

[* Bobbau is misspelled as "Bolbau" in the original news report]

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



Anna Przygodda was executed in the prison yard of Olsztyn (currently Poland). The full
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.]



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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