Monday, September 19, 2011

Rose Porro & Margarite Coraldi, Italian Child Care Providers Who Serially Murdered Babies - 1873

NOTE: It has been noted by a reader that the method of execution is inconsistent with the standard practice of hanging. David Busato, an Italian true crime writer wrote about the case in 2014. David Busato cites as his source, Diritto di Roma, December 28, 1872.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): From the Diritto Roma, Dec. 28. Only three doors from the little chapel of San Severo, on the Strada Santa Catarina, in Naples, the evidences of a most terrible crime, or rather series of terrible crimes, were brought to light [on Monday last*] by the shrewd and daring Guglieimo Cordeban, Lieutenant of Police. The person charged with the perpetration of these crimes is a woman named Rosa Porro, upon whose movements the keen eyes of the gendarmery had been for many months fixed. An advertisement stating her name and address appeared at brief intervals in the Neapolitan journals, and the purport of the publication was that persons wishing to relinquish their claim upon infants would find a home for them by calling upon and paying a certain sum to Mrs. Rosa Porro, 59 Strada Santa Catarina, near the church of San Severe, Naples. The police give special attention to ambignous advertisements, and consequently Mrs. Porro incurred their suspicion. Lieutenant Guiglielmo Cordeban instructed two officers to give their particular attention to the movements of Mme. Porro and all things occurring in her residence. To this somewhat vague task the two policemen were assigned on the 2d inst., and the result of their vigilance up to the 10th was that an extraordinary number of babies had been brought into Mrs. Porro’s apartments, and that respectable carriages containing fashionably-dressed women pulled up in front of her unpretentious quarters. The object of Cordeban’s suspicion became more clear, but he still ordered the policemen to study the movements of Porro and her visitors. On the 21st. inst. The policemen were again called upon to report, and they again announced that at intervals infants were carried into Mrs. Porro’s residence, and they had not been at intervals were carried again into Mrs. Porro’s residence, and that they had not seen the children carried out again in any instance but one. Lieutenant Cordeban then resolved to take possession of Mrs. Porro’s house on the following Monday, the 23d inst.

Furnished with an order of arrest given on the ground of grave suspicions being entertained against the prisoner, Cordeban, accompanied by two policemen, entered Mme. Porro's house in the forenoon, and upon meeting La Signora herself, he politely furnished her with document which placed her in the hands of the police. A strong, brave, beautiful, and cunning woman, she at first assumed an air of innocence and wonderment which might have disarmed a less sophisticated detective. But Cordeban was unrelenting, and assured her her that it was not on his account, but through the Perfect’s orders, that she should be arrested. In her company was a younger, but quite a desperate-looking, woman. Mrs. Porro was placed in a carriage and driven to the Prefect’s Chambers in the Chiaja, while the two officers were left in charge of her house, with an order to let no person passed out or in until the Lieutenant returned. The Lieutenant, with other officers, came back at noon, and began a close search through every part of the house. On bursting in a door in the uppermost story, a pitiful sight presented itself. Six infants were sprawling on the floor, crying from cold and hunger. The room was unfurnished, and so chilly that the poor little creatures, prompted by nature, huddled together. Among them was one stiff and emaciated little corpse, which the officers believed to be only sleeping, until they touched and stirred it. Having searched the upper portion of the house they proposed to visit the cellar and dig up the tiles of the lower floor, after having provided for the starving little ones. In the cellar they discovered five children’s corpses, and beneath the tiles of the ground floor, and in the very apartment where Mrs. Porro was arrested, three other bodies of dead infants were found. The woman who was in Mrs. Porro’s company at the time of the latter’s arrest screamed violently and grew hysterical as the fatal developments were being made. She was arrested and conveyed also to the Prefect’s chambers. The house was taken in possession by police, who will remove the tiles of each floor, dig up the cellar, and inspect the interior of the walls to find out the full extent of this grievous roll of infanticides. Up to this date Mrs. Porro has made no statement indicative of her guilt. Her partner, Margarite Coraldi, is equally obstinate. But the police assert that they have traced out abundant proof of the wholesale murder from other quarters.

[“Baby Farming in Naples. Wholesale Murder of Innocents – Mme. Porro’s Charnel House, and What the Neapolitan Police Found in It,”  Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Jan. 25, 1873, p. 7]

* Phrase that appears in variant of same article in: [“Baby Farming in Naples. Wholesale Murder of Innocents – Mme. Porro’s Charnel House, and What the Neapolitan Police Found in It,” The Pittsburgh Daily Commercial (Pa.), Monday, Jan. 20, 1873, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The two baby farmers of Naples, whose appalling crimes have already been narrated, recently paid the penalty for their deeds on the block in the Castle d’Novo [Castel dell'Ovo], near Naples. The prisoners were brought before a judge and jury, and after a brief trial, during which the most revolting details of their terrible crime were elicited, both Rose Porro and Margerite Coraldi were sentenced to death. The scene in the court-room on their being pronounced guilt; was affecting in the extreme, the women sobbing hysterically and kneeling in the dock to supplicate for mercy. A Naples letter thus describes the execution:

Early yesterday morning, when hardly a soul was astir in the narrow and boisterous thoroughfares of Naples, an ominous looking vehicle stood in front of the Prefect’s chamber, near the Chlaja. On the uppermost floor of the prison in the chapel, where the condemned women were attending mass -- their last mass and the mournful strains of the “Miserere,” chanted by the sisters in their choir, could be heard gloomily wailing though the long corridors. The prisoners, still in black, knelt near the altar, and at the appointed time received their last communion.


Towards half-past six the prisoners, flanked by an escort of ten gendarmes and preceded by three clergymen, moved from the chapel to the van in front of the prison door. The van contained the prisoners, the chaplain and assistants, two Sisters of Charity, the prefect and his lieutenant, and the usual guards on the outside. While the van was roiling over the pavement on its way to the Castle d’Novo [Castle dell-Oro], which is built right on the edge of the Bay of Naples, many harsh comments were made from groups of stragglers, while an occasional merciful one vouchsafed an ejaculation such as “The Lord have mercy upon them!” for well they all knew me mission of the rusty wheeled black van of the prison. During the tedious drive the prisoners prayed and sobbed alternately, and spoke little and only in whispers to the kind Sisters of Charity, who never ceased offering them religious consolation.

A guard of policemen occupied the gates of Castle d’Novo [Castle dell-Oro], and doffed their hats when the van drove up and the prefect made his appearance. The gates being thrown open, the trembling prisoners were led through a long, stony passageway darkened by high wails. Upon reaching the rooms of the jailer,


assisted by other women, removed the cloaks and bonnets of the prisoners. The priests, sisters of charity, and prisoners then knelt and prayed, be officers standing round with bowed an uncovered heads, at the close of the prayers for the dying, the executioner appeared, wearing a black mask and black singlet shirt. Assisted by the jailer the executioner pinioned the arms of the criminals. The plain white collars around the doomed women’s necks were removed, and all being read; the vine cortege moved through two passage-ways until the place of execution presented itself. It was a very unique sight.

At the extremity of a small, stone-surrounded and a stone-bottomed yard a flat rock shaped into a platform about eight feet square and two in height. On one end of this old stage, upon which only the last act is ever performed, there is a very narrow step, for only the executioner and his help, the jailer, use it. In the centre of the platform stood a block, the old block mentioned above, with a little belt or hook in front for fastening the neck securely. The unfortunate women when confronting this scene prayed aloud and cried hysterically. The usual prayers were recited, and when concluded the jailer passed to the executioner a long instrument in an ancient looking scabbard of leather covered with steel and brass platings. The executioner, though evidently a young man, seemed familiar with the paraphernalia of his sorrowful craft. He adroitly unclasped the heavy scabbard, drew forth a large


with a blade like a colossal razor, and took up his position on the rear of the platform. The criminal’s eyes were bandaged with long strips of linen, which left enough to bind the head to the block.

Rose Porro was first conducted to the block, and when the jailer was about to place the linen over her eyes she staggered back and made a violent movement with her hands as if she would burst her pinions. But the chaplain’s voice calmed her, and according to his admonition she repeated the divine prayer, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit,” and fell upon her knees.

Margarita Coraldi was removed to the entrance of the yard, and prevented from witnessing her accomplice’s death. The prison bell of Castle d’Novo [Castle dell’Oro] was now tolling slowly, the clergy and nuns were praying fervently, and Rose Porro’s white neck was made rest to the block and exposed to the glittering axe of the executioner.

The chief warden of the castle, who may be called, a sheriff, came near the platform in company with two medical men and the Sindaco. The chief warden motioned to all present to preserve strict silence, and then turning toward be executioner be raised his right hand -- the signal for the fatal blow. The executioner, whose mask had been glaring weirdly at the sheriff awaiting that signal, lifted his weapon and stepped to the left side of the prisoner.

Se raised the axe about one foot from the neck of Rose Porro by way of taking aim, and then swinging it above his head he brought lbs heavy blade down with all his might, and


The trunk rose nearly a foot and a half, as if living, by the sudden spasmodic action of the severed nerves. A liner was immediately at hand, and the trunk and bead of what was Rose Porro, the infamous baby farmer, were removed, and Margarita Coraldi was led to the block. She prayed constantly, and did not evince any great fear until her head was forced on the fatal stann, when she uttered a brief, nervous scream. Her head was not completely severed with the first blow. The skin of the front of the neck remained uncut, and the body, springing back, exposed a ghastly gap which made every spectator shudder, and caused the platform to be smeared with blood. A pail was thrown over the body and its head, and both were removed on a litter to await, like Porro’s corpse, burial in unconsecrated ground. The fulfilling of the executioner’s contract was to wipe and whet the axe he used, and replace it in the scabbard fit for future emergencies.

[“Two Women On The Block. The Awful End Of The Baby Farmers Of Naples. - The Necks of Two Murderesses Bared to the Axe - Rose Porro and Margarite Coraldi Expatiating their Unparalleled Crimes.” Dallas Daily Herald (Tx.), Mar. 22, 1873, p. 1]


Reference to Italian article, “On December 28, 1872, the newspaper Diritto di Roma gave ample space to a story that was picked up by the major American newspapers.”

SEE: [David Busato, “Rosa Porro e Margherita Coraldi: la strage degli innocenti” (“Rosa Porro and Margarita Coraldi: The Massacre of the Innocents”), True Crime (Italian),


Rosa Porro – born in Rome and had married Luigi Francesco Porro of Genova in Trastevere; 59 della strada Santa Caterina.
Guglielmo Cordeban, tenente di polizia (police lieutenant).
Dec. 2, 1872 – surveillance and investigation.
Dec. 23, 1872 – discovery of the massacre.
Jan. 8, 1873 – confession on Jan. 8?
[see: “Rosa Porro e Margherita Coraldi: la strage degli innocenti” (“Rosa Porro and Margarita Coraldi: The Massacre of the Innocents”), True Crime (Italian),



Regarding the abolition of capital punishment in Italy in the late 19th century:

Wikipedia (excerpt from “: Capital punishment in Italy” –  “when the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1860, legislation was divided, since the death penalty was legal in all of Italy except for Tuscany. Afterwards the death penalty was definitively abolished in the Penal Code in 1889 with the almost unanimous approval of both Houses of Parliament under suggestion of Minister Zanardelli. However executions in Italy had not been carried out since 1877, when King Umberto I granted a general pardon (royal decree of pardon of January 18, 1878). Ironically, as a result of this pardon, Gaetano Bresci could not be sentenced to death after he assassinated Umberto I in 1900. The death penalty was still present in military and colonial penal codes only.”


One commenter has questioned whether the journal called “Diritto di Roma” actually existed. Although we have not discovered an online archive of that publication, we have nevertheless been able to confirm that it definitely existed.  “Diritto di Roma” is mentioned as : “22. Adolfo Thiers: nel giornale // Diritto di Roma, 14 settembre 1877,” in "Gli scritti de Francesco de Sanctis e la loro varia fortuna; saggio bibliografico, pubblicato nel primo centenario della nascita del De Sanctis, a cura del Comitato della provincia di Avellino”


Critical speculations (in comments below) addressed:
1. “This is a fictional story.” Finding: This is a guess, not supported by research.
2. “In 1873 the death penalty in the Reign of Italy was to be abolished. At this time women convicted were usually pardoned. And again, all the death sentences were to be executed only by hanging.” Finding: Death penalty were carried out until 1877 according to Wikipedia. “Usually” is not “always.” It has been shown that beheadings were carried out certainly until 1865 by Papal States executioner Givanni Battisti Bugatti, to give one example.
3. “Maybe the last execution with block and axe was in the middle age.” Finding: Pure guessing. Reliable source indicates definitively that Italian executions included beheadings into mid-late 19th century (by Bugatti, for instance).
4. “all the Italian sources are translations of the articles in English. No one newspaper talked about this fact, only American newspapers.” Finding: American newspapers cite an Italian source and the full form articles are presented as translations from the Italian source "Diritto di Roma"
5. “This is a translation from the American articles, the only difference is the first reference, a newspaper called "Diritto di Roma". After an easy search, I can't provide the real existence of this journal, so it's probably fake.” Finding: The 2015 Italian article (by David Busato) cited is “translated”” from an American articles which were themselved translations from an Italian article in "Diritto di Roma." The speculation that "Diritto di Roma." Is “probably fake” is definitively disproved.
6. “The last person executed in Naples was in 1862.” Finding: Unsourced. Is this “last known” perhaps?
7. Conclusion: Only proper research of Neapolitian sources can lend support to the speculation that the case reports are inaccurate. Such research may indeed show errors in the "Diritto di Roma." Account, yet this cannot be accomplished through use of generalizations based on incomplete history (what is known so far as a general rule) nor by guesswork. Certainly it will be useful for an Italian scholar to at least locate a copy of the Dec. 28, 1872 "Diritto di Roma” article as a starting point.



For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed



  1. This is a fictional story. In 1873 the death penalty in the Reign of Italy was to be abolished. At this time women convicted were usually pardoned. And again, all the death sentences were to be executed only by hanging.
    I don't know if this fact is really happened, but the entire story seems to be a fiction.
    If you are searching for a gruesome murder committed by a woman in early XIX century, try to find Sofia Pescatori, who killed the baby of her lover with nitric acid. She was executed in 1840, and probably she was really one of the last female hanged in Italy.

    1. These are contradictory statements: “This is a fictional story.” And “I don't know if this fact is really happened, but the entire story seems to be a fiction.”

      Regarding the statement that “In 1873 the death penalty in the Reign of Italy was to be abolished.” The “southern question” was an issue. “Was to be abolished” does not equal “was in actuality completely abolished.” What would needed to disconfirm the long and detailed English language news reports is research in the Neopolitan sources. Please let us know what you find after you look at the local sources in Italian.

    2. It's not contradictory. No one woman was executed during the Reign of Italy since 1861, and only few men where hanged. The Italian Criminal Code after 1861 authorize only death by hanging, literally "death with the noose on the gallows".
      Last women executed in Italy where in the north, in the first half of the XIX century, like Sofia Pescatori.

      And again: all the Italian sources are translations of the articles in English. No one newspaper talked about this fact, only American newspapers. Really strange.

  2. "IS fiction" and "I don't know . . . seems to be . . fiction" are contradictory. Logic. Basic.

    If you provide the Italian sources -- meaning that are published in Italy in the English language -- I will cite them. "Italian sources" means sources created in Italy. Have you looked into archives in Naples or at Italian language newspapers from the pertinent dates? That is what scholars mean when they refer to looking at "Italian sources."

    Whether or not there is a verifiable record of the execution, the case is important to me as a baby farming case. If the case is "fiction" then these women were never charged with the crimes. That is what matters to me. Please provide proper scholarly citations showing you have determined Porro and Corraldi never existed or that they were never charged.

    I will add proper scholarly citations to this post when they are provided. Speculation and guessing is not good enough. Nor is illogic (stating something is X, then claiming it only seems to be X).

  3. Ok, if you just want to keep this case with a lot of fake informations, you are welcome. Isn't my website and it's not the way I do historical researches.
    Also if I understand that my comments are not welcome, I want to be kindly and trying to explain better the situation.

    1) Porro and Corraldi are not surnames of Naples. That don't mean anything, but it's suspect.
    2) In 1873 the execution in the Reign of Italy were carried out only by hanging. Maybe the last execution with block and axe was in the middle age.
    3) No one woman was executed in Italy during the Reign. Before that I've only one case of a poisoner in 1840, in my city. No other cases are known.
    4) You can try searching the archive of this important Italian newspaper as I do. , Rosa Porro and Margherita Coraldi are never mentioned and the archive start from 1867.
    5) Here's an Italian link about the case:
    This is a translation from the American articles, the only difference is the first reference, a newspaper called "Diritto di Roma". After an easy search, I can't provide the real existence of this journal, so it's probably fake.
    It's the only text in Italy where you can read about this case, and it was written in this century and not before.
    6) There's no one book in Italian language that talk about this case.
    7) The last person executed in Naples was in 1862. The last woman was Colomba D'Auria in 1813. You can Google "Antonella Orefice", an historical researcher that will confirm you that this case is a fake.

    I tried all my best to explain me.

  4. That is a clear, coherent and responsible answer.

    1. Thank you. If you are interested in a real, and lost, Italian case about a female poisoner that I'm studying, I'll give you all the references.
      I'm studying it and I want to publish a book about her next year. If you want to "internationalize" her, you're welcome ;-)