Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Husband-Killing Syndicates

HUSBAND-KILLING SYNDICATES: The vast majority of victims of these conspiracies were husbands, yet some were wives or other family members, including children.

Among the cases listed below you will find news reports with such headlines as “Husband Poisoning by Wholesale” (1882), “Ten Husband Poisoners” (1890), “A New Business; Husband Poisoning on the Scale of a Commercial Enterprise” (1891), “Killing Off Husbands” (1895), “Epidemic of Poisoning in Hungary; Eighteen Men Killed” (1901), “Women Formed Club to Murder Husbands” (1903), “Woman Kills 300 At Wives’ Behest” (1909), “Exterminating Husbands” (1911), “Wanted to Be Widows So They Hanged Their Husbands” (1933), “Used Fly Paper to Kill Husbands” (1935), “How Wives Gained Power by Mass Murder of Husbands” (1937).

In the following collection are 63 cases which took place primarily in eastern Europe (Bohemia, Croatia, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sicily, Silesia, Spain, Ukraine, USA, Yugoslavia. The 59 Eastern European cases date from 1870 to 1947. 

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Leader: La Toffania (or, Toffania, Tofana, Toffana); teacher Hieronyma Spara.
Method: liquid poison sold in vials.
Victims: large numbers; mostly husbands.

1658: ITALY – Rome
Leaders: Hyeronyma Spara, Gratiosa, La Toffania; Spara, Gratiosa & 12 other hanged in 1659
Method: liquid poison called "Tifana water."
Victims: over 700.

Leader: Giovanna Bonanno; executed Jul. 30, 1789.
Method: poison, a mixture of spring water, white wine and arsenic, intended to kill lice, purchased from apothecary then resold; 3 stages of dosage.
Victims: 6 confirmed (4 men, 2 women), many more suspected.

60 women hanged for poisoning husbands with arsenic.
Note: The source is probably in error, mistakenly referring to the cases of the 1880s, yet referring to the 1850s.

1868: FRANCE - Marseilles
Leader: Monsieur Joye, herbalist.
Method : arsenic.
Victims: 3 husbands whose wives purchased poison from Joye.
Venue: “a poisoning party.”
Perpetrators: 4 wives.
Method: “poison.”
Victims: 4 husbands.
Leaders: Rakitta Fira Bogyok from Kecsa & Softa Esutorina
Collaborator: Zsiva Traila (later: Minda)

Leader: Anna Nagy, AKA Kathi Lyukas (or "Kate Nagy"), murder two of her own husbands; Lyukas confessed to 6 other murders (20 other deaths suspected to be caused by her); Lyukas was hanged Nov. 30, 1882.
Method: arsenic baked into little cakes.
Victims: convicted of 26 murders.

Leaders: Thekla Popov, active more than two years (1880-1882), Anna Minity, Sophia Ivanovitch; over 100 women implicated; court cases continued into at least 1889.
Method: bottles of "red liquid poison" priced at 50-100 florins.
Victims: over 100
Leader: Persia ("Persa") Vaics ("Aunt Thyrin")
Method: hydrarchy corrosivum (corrosive sulfur)
Victims: 40?
Leader: Persa Czirin; considered the poison supplier; released for lack of evidence.
Method: poison.
Victims: Multiple husbands of women who acquired poison from Czirin.

Leader: Jlyushka
Leader: Baba Rendusch
Method: poison (unidentified as of yet).
Victims: 7 men lured into marriage to be murdered for their assets.

1889: MOLDOVA - Telenescha, Chisinau (Kischineff)
Leader: Barbara
Victims: 9 men; 2 of own husbands, 6 of own children
Leader: Marie Mravlak (Mrawlag).
Method: arsenic.
Victims: 3 husbands.

1889: SERBIA ("HUNGARY") – Mitrovitz (Sremska Mitrovica)
Leader: Eva Sarac (“witch or herbalist”); 10 women arrested.
Method: arsenic extracted from flypaper.
Victims: 60 estimated, over a period of 10 years.

1889: SERBIA ("Hungary") - Erdevik, District of Smyrna (Syrmia), Bingula & the Mitrovitz district (Austro-Hungarian Empire, Serbia)
Leader: Makrena Stankovic; deaths occurred in 1880, 1883, 1884, 1884, 1885, 1886 and 1888
Accomplice: Milika Plavsic, aided 2 husband-killers.
Method: Poisoned with arsenic derived from fly-paper cooked into christening cakes served on christening day to the father; elsewhere reported as poisonous spiders in dumplings.
Leaders: Frau Kernaez, Frau Kurjakow, Milicza Pivnicski (Rivnicski).
Method: arsenic.
Victims: 10.

1893: HUNGARY – Vezprimer Comitat, Ortschaft Szent-Gal (Szentgál), Szent-Hat, Hungary
Leader: Frau Kajdi.
Leaders: Nacza Milosev & husband.
Accomplices: 8 arrested.

1895: ROMANIA ("HUNGARY") – Pecica ("Peceska," "Pecs")
Leader: Maria Hevesy; was paid 100 florins for arranging murder.
Method: Ex-con hired to carry out murders.
Victims: multiple married men.
1895: HUNGARY – Hodmezo-Vasarhely, Hungary
Leader: Maria Szalay-Japes.
Method: Arsenic.
Victims: 6 (husbands).
1895: HUNGARY – Hodmozoe (Hod-Moyo-Vasarheky; Hódmezővásárhely)
Leader: Mari Azalai Jager.
Accomplices: "a band of poisoners" 3 men & 2 women (including Gulyas Kis-Samuel, male).
Method: Three poisons, belladonna, arsenic and chloride of mercury.
Jul. 24, 1897, Budapest: Trial of 12 women & 2 men; 4 sentenced to death; 1 to life in prison (man who killed his mother); 1 to 6 years in prison
Victims: estimated at over 100. 
Leader: A “Witch”
Perpetrators: 7
Deaths: 23
Leader: Maria Ulica.
Method: poison.
Victims: 16 husbands, 2 wives (following abortions).

1898: ROMANIA – Timișoara (Temesvar)
Leaders: Leader: Emilie Thiele, Maria Pisturin, Ida Gro.
Supplied by: Jovanka Papa (Marie Annassin-Pox (94), "Baba Jovanka"), Gross-Kikinda, Serbia.

Leader: Jovanka Papa; Marie Annassin-Pox (94), "Baba Jovanka."
Supplied poison to: Emilie Thiele, Maria Pisturin, Ida Gro, Timișoara (Temesvar) Romania.

1899: ROMANIA ("HUNGARY") – Jebel ("Zesbeley," “Szebely”, "Ssebely," "Szephely") (Banat Region) (Temesvár; Timişoara)
Leaders: George Korin, apothecary, ringleader, and Dr. Johann Mayer, village physician.
Perpetrators: Marie Nikodem (murdered 2 husbands); Lisa Petru-Triku (murdered 3 husbands?); Jerinia Zsimcsa (murdered 2 husbands).
Method: arsenic.
Victims: 14.

1900: HUNGARY Liget (“Zlifet") Baranya county.
Leader: unknown at present.
Method: arsenic taken from face rouge, placed in drink.
Victims: 6 husbands.
Leader: Nikola Bettuz; "Petar the Magician."
Method: poisoned brandy. (Bettuz refused to disclose its composition).
Victims: "18 men."; 40 widows arrested.
Method: boiled juice of dried dog milk plants and lander leaves 
Leader: Coroner Hanusch, formed a "club" of wives who wished their husbands dead. Imrene Balapa.
Method: poison supplied by the coroner, who would certify victim died of heart disease.
Victims: at least 6 husbands.

Leader: Rosalia Peter
Victims: 8 husbands

Leader: Widow Mirieki (Miriczky).
Method: arsenic.
Victims: husbands and wives, including a couple who each bought poison to murder one another.
Leader: Frau Miriczky (Mirieki)
Customers: Wives seeking to replace husbands, or to inherit from them.
Method: 9 different liquid poisons, arsenic.
Victims: 14 (plus many more).

1905: HUNGARY – Hodmezo-Vasarhely (Hod-Moyo-Vasarheky; Hódmezővásárhely)
Leader: Imrene Balapa (reputed witch).
Customers: Women who wished to kill husbands or infants.
Method: poison.
Victims: 6 men; 20 infants.

Leader: Frau Sivacky.
Customers: wives
Method: poison.
Victims: 9 husbands critically ill; other deaths; 12 women arrested.

Leader: Teresa Palko
Method: "fly powder"
Merthod: arsenic, sold for $4.50 per portion.
Victims: 25 bodies exhumed; Catherine Biber murdered 3; an unnamed widow murdered 4 husbands consecutively. 
Leader: Dámó Maximovics
Deaths: 54 defendants, but there were only 11 defendants at the main trial, and the others were dropped for lack of evidence. 

1908: SERBIA – Pančevo (Pancevo)
Leader: Padada Jovanovits
Victims: a husband named Nicolia (only name currently known).

Leader: Frau Szari
Method: poisonous black henbane seeds.
Victims: Mr. Szari, many others.

1909: UKRAINE ("RUSSIA") Samara
Leader: Katharina Popova (Popowa); claimed all victims were husbands who had abused their wives.
Method: poison in food or drink placed there directly by Madame Popova.
Victims: 50 ("300" in some sources), all husbands.

1911: HUNGARY – Szegedin (Szeged)
Leader: Maria Gerzan, professional nurse.
Accomplice: Levai, murdered husband.
Method: poison, claimed to be for killing vegetable parasites.
Victims: All victims were married men.

1912: ROMANIA ("HUNGARY") – Lipova, "Lippa," Arad county)
Leader: Johanna Kapruczan, murdered her first 4 husbands, 5th alive at time of arrest; 6 other women arrested.
Method: not yet ascertained.
Number of victims: 9 men (including leader’s 4 husbands).

1913: SERBIA - Durdevo (Sajkasgyorgye), Serbia
Leaders: Marie Racz, Milica Rudintzkt & Julie Rajko
Method: poison
Victims: unknown
Leaders: Mrs. Simon Ferenc & Mrs. István Polgár 
Deaths: 10

1921: USA - Cleveland, Ohio
Leader: Erminia (Big Emma) Covalito, "The Poison Queen"

Leader: Julie Remic
Method: Arsenic
Victims: Remic’s 2 husbands and son; about 30 other persons.

1926: SERBIA {"JUGOSLAVIA") – Nagy Kikinda (Kikinda) (DISCREDITED)
The “St. Lucretia Club,” a charitable organization was dedicated to sharing information about husband-murdering techniques.
Leader: Maria Vukosava Jovanovic (Maria Vukitch).
Method: poison.
Victims:7 husbands.

1927: RUSSIA – Novay Ladoga ("Navoia")
Leader: Sophie Safarin ("Safarine").
Method: poison.
Victims: 58 husbands (entire population of husbands).

1928: SERBIA ("JUGOSLAVIA") – Vladimirovac; Panchova, Banat ("Banyat") region
Leader: Anuja de Poshtonja (Anna Pistova), "The Witch of Vladimirovac", AKA: Anyuka Dee, the “Banat Witch,” Baba Anujka.
Method: "vegetable poisoning"; arsenic.
Perpatrators: includes Stana Ludushka (3 victims: 2 husbands; one uncle).
Victims: 13, all husbands (50 in one account); 50 year career probably involved scores more.
Leaders: Szuszanna Fazekas (Olah) (murdered 2 of her own husbands), Christine Chordas, (“Czordas”)
Method: arsenic extracted from fly-paper, rat poison containing arsenic, toadstools.
Victims: estimates vary from 30 to 100.
12 serial killers: Christine Chordas (3 murders), Julia Dari (3 murders), Julia Fazekas (scores of murders), Juliana Foeldvary (3 murders), Maria Kardos (3 murders), Julianne Lipka (scores of murders), Mrs. Louis Cser (3 murders), Esther Szabo (multiple murders, including 2 family members), Maria Varga (3 murders).
Leader: Viktoria Harna (suicide) 
Arrests: 12 women arrested, 1 committed suicide (Frau Hegedüs); Anny Papp (3 murders). 
Method: Poison.
Victims: 12+ husbands.
Leader: Viktoria Stanke; poisoned 3: husband, Julie Talinik, Mr. Talinik.
Arrested: Repisky (farmer), poisoned father in 1928; Victoria Szenesi, arrested.
Method: poison.
Victims: 6 known, others suspected to be discovered upon investigation.
Leader: Viktoria Foedi Rieger, nicknamed “Smoking Peter.” She was a cross-dresser who passed as a man; "The Devil Woman of Pista."
Method: hanging arranged to simulate suicide.
Victims: 22 suspected.

Leaders: Florica Duma & Ilona Kovacs.
Method: Arsenic extracted from fly-paper.
Victims: 6 persons, men and women.

(Serbian: Соиа Гјуркиц (Sojka Gjurkic)).
Method: Poison potions.
Victims: Multiple husbands. 
Leader: Unknown
Victims: husbands.

1935: HUNGARY – Debreczen
Leader: Julianne Nagy.
Method: arsenic extracted from boiled fly-paper.
Victims: at least 11.
Leaders: Elizabeth Bittenbinder & Mary Neukom
Method: arsenic
Victims: 5 "so far."

Leader: Mrs. Antal Mihály
1939: USA – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Active: 1932-1938; “Arsenic Incorporated.”
Sentencing: 2 executed; 12 life terms; 7 lesser sentences.
Leaders: Morris (Evil Eye) Bolber, Paul Petrillo, Herman Petrillo, Horace D. Perlman.
Operatives: Mrs. Rose Carina, Mrs. Carina Favato, Mrs. Josephine Sadita
Method: arsenic
Victims: over 100

Leaders: Stanka Penovic (Petcovic).
Method: poison.
Perpetrators: 16 tried.
Victims: mostly men (husbands, fathers, nephew).

1941: SPAIN - Parma, Majorca
Leader: Magdalena Castell Pons
Accomplice: Antonia Font
1947: HUNGARY – Szoreg, Hungary
1995: USA – San Francisco & New York City
Identification: The Tene-Bimbo Gypsy Clan
Leader: Mary Tene Steiner.
Others: Sylvia Mitchell (New York City), Angela Tene Bufford (San Francisco).
Victims: 9 elderly men.
Method: digitalis poisoning (causing heart attack).

2011: COLOMBIA Medellin
“The Black Widow Gang.”
Leader: José Adrián Henao Giraldo.
Members: Luz Elena Carvajal Cataño, Suleyma Giraldo de Zapata, Emilse Yulima Emilsen Rojas Castaño, Oliveryen Hincapie López.
Method: includes drowning.
Victims: 3 confirmed, 5 under investigation.



Murderers: Rose Veres (from Sarud, Hungary), "THe Witch of Medina Street," and son, William.
Related case: In Detroit Michigan in a neighborhood populated by immigrants from Sarud, Hungary, a woman conducted, along with her son, an insurance murder racket with boarders as her victims. Though she was later released from prison on appeal, there is little doubt she was guilty of the crimes she was originally convicted of.


A note on names: It should be note that names of persons and places from there regions are spelled in numerous different ways since a great many ethnicities resided these and used a great variety of languages. For example, Serbian was spoken in Serbia, but German was the official language of the ruling empire while the following other languages being spoken there include Albanian, Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Rusyn, Croatian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Romani, Czech, Bosnian, Vlach, Bunjevac, Macedonian, Montenegrin.

Further, English language transliterations of these names use many different spellings for the same name and vary in their choice of which original language form as the basis for their transliteration. In short, working with English language sources is extremely messy and confusing work.





Important article on Hungarian poison syndicates:

Jánoki Dávid, “Arsenic norms, collective secret, and double roles during the interrogations” (A történelem kérdései; Az írás, amint érvényét veszti, a Recenziók menüpontban található linken elérhető lesz.), Amazing History (website) 2012. November 23., Vác, Hungary


Explanations for the Hungarian murder syndicates that are commonly found are based on theories that are now being demonstrated to be faulty. Thus we must resist interpreting the phenomenon of the various Eastern European murder syndicates – with all their individual differences and complexities – through the simpleminded theories and claims that have been put forth in the standard literature thus far. 

An effort is now being made to take an objective look at the family in Eastern Europe without being hampered by the constraints of old-fashioned “patriarchy” theories and “social constructionist” reductionism, as is indicated by a recent call for papers by The Hungarian Historical Review. Here is an excerpt from that call for papers: 

“Historians who studied personal narrative sources that had survived in large numbers (such as correspondences, diaries, and memoirs) fervently disputed the Ariés-Hajnal-Stone thesis, according to which given the extended nature of the family, the role of emotional bonds in family life was negligible in Eastern Europe. The opponents of the thesis argue, however, that behind the image of patriarchal family life that emerges from the wealth of literature on matrimonial and marital counseling, one finds innumerable everyday gestures expressive of loving, amicable, and supportive relationships between spouses.” 

[Sándor Horváth, Call for journal articles – “The History of Family, Marriage and Divorce in Eastern Europe,” The Hungarian Historical Review, 2013]


Some motives for murder among the Eastern European murder syndicates::

1886 – Persa Czirin (professional poisoner) – [A] wholesale epidemic of poisoning had broken out among the women of the place who administered arsenic to their husbands whenever they wanted to marry somebody else. The first of the trials came on at Panosova recently, and ended with the conviction of a young pleasant woman, Draga Radovancey, who was sentenced to be hanged. An old peasant woman, Persa Czirin, who supplied the poison, was released for want of sufficient evidence. [“Wholesale Poisoning of Husbands.” The Southland Times (Invercarghill, Southland, N. Z.), Jun. 14, 1886, p. 4]

1889 – Thekla Popov (professional poisoner) – [Serial poisoner] Thekla Popov’s clients were, however, not always married women. Sometimes she had dealing with young girls who quarrelled with their sweethearts, and who, from jealousy or rage, had determined to kill them. [“Secret Poisoning. - Awful Crimes Of Borgias Recalled By Hungary’s Horror.  Murderous Nostrums Of Old. - Terrible Women Who Divorced Themselves By Deadly Potions. - The Evil Worked By Fortune Tellers.” Pittsburgh Post (Pa.), Dec. 14, 1889. p. 12]

1889 – Draga Kukin – Amongst other things he overheard was Kukin’s widow [Draga Kukin] saying to her accomplice, “Well, I am young and pretty. He was old and ugly. Why should he not die?” [“Secret Poisoning. - Awful Crimes Of Borgias Recalled By Hungary’s Horror.  Murderous Nostrums Of Old. - Terrible Women Who Divorced Themselves By Deadly Potions. - The Evil Worked By Fortune Tellers.” Pittsburgh Post (Pa.), Dec. 14, 1889. p. 12]

1897 –  Marie Jager (Azalai Jager Mari) (professional poisoner)  – It has transpired that the woman was much sought after, because when children were unwelcome they lived but a little while when Azalai Jager Mari was called in attendance. How many infants she destroyed it is impossible to guess. [“A Woman Who Has Poisoned More Than 100 People,” The World (New York, N.Y.), Jul. 11, 1897, p. 29]

1900 – Nikola Bettuz (professional poisoner)  – In some instances it was found that the object of the women was to obtain the insurance on the lives of their husbands. [“Slay Their Husbands - In Hungary Wives Tired of  Their Spouses Kill Them by Using a Mysterious Poison.” (Buda-Pesth Cor. Chicago Chronicle.) Fort Wayne Sentinel (In.), Oct. 20, 1900, p. 1]

1901 – Kissoda, Romania[Note: not just husbands, but “lovers” as well] Instances in which wives rid themselves of inconvenient husbands and girls did away with lovers whom they no longer wanted increased there appallingly.  [“Epidemic Of Poisoning In Hungary. - Eighteen Men Killed.” The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia), Jan. 12, 1901, p. 38]

1907 – Julia Wunicsitch – Julia Wuicsitch poisoned her husband because he could not buy her a new dress. [“Town Poisoned - And Wiped Out of Existence by Modern Lucretia Borgia. - Fair Young Fiend - Poisoned Her Rich Old Husband So She Could Marry a Young Lawyer, Whom She Also Poisoned. - Then With Another Woman She Went Into the Wholesale Poisoning Business.” The Manning Times (S. C.), Mar. 20, 1907, p. 6]

1907 – Marthas Petromany (professional poisoner)  – She married a wealthy farmer some five years ago solely on account of his possessions. A young man of talents and good prospects who was the leading local lawyer became her ardent admirer. Mme. Petrubany’s highest desire was to see her old husband out of the way to marry the lawyer and combine his superior social station and the old man’s property. [“Town Poisoned - And Wiped Out of Existence by Modern Lucretia Borgia. - Fair Young Fiend - Poisoned Her Rich Old Husband So She Could Marry a Young Lawyer, Whom She Also Poisoned. Then With Another Woman She Went Into the Wholesale Poisoning Business.” The Manning Times (S. C.), Mar. 20, 1907, p. 6]
1928 – Anujka de Poshtonja (Anna Pistova, Baba Anujka) – Vladimirovac, Yugoslavia (Serbia) – 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. [“A Jugo-Slavian ‘Witch’ - Faces Murder Trial,” The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), Aug. 12, 1929, p. 17]

1929 – Szuszanna Fazekas (Olah) (professional poisoner)  – Not wishing to risk another trial [for performing abortions], Aunt Suzie apparently decided to supplement her earnings in a new fashion. She began a series of child poisonings. There would be a discreet dosing, a little funeral, a tiny grave – and a mouth less to feed. Aunt Suzie worked exclusively with arsenic extracted from flypaper. It seemed effective. She decided to enlarge her sphere. She found wives who had grown tired of their husbands, children who coveted the property of their elders, mothers with ailing sons. Aunt Suzie would whisper that she knew a way. [John MacCormac, “Murder By Wholesale: A Tale From Hungary,” New York Times (N.Y.), Mar 16, 1930, p. XX3]

1929 – Maria Kardos – After marrying and divorcing two husbands she found herself at the age of forty with a 23-year-old son, whose health had made him a burden. Moreover, she had fast taken a young lover and did not wish to have this constant reminder of her own age. She consulted Aunt Suzie. The first dose of arsenic only made the boy ill. One fine Autumn day she had his bed moved outside in the courtyard. “I gave him some more poison in his medicine,” she told the police. “And then, suddenly, I remembered how beautifully my boy used to sing in church and I thought I would like to hear him once more. So I said: ‘Sing, my boy. Sing me my favorite song.’ He sang it in his lovely, clear voice.” The song ended in agony. The poison had done its work. [John MacCormac, “Murder By Wholesale: A Tale From Hungary,” New York Times (N.Y.), Mar 16, 1930, p. XX3]

1935 – Julianna Nagy (professional poisoner)  – They all got their wish, dying from her food. The old maid induced the old man to marry her by the simple process of threatening to resign as cook. But there were five children to inherit which would not leave much for the widow in case something should happen to Nagy. Therefore Julianna bought more fly-paper with which she made little angels, one after the other of all the five children.









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1 comment:

  1. From first hand experience I suspect that the Maria Torosian and Eliza Potegian serial killers were/are part of syndicate where the practice was passed generationally with identity theft and spousal financial enslavement if not successful leads to death of spouses and recruitment of children through torture and brainwashing, which often is also used on older victims to induce death through neglect hidden by natural pathology.
    I may be Maria's great grandson...and have survived many attempts on my life...
    Suicides and self inflicted injuries can be used to charge targets with crimes or lies made up and/or neurotoxin used to make them look insane are some of the newer techniques for inheritance also cyber stalking. Authorities can be both complicit or blackmailed if high value real estate is involved.

    This is a very old practice which has roots in ancient Ukraine before the Russian conquest and part of what may have incited it. Probably originated from a cult of even greater antiquity but raises it head where opportunities arise from failing empires and weak states.

    Hope I am wrong but not going to gamble on it after what I have seen and continue to experience from these land pirates.