Between 1836 and 1839, Diogo Alves lived as a thief and murderer. This man is famous for murdering 70 people in and around the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of Free Waters) in Lisbon Portugal. This made him one of the country’s first serial killers. What’s even more interesting is that his head can be found, perfectly preserved, in a jar by the entrance of the medical faculty of the Lisbon University.
Diogo Was Not Portugal’s First Serial Killer
Many believe that Diogo Alves was Portugal’s first serial killer, but this isn’t true. While his crimes were surely murderous and gruesome, he was not the first serial killer to wreak havoc on Portugal. Luisa De Jesus is a woman who, in 1772, admitted to poisoning 28 children. This woman was reprimanded violently for her crimes, being whipped, hanged, and burned as punishment.
Diogo Alves Explained
Diogo was born in 1810 in Galicia, a northern region in Portugal. Intending to work as a servant for the richer families, Diogo moved to Lisbon. He was only a young boy at the time. When he was a grown man, he lived to terrorize the locals in the city.
He lived off robbing some people and murdering others as this was much more lucrative than being a servant. Diogo asked to be transferred to a position that was close to the aqueduct, knowing that farmers would have to pass by on their way home from the market. He would attack them, and steal the money they had earned from selling their crops at the market. Once he had their earnings, he would throw them off the edge of the aqueduct, and they would fall to their deaths. This was a procedure that he repeated over 70 times with different people.
The authorities thought that people were committing suicide by jumping off the aqueduct. This was understandable, seeing as the Great Liberal Revolution was well underway and many had lost their jobs. To prevent more deaths, they closed off the bridge. This allowed some relief from the deaths at the aqueduct. After a while, many robberies were reported in the wealthier parts of town. Diogo had formed a gang of other robbers, and they were stealing from the rich.
One night, they were busy trying to kill off about four people in a doctor’s home, and the gang was caught. Diogo’s life came to an abrupt end when he was executed for his many crimes in 1841. He was sentenced to hang, but his head was placed in a jar and managed to remain intact, perfectly preserved.
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A Preserved Head
Diogo may not have been very famous for his crimes, but his preserved head sure has made his face scarily recognizable. But, why was his head put into the jar in the first place?
After Diogo had successfully scared the locals of Lisbon with his thievery and murderous rampage, doctors and psychologists at the time wanted to understand his reasonings. During this time, “phrenology” was quite popular. This was a pseudoscientific belief that the shape of your skull on the inside, could have something to do with a person’s personality and character traits. The researchers at the time were very excited to use Diogo’s head as a research tool, so it was placed in a jar with formaldehyde to preserve it. The hope was to be able to discover how a person, like Diogo, could become evil through phrenologic study. Ultimately phrenology was deemed unscientific and is now considered pseudoscience.