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Story of Diogo Alves

by Drake Waggoner about a year ago in guilty
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Who was Diogo Alves?

Diogo Alves-

Diogo Alves was a Spanish-born Portuguese serial killer. Between 1836 to 1840 Alves killed seventy people. His committed crimes were all around Águas Livres Aqueduct. On February 19, 1841 Alves was sentenced to death and hanged. Alves’ head was separated from his body. His head was placed in a flask so it could be preserved for scientific purposes. His head is at University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine where his head is now a tourist attraction.


Alves was born in a peasant family in Galicia. Alves earned the nickname “blow” when he fell off of the family horse and landed on his head. When Alves turned nine his parents sent him to work in Lisbon. Alves changed jobs and ceased writing to his parents. After Alves ceased writing to his parents he started drinking and gambling and one day Alves met a girl Maria "Parreirinha'' Gertrudes. It is believed that this connection instigated his death. Alves got a second nickname “The Aqueduct Murderer” he got this nickname when he started doing his crimes.

Alves would rob the poor and then pushed them from 60 meters to avoid identification. Alves also dumped them from 60 meters to make them look like suicides. Murders on Aqueduct remained unproven. Although the murders remained unproven the jury sentenced Alves and his gang for other crimes. A girl named Maria da Conceicão testified in court against the gang. Maria’s mother named Maria was sent to a lifelong exile in the Portuguese African colonies.

Alves became the penultimate hanged criminal in Portugal. His actions intrigued the scientists from the then Medical-Surgical School of Lisbon. To this day Alves’ head is still preserved in a glass vessel where a solution of formaldehyde has perpetuated the image of a calm man. Scientists could not explain what led him to buy a false key for the Aqueducts. Scientists could not explain how many people he robbed and killed. Alves’ head is currently in the anatomical theater of the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine, following the creation of a phrenology cabinet made by José Lourenço da Luz Gomes. The cabinet allowed the preservation of Alves’ skull, along with that of Matos Lobo in the old medical school.

Alves earned the nickname “Pancada” for a series of crimes that terrorized the people of Lisbon of a time span of three years (1836-1839). Alves had a characteristic method of acting: hiding in the galleries of the aqueduct to surprise and assault his victims. Alves would use this route to cross Alcantara valley. The growing number of deaths were attributed to a wave of suicides, culminating the decision to seal the passage off to the public. The waterway allowed city dwellers and rural farmers the ability to traverse the rural landscape from above, making their way into the city of Lisbon. Many travelers were rural farmers going to Lisbon to sell their Harvests. It was on the trip back with pockets full of money that Alves would strike. By 1840 the deaths along the Aqueduct had ceased.

In the beginning police blamed it on copycat suicides. The deaths caused the bridge to temporarily close down. During this time Alves gathered a group of felons. Alves and his gang began to break into wealthy business owners dwellings. The group was caught while killing four people inside a local doctors house. That night Alves and his entourage were arrested. Alves was not the only one to be hanged but the whole group was hanged.

Alves was hanged to death in February of 1841. He was among the last people to die as a result of capital punishment before Portugal abolished capital punishment in 1867, but he wasn’t the last: Around half a dozen people followed him.


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Drake Waggoner

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