Today we are going to talk about the story of a man named, ‘Diogo Alves‘,who is believed to be the first
serial killer and also the last man to be given death penalty in Portugal.
Diogo Alves was born in a small town in Galicia in 1810 in a peasant family. Due to financial problems he
moved to Lisbon at the age of nineteen to look for a job . After failing at several jobs he indulged in the
habits of drinking and gambling and to meet his requirements he had to look for a way to procure
money. The way that came to his mind was to rob travelers and small farmers and then kill them.
At that time in Lisbon there was a bridge named ‘Aqueduto das Águas Livres’ connecting the town of
Lisbon to other small villages, small farmers and travelers used this bridge to enter into the town of
Lisbon. He started targeting people who would return late in the evening and were alone so that no one
would suspect him. After robbing the travelers he would throw them from a height of 75 meters from
the bridge so that no one could find the bodies. When the robbed money run out then he would look for
a new prey at the bridge and would do the same to him .
These killings went on but the police and other judicial authorities were not taking action because they
thought that these killings were suicide as most of the victims were small and poor peasants and at that
period, little time had passed since the Liberal Revolution of 1820. This historical event happened in
August, 24th of 1820 in the city of Porto.
It had a huge impact on the Portuguese people. The country was going through a political and
economical crisis. Therefore, the authorities did not suspect a thing, they just thought it was a suicide
wave because of the lower social classes having to deal with hunger and financial difficulties.
In 1837, governing authorities ordered the closure of the bridge ( Aqueduto das Águas Livres), because
people started to suspect and thought it was strange that so many people were dying. They got scared,
and it was decided that the aqueduct would be closed. It actually remained closed for many years.
After the closing of the (Aqueduto das Águas Livres), Diogo Alves had to find a new place to rob and kill
people. He then instead of working alone gathered a gang and used to storm into people’s house,
where they would rob and kill the families.
In 1840 police finally caught Diogo Alves and he was sentenced to a death penalty which was the last in
Portugal. In the trials he admitted to have thrown about 70 and more people from the bridge (Aqueduto
das Águas Livres) after robbing them .After these incidents and the trial of Diogo Alves scientists and
doctors from the Medical-Surgical School of Lisbon , pleaded the jury to separate the head from the
body so that they could research on his mind and find out more about the tendencies that made him
into a serial killer .
As of today his severed head is currently preserved in a glass with a solution of formaldehyde and other
chemicals and is placed in the anatomical theater of the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine,
following the formation of a phrenology (the study of brain) cabinet made by José Lourenço da Luz
Gomes, which allowed the preservation of Alves’ skull.