Benito de Soto was the most notorious of the last generation of pirates to plunder shipping in the Atlantic, one of those arising from the ending of the Napoleonic Wars.
De Soto served on an Argentinian slave ship before leading a mutiny off the coast of Angola in 1827. When 18 of the crew declined to participate they were cast adrift off in an open boat.
Having renamed the vessel the Burla Negra, de Soto crossed the Atlantic, where he sold stolen cargo of slaves in the Caribbean, and then sailed south, attacking English, American, Spanish and Portuguese ships along the South American coast. From 1830 the Burla Negra also ventured eastwards into the Atlantic to intercept vessels returning from India and the Far East.
He proved to be one of the most bloodthirsty pirates of any age, murdering crews who fell into his hands and sinking their ships.
The most infamous episode in de Soto's career came on 19 February 1828, when the Burla Negra happened upon the Morning Star en route from Ceylon to England. After killing some of the passengers and crew with cannon fire, de Soto murdered the captain and took possession of the ship.
Many of the captured crew were killed, while women passengers were raped before being locked in the hold with the rest of the survivors. De Soto then scuttled the ship, thinking to leave no evidence of the attack, but the imprisoned survivors managed to escape and prevent the Morning Star from sinking until a passing merchant vessel rescued them the following day.
De Soto's crimes caught up with him after the Burla Negra struck a reef and was wrecked off Cadiz. He and his men headed for Gibraltar, but they were recognized and taken for trial. De Soto was hanged. His head was then stuck on a pike as a warning to others.