Diogo Alves

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Diogo Alves
Diogo Alves - extraído de uma gravura da época (1840).png
Diogo Alves in 1840
DiedFebruary 19, 1841
Cause of deathExecution
Other names"The Aqueduct Murderer"
Criminal penaltyDeath
Span of crimes

Diogo Alves (1810 – February 19, 1841) was a Spanish-born Portuguese serial killer. Between 1836 and 1840, he killed several dozen people. The crimes he committed were all in the area of the Águas Livres Aqueduct, thus earning the "Aqueduct Murderer". He was sentenced to death and hanged on February 19, 1841. The head of the killer was separated from the body and placed in a flask to preserve it for scientific purposes, where it is now a tourist attraction.[1]


Born in Galicia in a peasant family, Alves fell from the family horse while at a young age and hit his head, earning the nickname Pancada ("blow"). At the age of nineteen, his parents sent him to work in Lisbon. After changing several jobs and ceasing to write to his parents, he began to drink and gamble, meeting up with innkeeper Maria "Parreirinha" Gertrudes. It is believed that this connection instigated Alves to kill. He began to commit crimes, earning a second nickname "The Aqueduct Murderer". He robbed poor passers-by, and then dumped them from a height of 60 meters to simultaneously avoid identification and present the deaths as suicides, which he initially succeeded in.

Murders on the aqueduct remained unproven, but the jury sentenced Alves and his gang for other crimes, in particular, murdering the four family members of a doctor. Maria's 11-year-old daughter, Maria de Conceicao, testified in court against the gang. Her mother was eventually sent to a lifelong exile in African colonies.

Alves became the penultimate (often mistakenly claimed to be the last) hanged criminal in Portugal. His actions at the time intrigued scientists from the then Medical-Surgical School of Lisbon. After his hanging, in an attempt to study his brain, Alves' head was cut off and studied. To this day it is still preserved in a glass vessel, where a solution of formaldehyde has perpetuated the image of calm man—quite contrary to what he really was. Scientists could never explain what led him to buy a false key for the Aqueducts, where he was hiding, and how many people he had robbed and killed.The severed head is currently in the anatomical theater of the University of Lisbon's Faculty of Medicine, following the formation of a phrenology cabinet made by José Lourenço da Luz Gomes, which allowed the preservation of Alves' skull, along with that of Matos Lobo (being one of the last subjects to whom the death penalty in Portugal was applied, something quite significant for the judicial history of Portugal) in the old medical-surgical school. The head of Diogo Alves was one of the most significant—and undoubtedly horrific—objects of the passage in One hundred pieces for the Museum of Medicine, which took place in the National Museum of Ancient Art in 2005.


  • Gideon High, Everything I did not want to know (translation and adaptation of Vladimiro Nunes), tinta da china, 2006.
  • Portugal — Historical, Corographic, Heraldic, Biographical, Bibliographic, Numismatic and Artistic Dictionary, Volume IV, pp. 599–600..