In February 1841, Portuguese serial killer Diogo Alves was sentenced to death by hanging.
It is not the crimes that this murderer committed during his lifetime that have made his legacy famous; instead, it is the impact that he continues to have on others in the present day.
A Killer is Born
Born in Galicia, Portugal, in 1810, Alves would eventually be sent off to Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. There, the nineteen-year-old Alves would find work as a servant to a number of the wealthy residents living in Portugal’s capital city.
Alves would continue to work, moving from residence to residence, until in 1836, the now twenty-six-year-old Alves started working in homes along the Aqueduct of Free Waters. It was here where Alves would settle into his lethal trade.
Completed in 1748, the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of Free Waters), primary purpose was to supply drinking water to Lisbon, but it also served as a bridge into the city. This allowed farmers and merchants from neighboring cities access to Portugal’s capital, where they could come and sell their various goods.
Pushed to Their Deaths
After a long day of bartering, the travelers would head home, crossing the same bridge they had used coming in, and it was here, under the cover of night, where they would meet Alves.
Laden with money from a hard day’s work, Alves would rob the unsuspecting merchants and then force them off of the 213-foot-tall aqueduct.
Over the span of three years, Alves would rob and kill an estimated seventy people. He would dispose of each victim using the same method. First robbing them and then sending them over the edge to their doom.
You would think that the deaths of over seventy people would raise suspicion among the local authorities, but investigators initially contributed these deaths to suicides. Despite there being rumors that a killer was on the loose and responsible for all these murders.
Eventually, the overwhelming number of deaths couldn’t be ignored. Whether the deaths were by suicide or the work of the alleged “Aqueduct Murderer” as he was now being called, the police finally decided to close off the bridge.
Instead of giving up his murderous ways, Alves decided to associate himself with other unsavory characters. Together, the group began breaking into wealthy people’s homes in the neighborhood.
The man who had managed to evade the police for so long finally gave himself away when he was caught for killing four members of a local doctor’s family.
Alves was executed by hanging for the four killings that the authorities were able to link him to, however, the murders involving the aqueduct were never formally connected to Alves.
Life After Death
Diogo Alves was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging on February 19, 1841.
But, as we mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it is not his life that is remembered, rather, it is what took place after he died that is remembered.
Following his execution, the head of Alves was removed to be studied, as it was believed that, through the pseudoscience of phrenology, Alve’s murderous tendencies could be determined by the shape of his head.
They had high hopes that through this study, science would be able to identify, simply by looking at the contours of a person’s head, whether or not that person had a propensity for violent crime.
Now, 182 years after his death, the head of Diogo Alves sits perfectly preserved in a glass jar in the anatomical theater at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.
But before you get too excited and start planning a trip to Portugal to check out Alves’s head, you should know that the head is not available to the public. The head is only available to students and faculty.