That Denmark had a serial killer once? And to the best of my knowledge we have only had this one who would classify as a serial killer.
Her name was Dagmar Johanne Amalie Overbye. (nicknamed the Angelmaker) And from 1913 to 1920 she killed somewhere between 8 to 25 kids, they couldn’t prove all of them you see. (Yes i know wiki says 9, but it is 8.)
She had 4 kids of her own, she smothered one of them before they turned 1. Left another out somewhere, and the youngest died of heart failure. The oldest survived his mother, and was shipped off to a state home when his mother was convicted.
Dagmar moved to Copenhagen in 1916, and made a living in caring for children born outside marriage, officially she would find “loving families” in Copenhagen for these children, but in reality, these children only survived a matter of hours in Dagmar’s care. She would smother them, or drown them, and then stuff them in the family masonry heater.
To her this was the perfect goldcalf, because people would pay good money to get rid of children born outside marriage, because abortions were illegal and very dangerous. And to keep a child born outside marriage would cause the poor mother an inevitable social deroute of poverty and shame. So to hand your kid off in anonymity seemed like a good thing to do. And Dagmar the business woman that she was, would even send off letters to the unhappy mothers, telling them how their child found a loving, wonderful family.
Now there was no such thing as an adoption law back then, and so even if it was not exactly a honourable to help people with their “unwanted” children, then it was not illegal, and so neither was it illegal to print advertisement in newspapers with this service. Dagmar demanded 300 DKk (£35) per child. And the Police intel found that she had made a little over 1.200 DKk (£140) a year on her little murder-factory.
And then Karoline Aagesen happened.
In 1920 Karoline lived with her parents, and her two weeks old daughter Sarah. She had no job and Sarah’s father was a waiter, and didn’t think he could provide for the family so therefore he gave Karoline money to adopt the child away. I realise it seems backwards, but yes! Back then you paid people to take your child off you, not the other way around. Karoline saw Dagmar’s advertisement in the newspaper and decided to go see this Overbye woman.
Karoline loved her daughter dearly and was in utter torment when she walked to stairs to Dagmar’s apartment. None of the unhappy mothers was ever allowed inside Dagmar’s apartment though, she would receive the child and the money in the door to the hall.
For the remains of the day, and the entire night, Karoline twisted and turned, wondering if she had done the right thing. And came to the conclusion that she couldn’t live with giving away her beloved daughter. She wanted Sarah back, even if it would cost her money! So she went to see Dagmar Overbye again, and this time, the smiling motherly woman she had met the day before when she took the baby, was gone. Instead Karoline met a wall of anger, and there was absolutely no way that Karoline could get her child back, and then Dagmar slammed the door in Karoline’s face. But Karoline refused to leave, she waited on the stairs till Dagmar had to come outside. Then Dagmar told her that she had given Sarah to a prostitute, but Karoline didn’t believe that story at all.
So Karoline went to the police, and two officers came with her back to Dagmar Overbye’s apartment. There they found little Sarah’s clothes neatly stacked, and when Dagmar still couldn’t come up with a plausible reason for the childs disappearance, she was arrested. At the station she would come with some very fantastic stories, all of them so crazy that the police in the end, decided to go take a look at her apartment. There they found remains of baby bones in her masonry heater. And then she finally confessed.
She said that when a mother had handed off her child to her, she would carefully undress it in the kitchen, so she could sell the clothes in a close by children’s clothing store. And then she would kill the child, either by smothering it, or drowning it. The smallest ones she would then burn in the heater to get rid of the body. I know there is stories going around on the internet that she would burn the children alive, that is just for shock value, and not true. Not that i think this story needs to be more shocking than it already is.
The police couldn’t figure out what her motive could be, apart from greed. And all in all Dagmar would admit to 16 child murders.
The first one was shortly after she had arrived to Copenhagen, and she had looked after a kid named Harry. A part of her job had been taking the child out on walks in the park, and one day she had been fed up with Harry’s crying, and so she had choked him and tossed the little body on the city dump. To Harry’s parents she had said that she had been attacked by two men whom had taken the child. And even if she couldn’t offer a very good description of said men, the police just abandoned the case.
She also admitted to before she came to Copenhagen, “setting her child out” As it was called back then, this would be basically just leaving the child in a forest or somewhere unpopulated, letting the elements and wildlife do the rest.
All in all she was tried and found guilty on 8 accounts of murder. But this case had much bigger consequences. It was no longer possible for the Danish population to ignore the fact that a lot of the children born outside marriage, mysteriously disappeared, and their mothers were left to a miserable existence. So Dagmar’s case meant that there was build “mother-housing” for the young mothers, and that there was made a law about supervision in regards to adoption and foster parents.
Dagmar herself did get the death penalty, but since we didn’t really have capital punishment, then it was transformed into life in prison, and when they said that, back then. It meant LIFE in prison (not just 16 years as now). She died in 1929, 42 years old, after serving the last years of her life in a maximum security mental ward for the criminally insane.