It’s normal, in every culture, than if children misbehave, they are told the bogeyman will get them. But not in Spain, where they’re threatened with Enriqueta Martí i Ripollés the ‘Vampire of Barcelona’, a psychopath woman who would kidnap children, offer them to paedophiles and then kill them, using their remains to make cosmetics and beauty product.
The story of one of the most sadistic women in Spain is intertwined with that of the “Semana Tragica” in Barcelona, in 1909. During that week a brothel was discovered by a self-styled woman, Enriqueta Martí Ripollés, who intertwined relations with the powerful of the city. The Barcelona of that time was very different from what we know today, and it looked more like a destination for sexual tourism than the beautiful European touristic city of today. Enriqueta Martì lived a double life, which led her to appear as a beggar by day and a great lady at night, when she sold to rich and wealthy clients potions and miraculous ointments, able to cure even tuberculosis, and naturally operated as a prostitute, making prostitute also the kidnapped children. The ointments did not come from the plants, but they had a much more bloody origin. Very little is known about Enriqueta’s life before moving to Barcelona, in the early 1900s. It was known she was a very beautiful woman, and that she worked in several upper-class houses as a serving girl. It didn’t take her long to realise that she could make more money from her looks than as a normal worker, and so went into prostitution. Her time as a prostitute also showed her the darker, seedier side of human nature, ans acting on the requests of her clients, she rented out a nice apartment and opened her own brothel in 1909. But her brothel was for the paedophiles of Barcelona, was full of children aged from five to fifteen, and was entirely for the richest and fully depraved men of Barcelona. Once their usage was up, in regards to sick perverts sexual flavours, the children would be killed. During the day, she dressed with rags, and wandered the streets of the city, especially between “El Barrio Gotico” and “El Raval”, luring children between 3 and 8 years with lollies, candy and toys. The little ones followed her with happiness, and the disappearances became more and more frequent. The local press of that time wrote these words: “In Barcelona it is rumored that a witch / beggar makes children disappear”, but times were not easy, and the people had more to worry with than the disappearance of children and rumors about witches.
Enriqueta Martì will continue to kidnap children until 10 February 1912, when she confiscated the wrong girl, Teresita Guitart Congost, the daughter of a much loved man in the city. The little girl was in the city of Barcelona when she met a beggar woman, that promised her many lollies if she went with her, and of course she took the lady’s hand and started walking. When, the little girl realized that she was walking further and further away from her home and she started to protest, the beggar woman has taken a black cloth which she tied around Teresita’s head, and carried her until the destination, an apartment, with another little girl. The beggar woman cut Teresita’s hair, told her she didn’t have the parents, that she was to call her ‘stepmother’, and changed her name to Felicidad.
For the next few weeks the beggar woman would go out during the day and would leave Teresita in the house with Angelita, the other little girl. In the apartment there were rooms they were not allowed to enter, but when they decided to enter, they found a sack full of children’s clothing, covered in blood and also a big knife, covered in blood too. And what happened when Teresita looked out to the window?
Claudia Elias, an old woman who lived in the center of Barcelona, and who knows everyone lived in the buildings near her home, when sees an unknown face appear at the window only for a few moments, warns the police. Teresita’s photograph had been in the newspaper every day since her disappearance, and when she saw her in the window, she recognised her. An excuse was found to raid the Enriqueta’s house (a dispute over chickens no less), it was the 27th Februar of the same year, and in fact, at 29 Calle de Ponent there is something strange hidden, something that the inspectors do not even imagine. Two police officers in Barcelona, commanded by Inspector Ribot, break into the building and find Teresita and another child, whom Enriqueta claims to call herself Angelita and be her own daughter. The agents entered in a room of horrors, in which the children were killed for use as a material to create creams, and inside the house there were pieces of corpse stored in jars for later use. Bones, coagulated blood, fat and parts preserved in full, with the horror of the three police officers. It was Angelita who had the most shocking story to tell. She told of how there was once a five year old boy named Pepito who also lived there. Pepito, was disappear into the room “of horrors.” Disobeying orders of the “Vampire”, the two girls had opened the room, while finding a pool of blood, without traces of Pepito. In the evening, for dinner, two boiled legs emerged from the broth, of which it is not difficult to imagine the origin.
Enriqueta kidnapped the children in the street, made them prostitute with the wealthiest men in the city and then killed them, perhaps for having dissatisfied a client or for disobeying them. The corpses were not to be thrown away, but they were used to prepare “miraculous” potions and ointments often sold to the same rich people who demanded the sexual services of the children. During the investigation, it was discovered that Enriqueta had several apartments in Barcelona, all for different uses. One in particular was used as her execution chamber, and there was remains everywhere, jars of body parts, hair, blood and fat. In another apartment, in the most luxurious suburbs, there was where her brothel. During a raid of all of her apartments, the police found at least ten bodies, prepared perfectly for their cosmetic purposes. They also found ancient books made as parchment which had handwritten the recipes for her potions, writed with elegant calligraphy, and letters and notes with a list of names of very important figures in Barcelona at the time, probably clients of Enriqueta.
For her crimes, Enriqueta was nicknamed “the Vampire of Barcelona”. The woman was imprisoned while the investigators discovered more and more evidence against her, and then was tried and sentenced to death, but was found already dead in her cell on May 13, 1913, probably killed by her companions. She was buried in an anonym grave in Cementerio del Sudoeste.
But is this really all true, or was the Vampire of Barcelona a scapegoat, as someone claims? For example, a Spanish writer, Jordi Corominas, author of “Barcellona 1912″, said:
“Enriqueta was not a murderer but a paradigm of a poor and desperate Barcelona, not identifiable with the monster that was painted by the press. The woman was actually marked by an event that had upset her life: the death of her son just 10 months because of malnutrition. Disturbed by the situation, and certainly mentally ill, she kidnapped Teresita to look for a friend to Angelita, the child she cared for, daughter of her sister who died in childbirth.”
According to the writer, the presence of the ointments was never proven, and the bones found in the apartment were of a 25-year-old person, probably used as amulets, and blood and remnants in jars of animal origin.
Moreover, in those days, in Spain, the kidnappings of children were not rare, like the child-prostitution.
The hypotheses are all to be confirmed, and it is also possible that Teresita and Angelita lied about Pepito, which then disappeared into thin air, or perhaps it never existed. But, perhaps, to think that Enriqueta Marti Ripolles was used to explain also numerous disappearances not imputable to her is not such a shot in the dark……