The story of the woman considered as one of the most sadistic ones from Spain entwines with the one of the “Semana Trágica”, the tragic week, in 1909 even though it is possible that this is not the tale of a real killer but maybe just the one of a scapegoat.

During the Semana Trágica it was discovered an under-age brothel managed by the woman, Enriqueta Martí Ripollés, who was fostering relationships with the powerful personalities in the city. Barcelona of the time was deeply different from how it is known today, it was more of a destination for the sex tourism than the beautiful European capital of our time. But the brothel was covered up when a local powerful politician got involved, so Enriqueta was freed.

The inhabitants of Barcelona regretted such a clemency later on though

Madame Martì had a double life: she was a beggar in the daytime and great dame at night, selling to rich clients potions and miraculous unguent, able to cure even from the tuberculosis, as well as a panderer, forcing kidnapped children to prostitute themselves. Furthermore her potions did not have a natural botanical origin but a rather more gory provenience.

During the daytime, dressed of ragged clothes, Mrs Martì was used to roaming around El Barrio Gotico and El Raval, luring children between 3 and 8 years with candies and toys. The young boys and girls would follow her trustful, and the disappearances became more and more common.

in Barcelona there was a rumour of a witch-beggar that was making children disappear

For the historical time this was nothing of primarily importance, hence children disappearances and gossips on alleged witches were kept as a low priority.

Madame Martì kept on kidnapping children up until February 1912 when she took, unwilling, the wrong girl. Teresita Guitart Congost was the daughter of a very much loved man in the city, and the inhabitants of Barcelona rose up against the police so that they would deepen their research on those missing children.

In that moment Enriqueta made a mistake which resulted in being fatal for her

Claudia Elìas, old woman living in the city centre, was convinced to know everyone living in the palace nearby her dwelling. When she saw an unfamiliar face peeping out through the window for a second, the doubt invaded her mind. Could that may be Teresita? or another missing child?Mrs Elìas decided to not take risks and call the police. In that house there was a baby girl who was not from the area, so it was better to check that out.

At number 29 of Calle de Ponent there was something strange, something that the inspectors could not expect whatsoever. Two police agents, guided by the inspector Ribot, burst into the building and found Teresita and another female child that Enriqueta declared to be called Angelita and to be her daughter.

Both were prisoners of that Vampire that that woman was, but the surprises were not over yet

The agents soon discovered a horror room, place in which children were slaughtered to create materials for her cremes; there, inside the house there were pieces of corpse preserved in jars, bones, clotted blood, fat and other pieces raised the dread in the agents.

They started looking in the walls

During the search they also dug the ground

The “Cronica Grafica” newspaper reported the case

The two girls and Claudia Elìas talked about Pepito, companion of imprisonment who they had seen disappear in the horror room. By disobeying the orders of Vampire, the two girls had opened the door, finding a pool of blood. No sign of Pepito but, according to the tale of the two, from the broth, two boiled little feet were pooping out on that night, and it was not hard to believe where those could come from.

The reconstruction of the officers did not leave space to interpretations: Enriqueta was kidnapping children on the street, she would set them for the world of prostitution with the powerful men of the city, they she would kill them, perhaps because they had made a client unhappy. The corpses could not be thrown away, they were useful for miraculous  potions and unguents, sold often to the same rich men asking for her under-age sexual performance service.

Below: Teresita back with her parents

Below: The recovery of Angelita

Below: Madame Ripolles during the arrest

Below: her with a veil over her face during the arrest

The woman underwent a trial then was sentenced to death, but she spent her last day on the 13th May 1913 in her cell, probably killed by her cellmates once she escaped the lynching from her countrymen thanks to the police. The hypothesis on the total of her victims are several, and they go from 40 children, declared by the newspapers, to 11, more realistic number. The last theory, the one of the researcher and historian Elsa Plaza, imagine Enriqueta as innocent from any killing.

Was the Vampire of Barcelona only a scapegoat?

The writer Jordi Corominas in his “Barcelona 1912” and the historian Elsa Plaza in her book “El cielo bajo los pies” (the sky under the feet) supported this theory. According to Corominas “Enriqueta was not a killer, but a paradigm of a poor and desperate Barcelona, impossible to identify as the monster depicted by the press. The woman was marked by an event which had touched her from close: the death of her own child of just 10 months due to malnutrition. Disturbed by the situation and certainly metally ill, the woman kidnapped Teresita in order to find a friend for Angelita, child that she was looking after, daughter of her own sister, died in childbirth.

According to the writer, the presence of unguents was never confirmed or demonstrated, and the bones found in the house were coming from a 25 years old body, probably utilised as amulets. As for the blood and the remains contained inside the jars they were supposedly of animal origin.

On the same wavelength even Mrs Plaza supported that:

“no one thought that the blood found in the apartment was Enriqueta’s who suffered from uterine cancer”

Barcelona in that period was full of houses utilised for under-age prostitution, when often rich powerful people from all over Europe were going. In the city there were multiple studios for the realisation of pedo-pornographic pictures, sold then in Europe and in the Americas.

At the same time of the arrest of Enriqueta a brother on the Botella Ramblas was closed, through which, according to the historian, there was an actual traffic of under-aged human beings that were leaving from Barcelona city heaving to any type of location in the world.

Was really Madame Ripolles the sacrificial victim who justified the whole horror taking place in the city of Barcelona, including the kidnapping of children sent either to prostitute themselves or abroad, dead at dawn of May 1913?

The hypothesis of Corominas and Plaza are all to be confirmed, and imply that the two children, Teresita and Angelita, had lied about Pepito, that therefore had vanished into thin air. But perhaps, imagining that Madame Ripolles had been used to justify the many disappearances that she was not guilty of is not a very unlikely theory to consider. Is it?

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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