Some say he threw 70 people from the Águas Livres Aqueduct, that drinking and addiction led him to commit grotesque assaults or that he was simply crazy. Either way, “Pancada” became history as one of the greatest criminals in Lisbon in the 19th century.
Diogo Alves was born in Galicia, Spain, in 1810. Some time later, he went to try his life in Lisbon, where he started to commit crimes, nobody knows why. Historians say he was illiterate and rude.
“Pancada”, one of the nicknames attributed to Diogo Alves, started out as a servant, but came to the position of groom, treating horses in several manor houses and gaining the trust of his bosses, who even lent him large amounts of money. His companion Gertrudes Maria, the “Parreirinha”, with the help of the game, betting on horse racing and alcohol, guided the “Pancada” in less noble ways.
In 1836, Diogo started to kill. Its place of action was the Aqueduto das Águas Livres, an aqueduct built in the 18th century and which is 58 km long – with the highest point being 65 m high. The victims were travelers, traders and students who used a narrow path at the top of the aqueduct as a shortcut to the center of Lisbon
Diogo surprised the victims, stole their belongings and killed them, throwing them from the top of the aqueduct. Since they were poor people, the police made no effort to investigate, and deaths were often treated as suicides.
It is believed that Diogo Alves threw the individuals he robbed from the galleries of Aqueduto das Águas Livres, so that they could not report him. The number of victims is uncertain, since these repeated events were associated with a wave of suicides; however, it is thought to have exceeded 70 deaths. The aqueduct, after so many crimes to be solved, was closed to traffic, in 1837 and for several decades. That is why, since then, the Galician has not killed anyone else in the aqueduct. Helped by his “gang” he continued to rob and kill people, like the massacre committed in the family of a well-known doctor of the time Pedro de Andrade. The suspect was handed over to the authorities three years later by someone from his own group and an investigation was never opened against him for the deaths in the Alcântara valley.
Alves was sentenced to death for the massacre of the doctor’s family and beheaded in February 1841, at Cais do Tojo in Lisbon, being one of the last to whom the death penalty was applied in Portugal.
After being hanged, the criminal’s head was handed over to prestigious doctors of the time, from the Medical-Surgical School. The researchers wanted to study what was hidden behind that coldness and cruelty. Diogo Alves’ head was kept in perfect condition thanks to formaldehyde.
The head was kept at the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon.