Known variously as the Banat Witch or the Witch of Vladimirovac, but best known as Baba Anujka, this Yugoslavian serial killer was finally apprehended in 1928. She is believed to have poisoned at least 50 victims, and her tally could well be at least 100 more than that. Most notably, she was 90 years old at the time of her arrest, and the bulk of her killings appear to have been carried out while during her old age.
While details of her early life are scant, Ana di Pištonja is believed to have been born in Romania in 1838. In her teens, her family moved to Vladimirovac, a village in modern-day Serbia. Her family were wealthy and she received an expensive private education, but her life was derailed when, at the age of 20, she entered into a brief affair with an Austrian army officer, who shortly after abandoned her (although not before infecting her with syphilis). While she later married a much older man and had 11 children, all but one of which died as children, the incident instilled in her a deep-seated resentment of men.
After the death of her husband following 20 years of marriage, Anujka converted part of their home into a laboratory, becoming a herbalist that provided a range of services to local women. Her specialisation became love potions, sold to women with marital problems to restore their husband’s desire for them. However, once secretly administered, the men would sicken and die within a week. In reality, the love potions were laced with both arsenic and toxins she derived from local plants. By the time she was finally apprehended, at least 50 and as many as 150 men had been killed by her concoctions.
Her downfall came through one of her regular clients, a woman named Stana Momirov who had previously killed her husband with one of Anujka’s love potions, as well as frequently purchasing herbal remedies from her. When Momirov remarried and a rich relative of her new husband died in similar circumstances she was arrested and questioned, implicating Anujka in the two killings.
A second death occurred nearly a year later, after Anujka sold a woman a potion with which to murder her husband’s father. After the man’s 16-year-old granddaughter was duped into administering the poison, the man fell ill and died. Nearly 18 months later Anujka was arrested, along with six others involved in the two killings. Her co-defendants turned the blame on her, claiming that they never knew the potions were poison and that they believed the deaths had been caused by Anujka’s supernatural powers. In response, Anujka denied ever selling them potions of any kind, insisting the entire case was an attempt to shift the blame onto her.
Ultimately, Anujka was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her role in the two murders. She was released after serving eight years on compassionate grounds, dying two years later at the age of 100.