Fatal Women: 4 of History’s Most Ruthless Female Criminals


Bonnie Parker, Source: mirror.co.uk  

After looking through my past blog posts, it hit me – most of the criminals mentioned are men. Well, that doesn’t seem fair. Granted, most criminals are men (sorry, guys.) Still, there certainly has been some notoriously ruthless females throughout modern history.

These dangerous women range from highly-trained assassins to serial killers. But, regardless of their forte, there’s one thing to keep in mind – you’d never want to encounter any of these ladies alone in a dark alley.

Here’s four of modern history’s scariest women.

La Tigresa (1980s)

Known for her sexual prowess and cunning tactics, Idoia Lopez Riano (aka “the tigress”) is a former high-ranking commando for the violent Basque Separatist Organization. La Tigresa is credited with the assassination of 23 people in Spain during a particularly volatile period of the Basque independence campaign.

Responsible for a Madrid explosion that killed 12 Civil Guards in 1986, La Tigresa has also been held accountable for sporadic acts of violence, including gunning down individual police officers and soldiers.

La Tigresa was eventually brought to justice after being caught hiding in France. The Spanish government sentenced her to 1,500 years in prison. La Tigresa’s extreme prison sentence was more symbolic than practical, in that Spanish law only permits a 30-year maximum prison sentence. While in prison, this revolutionary assassin renounced violence and apologized for her heinous crimes.

After renouncing her crimes, La Tigresa was kicked out of the terrorist organization. Years later, she was released early from prison. 

Maria Swanenburg (late 1800s)

Maria Swanengburg was a Dutch serial killer, who spent the better part of her life caring for children and the ill. Nicknamed Goede Mie (“good me”), Swanenburg lived in a poor section of the historical city of Leiden in Holland. She earned her income by taking care of those who were too young, sick or old to handle their own affairs.

After years of tending to the feeble, Swanenburg became fed up with her poverty-stricken lifestyle. So, she began to use arsenic to poison those under her care. Before killing her sickly victims, Swanenburg would open insurance policies for her prey under the seemingly legitimate pretext that the money was intended to cover the inevitable funeral costs. After the victims perished, she would keep all the insurance proceeds.

As time passed, Swanenburg’s greed became insatiable. Instead of poisoning the one person under her care, she would murder entire families, and then collect their inheritance. Swanenburg was eventually caught attempting to poison a family for which she worked. Although charged with 90 murders, Swanenburg was only convicted for her final three killings. Thirty-two years after being arrested, the Dutch killer died in prison.


Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com.

Dagmar Overbye (early 1900s)

Responsible for the death of approximately 25 children (including her own), Dagmar Overbye is an example of pure evil. Operating an unofficial adoption agency, this Danish serial killer posed as a foster mother to children born outside of marriage.

At a time in history when it was considered shameful to birth a baby out of wedlock, Overbye exploited society’s irrational prejudices by running a so-called ‘babyfarm.’ Essentially, the babies under her care were unwanted by their parents, which allowed Overbye to carry out her sinister actions unchecked.

During a seven-year period, Overbye killed 25 children by either strangling, drowning or burning them. She was a pure monster, who either cremated, buried or hid the bodies of her victims. After a police report was filed concerning a missing child, an investigation was opened that led to Overbye’s arrest. Due to lack of sufficient evidence for all the murders she committed, Overbye was convicted for the deaths of nine children (despite killing many more.)

Although she was initially sentenced to death, her punishment was eventually reduced to life imprisonment. Many believe that the full extent of Overbye’s actions were downplayed by the Danish government, which has been accused of a massive cover-up to save face. To that end, Overbye’s horrific acts led to a massive overhaul within the Danish government concerning oversight of those responsible for taking care of children.

Kim Hyun-hui (1980s)

Born and raised in the authoritarian state of North Korea, Kim Hyun-hui lived a relatively “privileged” life as the daughter of a diplomat. Though she spent most of her life in the rogue nation, Hyun-hui’s family resided in Cuba for a short time.

Hyun-hui was a trained actress, who starred in North Korea’s first technicolor film. But, her acting career was halted, after being recruited by the government to work as a state assassin. Hyun-hui’s years of brainwashing by the North Korean government led her to commit a heinous act of violence. In 1987, she was responsible for the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, which led to the death of 115 people.

Eventually, Hyun-hui was caught and sentenced to death by the South Koreans. And, as expected, North Korea quickly denied her existence, claiming Hyun-hui was a fabrication of the South Korean government.

Although she was responsible for killing over 100 people, Hyun-hui’s death sentence was pardoned in exchange for intelligence concerning North Korea. Currently, she resides in an undisclosed location in South Korea with her two children and husband (who was the South Korean agent responsible for handling her case).

I know there are many we’ve seen on TV or the Internet. Are there any other dangerous women who you believe should be included on this list of nefarious psychopaths?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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