Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Crimes of Bela Kiss

The Secret Room

Det. Chief Charles Nagy
Det. Chief Charles

Faced with the biggest case of his career, Det. Chief Charles Nagy took some immediate steps. First, he notified the military that Bela Kiss, if he were still on the front, was to be arrested immediately. Within an hour, the orders for the manhunt had reached the army. Next, he detained and interrogated the terrified housekeeper. Then, concerned that Kiss might have had an accomplice, he notified postal and telegraph authorities in the surrounding area that they were to hold up any messages destined for Bela Kiss. News of the gruesome discovery was spreading rapidly throughout Cinkota and would soon hit the newspapers in Budapest. Nagy wanted to be sure that any accomplice could not get a warning to Kiss.

Several facts made the investigation even harder than normal. Thousands of Hungarian soldiers were imprisoned and the army was scattered and disorganized. Worse, the names Bela and Kiss were extremely common Hungarian names. It was likely that there were many, many men in the army named Bela Kiss.

Inside one of the drums, as seen from above, victim's face covered
Inside one of the drums, as seen from
above, victim's face covered

Finally, Dr. Nagy focused on the identity of the victims. The clues from the metal containers were very sparse. Nagy was able to locate the embroidered initials K.V. on one piece of clothing and what he thought was a faint M.T. on a handkerchief.

Inside the house that Mrs. Jakubec had kept immaculate for two years, he found her sitting in the kitchen almost paralyzed with fear. "Please, sir," she begged him, "I know nothing of this terrible thing. I knew Bela Kiss only as a man who was kind to me and paid me well."

She showed Nagy and his detectives Bela Kiss's bedroom which they thoroughly searched but found nothing of relevance to the investigation. Nagy noticed another door that was locked.

"That is the secret room of Bela Kiss," she told Dr. Nagy. "He told me never to enter it and never to let anyone in."

Mrs. Jakubec reached in her apron and pulled out an old-fashioned key to open the locked door. Nagy noticed immediately that the room was lined with bookcases filled with books. The only furniture was a large desk and desk chair.

Inside the desk, Dr. Nagy found a huge volume of correspondence between Kiss and various women. He also found an album with photographs of more than a hundred ladies.

Hen-house in which a body was found
Hen-house in which a body was found

At this point, Dr. Nagy began to worry that the victims might number more than the victims they had already uncovered.

Then Dr. Nagy went back to the hundreds of letters, most of which were filed in some 74 packets so that mail from the same woman was kept together. These women wrote to him after seeing his ad in the newspapers. All wanted marriage. Later it was revealed that Kiss had received 174 marriage proposals. To 74 of these women, he offered marriage and kept up his correspondence with them.

Something else became quite clear as he read the many letters. Bela Kiss was defrauding these women of their savings, in many cases their entire financial resources. Some of the letters went back as far as 1903.

Nagy took a break in his reading to examine the many books in the room. He was amazed to see how many related to poisons and methods of strangulation.

Nagy wondered how it was possible that Kiss could correspond with so many women and bring many of them to his home with nobody becoming suspicious about his intentions.

Surely someone had an inkling of what was going on.

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