Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Crimes of Bela Kiss

The Monster of Cinkota

Nagy contacted the police departments in every place that he found a woman who had corresponded with Bela Kiss. Eventually, he felt certain that he understood the technique that Kiss used to safely snare his victims. As Nagy had guessed, Kiss did not write any incriminating letters to his victims. Rather, he placed carefully worded advertisements in newspaper matrimonial columns, always requiring information about the woman's financial resources.

When a letter arrived from a not-too-distant woman, Kiss would visit the prospective victim and lavish money and attention on her. At that same time, he would inquire about her relatives. He only concentrated on women who did not have close relatives nearby and who would not be immediately missed if they disappeared.

Katherine Varga
Katherine Varga

Most of the letters that Kiss received after he had initiated a relationship indicated that the woman had sent him money, sometimes everything she had. If he thought there was any chance that she would contact the police, he immediately arranged to eliminate her.

Eventually, Dr. Nagy traced the K.V. initials he had found on a victim's clothing to Madame Katherine Varga, a good-looking, young Budapest widow with considerable means. She had a very profitable dressmaking business, which she sold when she went to be with her prospective husband, Bela Kiss, in Cinkota.

When Katherine Varga disappeared, she had no relatives who would miss her.

Then there was another breakthrough. Nagy had located in Kiss's house some clothing with the name Julianne Paschak stitched in it. One of Nagy's detectives had gone through old court records and found that two women, Julianne Paschak and Elizabeth Komeromi had each sued Bela Kiss for taking their money on the promise of marriage. The suits lapsed when neither woman appeared in court and could not be found.

By that time, Nagy had enough evidence to prove that Kiss had murdered 30 women, but there was still only one woman of the seven victims in the metal containers that had been identified.

Margaret Toth
Margaret Toth

Then one day, two women came to visit Dr. Nagy: Mrs. Stephen Toth and her daughter-in-law. Mrs. Toth told the detective about her daughter Margaret, who had gone to Budapest to work. On one of her visits, Margaret introduced her mother to Bela Kiss who persuaded the mother to give him some money on the promise that he would marry Margaret. But afterwards, Margaret accused Kiss of reneging on his promise. When Mrs. Toth went to Cinkota to confront Kiss, he claimed that he just wanted to delay the marriage and that Margaret had become angry and left for America.

Eventually, Dr. Nagy pieced together what had happened. In 1906, when Margaret Toth came to visit Bela Kiss at his home, he forced her to write a letter to her mother claiming that she could not bear the shame of rejection by Bela Kiss and that she was going to look for a new love in America. After she had written the letter, Kiss strangled her, hid her body in the metal container and mailed the letter to her mother.

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