Leonarda Cianciulli – The Soap Maker of Correggio
Leonarda Cianciulli was an Italian serial killer. Better known as the “Soap-Maker of Correggio”, she murdered three women in Correggio between 1939 and 1940, and turned their bodies into soap and teacakes.
Having been born the child of a rape, she led a sad childhood with a hateful mother. She attempted suicide twice. In 1914, she married a registry office clerk, Raffaele Pansardi, and moved to Lariano in Alta Irpinia. Their home was destroyed by an earthquake in 1930, and they moved once more, this time to Correggio, where Leonarda opened a small shop and became very popular as a nice, gentle woman, a doting mother and a nice neighbour. In 1939, Cianciulli heard that her eldest son, Giuseppe, was to join the Italian army in preparation for World War II. Giuseppe was her favourite child, and she was determined to protect him at all costs. She came to the conclusion that his safety required human sacrifices. She found her victims in three middle-aged women, all neighbours. After murdering her first victim with an axe she got rid of the body in this way (her own words):
“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”
Cianciulli’s second victim was killed in exactly the same manner. Her final victim, opera singer Virginia Cacioppo was killed in the same way but with one twist:
“She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”
Cianciulli was caught due to an eyewitness and found guilty of murder. She was sentenced to thirty years in jail where she died of a brain haemorrhage.