Ion Rimaru is a murderer like no other – vampirism, cannibalism, necrophilia – taking after his serial killer father.
People have often questioned what exactly makes a killer. Is it nature or nurture: heredity or upbringing? This case of Ion Rimaru, dubbed the Vampire of Bucharest and the Wolf Man, may reveal that it’s actually both. Interestingly, both Ion and his father, Florea Rimaru, were extremely brutal serial murderers in their own times.
I hit another woman. Several times, without being able to specify how many shots I probably gave two or three strokes, then took her, dragging her in the yard of a house, where we found the gate open. I sat her down on the concrete, I undressed her, tearing her clothes or cutting them with a knife, then I raped her. During intercourse I bit the woman chest.Ion Rimaru - translation of court transcript
Ion Rimaru’s animalistic murder spree from 1970-1971 in Romania was so notorious that innocent namesakes legally altered their surnames rather than have any association with Rimaru. Bucharest was on high alert during that year when the so-called Vampire of Bucharest of the blonde’s killer was on the loose. Rimaru’s final tally entered into double figures, with four murders from the umpteen attacks on women. Each time, his method was identical and brutal to the extreme. Ion used an axe and a metal rod to mutilate the women. He bit flesh off of all his victims repeatedly, and authorities believe that he ate the parts. Some victims who survived also testified that Ion poked holes in them and drank their blood.
Seeds of Evil
Little did anyone know that Ion’s father, Florea Rimaru, had committed four murders in 1944, two years before Ion was born in October 1946. All the crimes occurred during stormy weather at the victims’ ground floor apartments. Also, they had all been bashed in the head with a blunt weapon. As you will see, the details of these cases will match closely to the crimes of Ion Rimaru. Florea left behind shoe and fingerprints at his crime scenes, however, authorities never caught him. Those pieces of evidence would later reveal his guilt, but not until it was too late to punish him.
Ion’s father planted the seeds for his child’s brutality early in Ion’s life. As the eldest child, Ion witnessed his father’s abuse of his mother on a daily basis. Florea Rimaru finally left and moved to Bucharest, but he left behind a raging misfit that courted trouble.
Troubled Ion Rimaru
Before his conviction of aggravated theft when he was 18, Ion had already forged a reputation for himself. Forced to repeat the ninth grade, it was discovered that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with his teacher’s underage daughter. Despite all of this though, Ion passed his formal education and acquired passing grades.
In 1966, a grade of 5.33 out of ten was good enough to see Ion secure a place at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University. One of the professors there noticed that Ion was shy and semi-literate with a limited vocabulary and not many interests. These are facts that might explain why he had to repeated his second and third years of study. Roommates also noticed that he tended to behave oddly and they preferred to ignore him whenever possible. According to one other student, Rimaru opted to patrol the dormitory outside a female’s room one night rather than get some sleep. On top of these bizarre behaviors, a year after entering university, doctors diagnosed Ion with esophageal spasms – a reactive nervous syndrome – and other mental problems.
The Butcher of Bucharest Surfaces
In the few months either side of Christmas 1970, a bizarre crime wave shocked the city of Bucharest. At the time, nobody knew who ventured out late at night with an axe, an iron bar, a hammer, and a knife to target lone restaurant staff on their way home from work. All of these attacks took place in the early hours of the morning. Each time, the weather was extreme. This paralleled Ion’s father’s crimes. Mild and calm nights seemed to keep the criminals at bay.
As a direct result of these attacks, the women of Bucharest were fearing for the lives. They would only go out after 9 pm in the company of chaperones, either large groups of women or in the company of a trusted man. The lack of details issued by the investigating officers didn’t help ease any fears. If anything, withholding crucial information only acted as fuel that sparked wild imaginations.
Only after Ion committed several crimes did police officers realise that they were the work of the same individual. The investigation lasted a year and survivors did help with the arrest of Rimaru in May 1971. Being just one of the estimated 2500 suspects interviewed, the decisive factor in his arrest was a medical diagnosis sheet that investigators found at the scene of a murder.
Police Find the Butcher of Bucharest
On March 4, 1971, six doctors all came to the conclusion that Ion suffered from periodic bouts of epilepsy. A note from one of the doctors, Octavian Ieniste, was discovered beneath the brutalised body of Mihaela Ursu. Clutched between her fingers was a strand of hair that was all investigators needed to identify the man responsible. However, this identification came too late to prevent additional attacks. Rimaru no longer targeted waitresses. He was willing and more than able to target any woman, whether they were alone or not.
Rimaru’s reign of terror came to an end when the police investigating the medical note were in the midst of a process of elimination for all of that particular doctor’s patients. Rimaru was not at his dorm room when police arrived, but they went in and searched the premises. During this search, Rimaru returned with his arsenal of weapons inside a bag. Forensic investigation matched the hair at the crime scene to Ion’s. Hence, they had an open and shut case.
Crimes of a Madman
Police charged Rimaru with 23 violent crimes. The worst of these included:
8 April 1970 – The premeditated murder of Elena Oprea. A neighbour interrupted the attack and forced him to flee. No rape took place this time.
1 June 1970 – Rimaru beat Florica Marcu unconscious in front of her home. He took her to the Sfânta Vineri cemetery where he pushed her off a fence, raped her and stabbed her. Ion did drink some of her blood. A truck driver saved her life.
19 July 1970 – Olga Bărăitaru became Rimaru’s third victim after he raped her. During the attempt on her life, she also sustained serious injury from an aggravated theft.
15 February 1971 – Just like Olga, Gheorghita Sfetcu was lucky to survive Ion’s attack.
17 February 1971 – 48 hours after Gheorghita narrowly survived an assault, Rimaru struck again. Elisabeta Florea also escaped with her life.
4 March 1971 – Fănica Ilie found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong man and paid the ultimate price.
8 April 1971 – This is perhaps the most sadistic of all of his crimes to date. The unfortunate Gheorghita Popa suffered 48 stab wounds to her head, chest and limbs. Subsequently, he stamped on her ribs and bit her corpse.
1 May 1971 – Stana Saracin managed to fend off a sexual assault.
4/5 May 1971 – Rimaru raped and murdered Mihaela Ursu. Someone interrupted him in the middle of this crime and he managed to escape. However, his bloodlust was unsatisfied so he went on the hunt. Two hours later, he managed to find Maria Iordache and he inflicted a terrible assault upon her. Despite being repeatedly battered with an iron bar, she somehow managed to escape his clutches, forcing Rimaru to drop the blunt instrument.
6/7 May 1971 – Rimaru tried to add two more murders to his catalogue of horrendous crimes. Both Viorica Tatu and Elena Buluci survived their encounters with Rimaru.
Investigators had initiated Operation Vulture and had managed to draw on the services of 6,000 members of law-enforcement agencies, 100 cars, 40 motorcycles and various members of the public from many walks of life. Even with this impressive dragnet scouring the streets of Bucharest, Rimaru managed to commit one more murder and scores of frenzied attacks before finally being caught.
Once he was arrested, Rimaru took the right to remain silent … literally. In custody he did little more than stare into space without any apparent emotion. This was a far cry from the ferocious and cruel sadist that had scared an entire city witless for close to an entire year. Women, especially, began to feel a little safer with Rimaru safely behind bars. The threat of being attacked or mauled while alive, or beaten and raped after death by a misogynistic lunatic meant that urban life could begin to return to normal.
Since he was not volunteering any additional information, the police plotted a strategy of placing an undercover officer in with him in order to prise a confession from him. The undercover officer posed as a thief and managed to get a confession for over 20 violent crimes after two months of painstaking work. However, they only charged Rimaru with three murders.
At first, Rimaru tried to convince the authorities that he was not responsible on the grounds of insanity. He claimed he didn’t realise that the women involved would suffer or die. However, he did actually admit to the charges. Police asked him to visit the scenes of his atrocious crimes. Additionally, surviving witnesses participated in line-ups, and they would tremble visibly when they made eye contact with Ion.
Authorities generally concluded that comments made by his own father, Florea, had a large part to play in the transformation from innocent child to insane monster. It is possible that Florea coached or counseled Ion, but there is no evidence of this. While the initial manhunt was taking place for Ion, police arrested Florea three times. However, this was in connection to Ion’s crimes, rather than his own. Each time though, they released him because Romanian law would not allow close family members to testify against each other.
Ion Rimaru’s trial hinged largely on the insanity defense. Public attention to the trial was immense, and the proceedings took a dramatic turn when Rimaru pleaded insanity. Although Rimaru thought he had convinced officials of his mental instability, a report stated otherwise. Mental illness did not cloud Rimaru’s judgment, and he knew what he was doing all along. Rimaru changed his plea and subsequently refused to answer any questions from that point onwards.
Guilty in the Court of Law
The judge sentenced Ion Rimaru to death by firing squad and all his appeals failed. So, on October 23, 1971, officers took Ion to his place of execution. Three of the officers had to physically move him. After they tied him to the stake, Rimaru tried to bite off his own clothes. He twisted himself around the pole in a futile effort to avoid punishment. Rimaru begged for his own father to come and witness the execution as he said, ‘he was the only one who was guilty’. The firing squad carried out the sentence. Ion Rimaru lies in the town cemetery in an unmarked grave.
Oddly, exactly one year to the day after the execution of Ion Rimaru, Florea Rimaru officially “fell” off a train. However, other Romanian sources say that “security” pushed him out. Florea died that day. Followup forensic tests determined that his shoe size, fingerprints, and height all matched the evidence and testimony from the serial murders of 1944.
“Dr. Butoi, the psychologist, theorizes that a gene predisposing one to violent crimes was transmitted from father to son, as the murders happened under remarkably similar circumstances” (Wikipedia, Ion Rimaru).