In June 1934 in Brighton, England a steamer trunk was found in King's Cross railway station. It contained a woman's torso and legs. The arms and head were missing. Scotland Yard reached out to the public in trying to identify the victim. In the United States, Agnes C. Tufverson, 43, had married a former Czech officer six months before. She disappeared, and the last heard from her was when she visited London. Her family wondered if it was her body that had been found.
Miss Agnes C. Tufverson, a lawyer married Capt. Ivan Ivanovich Poderzaj (AKA Poderjay) in December 1933. She sailed for a honeymoon in Europe, and her sister Olive received a cablegram from her in London. She withdrew $25,000 to take with her on the trip.
Her sister's letters remained unanswered. Later she found out the couple did not sail on the date and ship they were supposed to leave on. Two days her husband sailed on Dec. 22nd for an unknown destination as a single man.
Agnes' family reached out to Scotland Yard in helping find her and the missing Captain Poderzaj.
On June 12, 1934 they located the bridegroom in Vienna with his wife, Marguerite Ferrand. When questioned by police he denied the engagement and marriage to Agnes, despite records at the Little Church Around the Corner in New York which recorded their marriage on December 4, 1933.
New York police asked the Austrian police to hold Ivan Poderjay on a charge of bigamy, and later he admitted to the marriage.
He denied being married to Marguerite Ferrand, a wealthy French woman, who he was found to be living with in a luxurious apartment in Hinterstrasse (Austria).
He told police he had met Agnes the previous summer in England and she had complained of an unhappy love affair and was contemplating suicide. He said she had proposed to him in order to escape the stigma of being considered a spinster, and that he had consented to the marriage in order to "rehabilitate her". According to him she also complained that she had given up her happiness in order to bring up her three younger sisters after their mother died while giving birth to the youngest one.
Scotland Yard was brought into the investigation when it was found that Poderjay had married a London girl in March 1933 which turned out to be the French woman Marguerite Ferrand.
The case became more mysterious when in mid-June, Scotland Yard found that Capt. Frederick Dawey a British Army officer who Mlle. Ferrand had lived with in London, had mysteriously disappeared after she left him for Poderjay. They never found him, but did not pursue finding out about his whereabouts claiming that he might have had his own reasons for disappearing.
It also came to the attention of the police that when Poderjay sailed alone part of his baggage was a trunk so large it caused comment among the crew, and that he rarely left his luggage unattended. Later in the investigation, Agnes sister believed that he disposed of her body by throwing it out the porthole once the ship was out at sea.
New York police were still trying to determine whether all of the 4 trunks and 6 handbags Poderjay took were removed from the vessel at Southampton.
It was established that he had cabled his bride's relatives from London saying they were about to embark on a honeymoon cruise to India.
In the meantime, Austria would not extradite Poderjay just on a charge of bigamy.
Then another woman, Zeifka Bradaritch living in Belgrade, claimed she was married to Poderjay and that he had absconded in 1929 after looting her safe deposit box of 450,000 dinars.
It was then that a woman's dismembered body was found in a Brighton train station. It was estimated the woman was about 40 years old. The body was placed between two pieces of plywood and then wrapped in stiff brown paper. The spaces between it and the trunk were stuffed with wool, which accounted for the fact that no moisture reached the outside of the trunk. The body bore no wounds only those when the head, arms and legs were severed with a saw. The doctors estimated she had been dead for about 3 weeks. There were no records of any women missing from the area.
The Vienna police found a green wardrobe trunk containing clothes belonging to Agnes Tufverson and a brief case marked with her name. Susanne Ferrand was immediately arrested after admitting she knew these articles belong to Agnes Tufverson.
Among the things discovered in the apartment was a brief case that Agnes' sister Olive claimed had never been out of her sister's hands. She said, "if she were alive it would be with her."
By June 20, Scotland Yard discounted the theory the body in the trunk belonged to Agnes. It did not have scars that matched a surgery she had in 1928, and also the woman was approximately five months pregnant.
The Vienna authorities notified New York police that they could not hold Poderjay indefinitely without a charge against him, and they were now considering an indictment against him for grand larceny.
In an effort to locate Agnes, New York police theorized that she had been slain and buried secretly, and they directed inquiries into any recent burials which may have been done under unusual circumstances.
The police also discovered that while Poderjay romanced Agnes he was also pursuing Helen Vogel, a widowed concert violinist who repulsed him. She described him as a "male vamp".
Letters were discovered where Agnes shortly after her marriage resigned as a member of the New York County Lawyers' Association which she had held for 7 years because she was leaving shortly for London where she expected to reside indefinitely, even though she eventually planned to return to New York. These letters were critical when Poderjay later said that Agnes had changed her identity and was living in Canada.
As if things weren't murky enough, Leopold Bestermann, attorney for Susanne Ferrand claimed that he was a spy that had once belonged to the Yugoslavian Intelligence Service.
On June 22, Vienna police discovered letters between Poderjay to Ferrand describing his love affair with Agnes. He would address Ferrand as "Mistress" and would sign himself as "Slave". They found evidence that Capt. Poderjay engaged in weird practices, involving the infliction of pain. In his apartment they found a "sadistic room" furnished with strange implements and decorated with erotic pictures and photographs
Now the Yugoslavian police wanted to question Poderjay about a woman he was supposed to have known who disappeared in 1919.
It came to the police's attention that Poderjay sent a trunk filled with dresses to a sister in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, however she claimed that she had sold all of the contents.
Then a woman named Ruth Hall a shop clerk told police that the missing woman had brought a blue dress to her shop for cleaning, and in the meantime NY Mayor Fiorello LaGuarda was asked to decide if Poderjay should be extradited to New York from Vienna to face charges linking him to the disappearance of Agnes Tufverson.
As if things weren't convoluted enough, enter Marion French a college roommate of Agnes. Three of them shared a "room" in a place in Morningside Heights near Columbia in New York City back in 1921. She said, "When I knew her, Agnes seemed to have a dual personality. At times she affected a very mannish appearance by wearing a broadcloth tailored suit and a severe felt hat. Then at other times she had her hair curled and dressed very feminine." She believed that Poderjay had won Agnes by showing her kindness at a time when failing health and poor eyesight made her most unhappy.
By June 29, Poderjay admitted to he deserted from the French Foreign Legion in 1930. This tip came from Copenhagen police who said a woman he had once been engaged to, refused to marry him when she learned he already had a wife in Belgrade.
The days marched forward and in July it came to light that before her marriage to Poderjay, Agnes had a 5 year relationship with a married businessman who returned to his wife, and that she threatened to commit suicide. She had been so upset that her friends advised her to take a voyage to forget the heartbreak. It was on this trip that she met Poderjay.
By July 7th, since American authorities had taken no action to press changes Viennese police planned to release Poderjay and Ferrand.
In mid-July the body of Violet Kaye was found in an apartment on Kemp Street, Brighton stuffed in a trunk. Inside the trunk was also the missing head and arms of the body found in the train station, linking the bodies and establishing that both crimes were committed by the same person. Violet Kaye was killed by hammer blows on the back of the head, and she had been dead longer than the body found in the station.
In September Austria declined the demand from the United States for Poderjay's extradition claiming that perjury did not constitute an extraditable offense. Eventually they did turn him over when he was charged with bigamy.
March 1935, Poderjay was found guilty of bigamy in a NY court and sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in Sing Sing Prison. In July 1938, he lost an eye during a fight with another prisoner. He was released in Jan. 1940, and returned to live with Marguerite in Belgrade.
The mystery of Agnes' disappearance has never been solved.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer