book reviews, true crime

Home again, and reviewing Rimaru – Butcher of Bucharest: A Serial Killer in Communist Romania…

We’re baaaaack. We had a pretty easy flight from Copenhagen this morning, and now we’re unpacked and doing laundry. Bill has just come home from a run to the commissary for some fresh food, and in a little while, he’ll go pick up Noyzi. Meanwhile, I have a shit ton of travel blogging to do. Not that many people read my travel blogs, but I do like to write them so I can preserve our adventures.

Before I get started with writing the tale of our epic Nordic trip, I would like to review a book I just finished reading a day or so ago. I don’t know how interesting my review of Rimaru – Butcher of Bucharest: A Serial Killer in Communist Romania will be to most of my regular readers. Nevertheless, I do like to review any book I read. Sometimes people’s interests surprise me.

So, how did I come to read a book about a serial killer in communist Romania? I read it because one of the authors is┬áStejarel Olaru, who is also a co-author of another book I recently read and reviewed titled Nadia Comaneci ad the Secret Police: A Cold War Escape. I find communist Romania’s history fascinating, plus I enjoy following women’s gymnastics. While I don’t remember thinking Stejarel Olaru’s co-authored book about Nadia Comaneci was that amazing, I was intrigued enough by it to read another book Olaru had a hand in writing. The other author of Rimaru – Butcher of Bucharest: A Serial Killer in Communist Romania is Mike Phillips, while Ramona Mitrica served as the editor. I suspect I also decided to download and read about Rimaru, because the Kindle version of this book is really inexpensive. At this writing, it’s priced at less than $4, and can be read for free by those who have Kindle Unlimited. A paperback version will run about $23.

The grisly story of Ion Rimaru… Romanian rapist and murderer.

It seems like every society has its share of deviants within it. Communist era Romania was no different, even in Ceausescu’s era, with its police force and Securitate. Ion Rimaru was something of a loser. He was studying veterinary medicine in Bucharest, living in a dormitory, and, from the time of his adolescence, suffering from an insatiable appetite for sexual intercourse. Rimaru was a terrible student, and barely showed up for his classes. He had to repeat both his second and third years of veterinary school. He wasn’t well liked or regarded, and a lot of people thought of him as a loser. And yet, the people who looked down on Rimaru for being so mediocre didn’t know that he was the Butcher or the Vampire of Bucharest.

From May 1970 until May 1971, Rimaru stalked and sexually assaulted 23 women. Although his prime motivation seemed to be sexual gratification, Rimaru murdered several of his victims and attempted to murder six more. His assaults often involved blunt force trauma to the head. In four cases, he engaged in bestiality, sadism, and torture. In a few other cases, he committed theft. All the while, he was living right under the noses of the people of Bucharest, continuing his reign of terror for a year before he was finally apprehended, tried, and sentenced to death by a firing squad. Authorities made over 2500 arrests and asked over 8000 people for their identification before they finally got the right man.

Stefjarel Olaru and Mike Phillips have pieced together Ion Rimaru’s story, using actual witness and victim statements. Some of the stories are pretty horrifying, as there seemed to be no limit to the depths of Rimaru’s depravity and insatiable appetite for victims. Sometimes, he had sex with women who were willing, but when they said no to him, he usually responded by just hitting them in their heads with a heavy pipe and taking what he wanted. Then, he’d usually leave them for dead, sometimes helping himself to their money or valuables. Rimaru gave his mother a pair of earrings he stole from one victim.

Romania, like most other civilized nations of the world, has done away with capital punishment. But, back in the early 70s, some criminals were sentenced to death. In Rimaru’s case, the day he paid the ultimate price for his crimes was October 23, 1971. He had just turned 25 years old less than two weeks prior to meeting the firing squad. Rimaru was a coward when he was told he was going to be executed. He begged to live, tried to throw his father under the bus, and on the day the sentence was carried out, he dodged and moved around, making it harder for the marksmen to shoot him. They ended up shooting him in the backside, which still did the trick.

I appreciated the details Phillips and Olaru gave about how Romania used to do capital punishments. Before Rimaru’s date with the firing squad, it was customary for condemned inmates to be put barefoot in a chilly, windowless, black room, where there was cold water on the floor. The inmates typically would get so hopeless and depressed in that room that they actually looked forward to being executed and resigned themselves to their fates. Rimaru was spared the black room.

My thoughts…

Some people who read this book found it very engrossing and hard to put down. I struggled to finish it. Rimaru’s case is very interesting and the authors put together a coherent story about what happened. However, they often use very dull statements from witnesses and victims that can be tough going to get through. Their writing style is very matter-of-fact and kind of dry, almost academic. I did notice that the authors usually styled names like they were styled in the communist era, with the last name first. That sort of lent an air of authenticity.

I do think Rimaru – Butcher of Bucharest is well worth reading if you are interested in Romanian true crime or communism. The authors have explained how things were done in the communist era, when the secret police were still terrorizing Romanians. They were so feared, and yet it took them so long to figure out who was raping and killing women in Bucharest for an entire year. It must have been terrifying for women living there at that time. I lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia when the Beltway Snipers were on the loose in 2002 or so. That was scary enough. I’m sure it was much worse in 70s era Romania.

Anyway… I don’t usually support the death penalty, but I don’t think I can muster up much sympathy for Ion Rimaru. He was probably one of those folks who just needs killing, for the safety and wellbeing of everyone else. I think I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of 5, and my recommendation.

Now, I think I’ll start gathering my thoughts on cheerier matters, as I prepare to write about our great big trip up north. Ciao!

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