Well, the answer is simply ‘we don’t know’.
In Denmark everything that can be covered up, will be covered up, and everything that can be denied will be denied, which means victim count in this case can be anywhere between 9 – ca 200.
However , she is one of most notorious female serial killers not only in Denmark but in world’s history. She is also one of the most merciless, because all her victims were infants.
Dagmar Overbye committed her crimes during a seven-year period from 1913 to 1920. Apparently she confessed ca 20 murders, but was eventually convicted of 9.
She ran some sort of babyfarm’ or ‘unofficial’ adoption agency in Denmark. According to some reports she was a ‘foster mother’ to children born outside of marriage which seems to be far from truth. Babies ‘in her care’ were killed by strangulation or drowning, some were burnt to death in her masonry heater. The corpses were either cremated, buried or hidden in the loft.
She was sentenced to death in 1921, however he sentence was later commuted to life in prison. She died in prison at the age of 42.
The motive of the killings is not clear. She likely received money from parents who gave up their babies for adoptions or simply wanted to get rid of them. Babies born out of wedlock were considered shameful and unacceptable back then.
I have doubts that all parents were in dark about what is going to happen to their babies. Perhaps they wanted the woman to do the ‘dirty work’, perhaps they just didn’t care. It is also clear that the matter given the circumstances was extremely discreet, so there was no follow-up. Apparently after her arrest, as many as 180 children were reported missing. All disappeared from Overbye’s ‘baby farm’. It is possible that parents reported their babies missing because they feared their own deeds may be exposed. However she was eventually arrested, after alarm was raised by someone concerned about missing child.
The case likely involves cover-up from authorities, the extent of the horrors were downplayed. However, during Overbye’s notorious trial all hell broke loose and reportedly ‘new childcare legislation’ was introduced.
There are many classifications of serial killers: Perhaps she saw herself as missionary type – her mission was to get rid of unwanted babies . To hide shame and to bury their mothers’ secrets with them. No questions asked.
Perpetrator is sometimes described as professional child caretaker – whatever that means. She took care of those unwanted babies, her own way.
The irony, apart from gruesome case, is indeed rich.