The first ever woman to be executed in Greece after the court gave her the death penalty was 63-year-old Stavroula Gouvousi.
It was August 26, 1960 when the first Greek woman stood in front of a firing squad and shot to death after her conviction for murder.
Until that day, no female had ever been sentenced to execution; women who were given the death penalty for criminal offenses were not executed but served life in prison instead.
The history of executions in the modern Greek state started as early as during the Greek War of Independence and were carried out by firing squad.
The first monarchy in Greece introduced the Penal Code in 1834, in which beheading by guillotine became the only mode of execution.
However, difficulties in making the guillotine available for every execution brought the establishment of the firing squad as an alternative mode.
Both would be used until the firing squad was established as the only means of execution in 1929. During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), over 3,000 executions took place. Yet there is no record of any female being executed.
Stavroula Gouvousi and her great hatred for her daughter-in-law
Stavroula Gouvousi lived in Leonidio, a village in Arcadia, Peloponnese together with one of her two sons, Dimitris or “Mitros”.
Dimitris was married to 22-year-old Metaxia. They had their first child together and were expecting another, as Metaxia was five months pregnant.
Her mother-in-law, however, never liked her. She believed that Metaxia was cheating on her son and that their first child was from another man.
Now that Metaxia was pregnant for the second time, in Stavroula Gouvousi’s mind the new baby was also the fruit of an illicit affair with another man.
Both accusations were completely unfounded, but they were a certainty in the mind of the mother-in-law.
Metaxia was the one who supported her family financially. She had a small dowry and she was working in a patisserie as well.
Mitros, on the other hand, did not have a steady job and his financial contribution to the household was very small.
He was a soft-spoken man, rather passive man and was easily manipulated, especially by his mother.
Stavroula Gouvousi did not have a hard time turning her son against his own wife and the mother of his child.
Mitros was soon convinced by his mother that his wife was cheating on him. As a result, he agreed to become an accomplice in the murder of his wife and his unborn child.
But before that, his mother persuaded him to take his wife to a doctor in Argos to perform an abortion, convinced that the child was not his.
However, no doctor in Argos agreed to perform an abortion because Metaxia’s pregnancy was advanced and such an operation would endanger her health.
Daughter-in-law’s murder grounds for first woman being executed
The couple returned from Argos and on the evening of January 5, 1959, after dinner, Metaxia would lie down to sleep at her mother-in-law’s house.
Gouvousi snatched the opportunity. She took a thick rope and tied Metaxia’s arms and legs and hit her mercilessly on the head and abdomen until she lost consciousness.
Then — with the help of her son — her body was carried into the yard and she was thrown into the well. Metaxia was unconscious and was drowned.
The next morning, on Epiphany Day, the murderous woman went to the church while the body of her daughter-in-law was still in the well.
Upon returning from the church, Gouvousi started shouting for help. The neighbors rushed to the yard and were told that Metaxia killed herself by falling in the well.
The neighbors were told that Gouvousi found the lid of the well open and next to it Metaxia’s clothes, a pair of shoes, a box of pills and a note that read:
“Metaxia Georgiou Adria killed herself because Thaleia, her boss, did not give her the money she owed her. Do not trouble Mitros, her husband, because he has not done anything.”
The rope gives away the murder
The rope around Metaxia’s body and the bruises on her head and body gave away the fact that the woman did not commit suicide but was murdered.
The autopsy showed that the cause of death was drowning, but also showed the time of death: It was the night before, not in the morning when Stavroula Gouvousi returned from church.
In addition, authorities found that the suicide note was written by another party that tried – unsuccessfully – to imitate the victim’s handwriting.
Stavroula Gouvousi and her son were taken to the Leonidio police station for questioning. On January 8, 1959, Mitros Gouvousis broke down and confessed to his involvement in the murder of his wife.
The man described in detail his mother’s act to tie up his wife, hit her, drag her to the well and then throw her in the well. He also confessed he wrote the fake suicide note himself.
The murderous woman executed along with son
Gouvousi reacted to her son’s confession: “Look what a snake I was raising!” she reportedly said. “Is this the thanks I get for all the sacrifices I made for you?”
To a police beat reporter, after she was sentence to execution, she said:
“This good for nothing son of mine is going to get me involved. He says that I threw her in the well, after I the rope around her body. He is going to put me in prison (…) If my son goes to the firing squad, he deserves it.”
The Criminal Court of Kyparissia sentenced both mother and son to death. Stavroula Gouvousi was transferred to the Averof women’s prison in Athens and Mitros Gouvousis to the Corfu prison.
Although she applied for pardon, her plea was rejected unanimously. On August 26, 1960, at dawn, Stavroula Gouvousi was taken to a small hill on Mt. Hymettus. The cunning woman was then executed by a firing squad of twelve soldiers.
She was the first woman executed for her crimes in Greek history.
A few days later, on September 2, her son was executed in a shooting range in the Alykes area of Corfu.
The first convicted woman executed for a criminal act made a great impression at the time, with newspaper Eleftheria reporting “panic in women’s prisons.”
Until the abolition of the death penalty in Greece, three more women were executed for their crimes:
Alexandra Merdi in 1962, for poisoning her son-in-law; Athanasia Angelinou, in the same year, for killing her husband and cousin; and Ekaterini Dimitrea in 1965, for poisoning a total of four people and attempting to poison two more.
The last execution of a violent criminal was on August 25, 1972, when Vassilis Lymberis fell dead from the bullets of a firing squad, before the death penalty was abolished three years later.
Capital punishment in Greece was abolished for peacetime crimes other than high treason during wartime by article 7 of the Constitution of 1975.
Greece abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2004. In 2005, Greece ratified the Protocol No. 13 to the ECHR, concerning the abolition of the death penalty under all circumstances.