Banks, Mateo (1872-1949),
was born on 18 November 1872 at Estancia El Trébol (the
Shamrock Ranch), Chascomús, Buenos Aires Province, the fourth
of eight children of Matthew Banks (1845-1919) and his wife,
Mary Anne Keena (1830-1908). Matthew Banks emigrated from Dublin
in 1862 and settled in Buenos Aires.
Educated in Buenos Aires and Chascomús, Mateo Banks
received the standard instruction provided by Catholic Irish
rural families to their boys. He married Martina Gainza in San
Luis and joined bourgeois circles in Chascomús and Azul. Banks
was a prominent member of the local landowning elite, and joined
the exclusive Jockey Club of Buenos Aires. He was the British
Vice-consul in Azul, and a dealer for Studebaker sports cars. He
was a frequent participant in Catholic religious gatherings and
a prominent member of various charities.
After years of bad management and gambling, by 1921
Mateo Banks had lost his fortune and was in serious debt. That
year he sold his last properties to his siblings, and in March
1922 tried to sell cattle belonging to his brother Dionisio.
Banks was bankrupt and his plan was to kill his family in order to
inherit their properties.
On 18 April 1922, between 1.15pm and midnight, Mateo
Banks shot his brothers Dionisio (53) and Miguel (51), his
sister María Ana (54), his sister-in-law Julia Banks (née
Dillon), his nieces Sarita (12) and Cecilia (15), and the ranch
workers Juan Gaitán and Claudio Loiza, in cold blood. The
bodies of the eight victims were arranged so as to provide
evidence against Gaitán and Loiza. However, the accusation
rightly pointed at Banks as the only suspect, and he pleaded
guilty after three weeks of the court case. On 3 April 1923
Mateo Banks was given a life sentence - the death penalty had
been abolished in 1921 - which was confirmed by the appeal
In 1924 Banks was sent to the security prison in
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, from whence he was freed in 1942.
Under a new name - Eduardo Morgan - he settled in Buenos Aires
and died in a house at 2178 Ramón Falcón street. The
unpublished manuscript of his 1,200-page memoirs has been lost.
Benedetti, Héctor. ‘Personajes increíbles que
inspiraron tangos: el ejecutor Mateo Banks’ in El Tangauta
N° 135 (January 2006).
- Hohl, Hugo Alberto. Crimen y status social
(Azul: author’s edition, 1998).