Thursday, 18 March 2010

Crimes That Led To The Guillotine (Henri Desire Landru)

Henri Désiré Landru (12 April 1869 – 25 February 1922) was a French serial killer and real-life "Bluebeard.
Early life
Landru was born in Paris. After leaving school, he spent four years in the French army from 1887 – 1891. After he was discharged from service, he proceeded to have a sexual relationship with his cousin. She bore him a daughter, although Landru did not marry her; he married another woman two years later and had four children. He was shortly swindled out of money by a fraudulent employer. He turned to fraud himself, operating scams that usually involved swindling elderly widows. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1900 after being arrested and found guilty of fraud, the first of several such convictions. By 1914, Landru was estranged from his wife and working as a second-hand furniture dealer.
Landru began to put advertisements in the lonely hearts sections in Paris newspapers, usually along the lines of "Widower with two children, aged 43, with comfortable income, serious and moving in good society, desires to meet widow with a view to matrimony." With World War I underway, many men were being killed in the trenches, leaving plenty of widows upon whom Landru could prey.
Landru would seduce the women who came to his Parisian villa and, after he was given access to their assets, he would kill them — possibly by strangulation or stabbing — and burn their dismembered bodies in his oven. Between 1914 and 1918, Landru claimed 11 victims: 10 women plus the teenaged son of one of his victims. With no bodies, the victims were just listed as missing, and it was virtually impossible for the police to know what had happened to them as Landru used a wide variety of aliases in his schemes. His aliases were so numerous that he had to keep a ledger listing all the women with whom he corresponded and which particular identity he used for each woman.
In 1919, the sister of one of Landru's victims, Madame Buisson, attempted to track down her missing sibling. She did not know Landru's real name but she knew his appearance and where he lived, and she eventually persuaded the police to arrest him. Originally, Landru was charged only with embezzlement. He refused to talk to police, and with no bodies (police dug up his garden, but with no results), there was seemingly not enough evidence to charge him with murder. However, policemen did eventually find various bits of paperwork that listed the missing women, including Madame Buisson, and combining those with other documents, they finally built up enough evidence to charge him with murder.
List of victims
Madame Cuchet (last seen January 1915)
Son of Madame Cuchet (last seen January 1915)
Madame Laborde-Line (last seen 26 June 1915)
Madame Guillin (last seen 2 August 1915)
Madame Heon (last seen 8 December 1915)
Madame Collomb (last seen 25 December 1915)
Andree Babelay (last seen 12 April 1916)
Madame Buisson (last seen 19 August 1916)
Madame Jaune (last seen 25 November 1917)
Madame Pascal (last seen 5 April 1918)
Madame Marchadier (last seen 15 January 1919)
Trial and execution
Landru stood trial on 11 counts of murder in November 1921. He was convicted on all counts, sentenced to death, and guillotined three months later in Versailles. Forty years later, there was a rumour that the daughter of Landru's lawyer Vincent de Moro-Giafferi found a picture Landru had drawn while awaiting execution, and on the back of it he had apparently written, "I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen stove".