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REAL WORLD BIO
Marcel Petiot
Name Marcel Petiot
Alias Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot (birth name)
The Butcher of Paris
The Scalper of the Etoile
The Monster of rue Le Sueur
The Demonic Ogre
The Modern Bluebeard
The Underground Assassin
The Werewolf of Paris
Doctor Death
Doctor Satan
Doctor Eugène
Captain Henri Valéri
Gender Male
Birth Date January 17, 1897
Place of Birth Auxerre, Yonne, France
Date of Death May 25, 1946
Place of Death Paris, France
Job Soldier
Physician
Politician
Intelligence officer
Pathology Serial Killer
Robber
Drug Dealer
Con Artist
Serial Arsonist
Family Annihilator
Modus Operandi Cyanide poisoning
No. of Victims 26-63+
Status Deceased (executed)

"Gentlemen, I have one last piece of advice: Look away. This will not be pretty to see. I'd like you to keep a good memory of me."
-Petiot's last words

Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot, a.k.a. "The Butcher of Paris", was a French con artist and serial killer.

BackgroundEdit

Petiot was born on January 17, 1897, to a wealthy family in Auxerre, France. Petiot's father died when he was five years old, and his mother died three years after, leaving him to be raised by different aunts and uncles. Petiot was very intelligent as a child, being able to read nonstop when he was five, but was also unruly. For that, he was expelled from school twice. He also liked to torture small animals. In 1916, after completing his studies in a special high school, he volunteered to serve in World War I. During his service, Petiot was gassed and injured by shrapnel during the Second Battle of the Aisne. Though his body recovered quickly, he was diagnosed repeatedly with mental health problems, and was declared unfit for further service after he injured his own foot with a grenade in 1918.

By this point, Petiot had been jailed and confined to mental institutions several times for stealing other people's personal items or military supplies. He was later diagnosed with kleptomania. In 1919, he was granted a disability pension. Nonetheless, he was able to get a job as an intern in a mental hospital in Évreux and, thanks to a government program aimed at reinserting demobilized soldiers back into society after the end of the war, he completed medicinal studies at the University of Paris after only one year of education. However, Petiot also took several mental health evaluations at the same time with the aim of increasing his disability pension. He then moved to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, a commune in north-central France, where he became a popular doctor despite his many quirks derived from his kleptomania and obsession with saving money.

Villeneuve CrimesEdit

In 1926, Petiot replaced his elderly housekeeper with 26-year-old Louisette Delaveau, whose employer was on an extended visit to Paris. Soon, the employer's home and the home next to it were burglarized and set on fire. However, the townspeople's gossip centered instead on Delaveau's relationship with Petiot and the fact that she began to gain weight after some months, which was taken as a telltale sign that she was pregnant. Delaveu vanished suddenly one day, but her disappearance wasn't investigated until several days later, when Petiot casually asked a gendarme if the townsfolk were not concerned about it. A young female's decapitated body was found in a trunk by the river, but it could not be positively identified as Delaveau's, nor could it be connected to Petiot except for a witness's unverified claim that he had seen Petiot loading a similar trunk into his car one night. The same year, Petiot ran for Mayor of Villeneuve and won, after his opponent's main debate speech was cut short when the town's power went off and several house fires appeared.

In 1927, he married 23-year-old Georgette Lablais, the daughter of a wealthy local landowner. In the following year, they had a son, who they named Gehrardt. Petiot, however, was rumored to have been maintaining an affair at the same time with Henriette Debauve, the director of a dairy cooperative. Debauve was eventually found fatally bludgeoned in her burning home in March 1930. A man named Léon Fiscot claimed that he had seen Petiot near the house at the time of the murder and intended to report it to the Gendarmerie. He was then approached by Petiot, who said that he had just received a new drug from Paris that could help cure Fiscot's rheumatism. Fiscot let Petiot lead him to his office and give him an injection. Three hours later, Fiscot died of what Petiot himself identified as a natural aneurysm. By July 1931, the Prefect of the Yonne Department had received so many complaints about Petiot's embezzlement that he decided to suspend Petiot as Mayor. Petiot resigned, but the rest of the town council followed suit in solidarity. Five weeks later, Petiot successfully ran for councilor of Yonne. He was forced to resign again in 1932, when it was discovered that he had illegally connected the town's electrical grid to his home. By then, Petiot had already moved to Paris.

Paris CrimesEdit

Rue Le Sueur

Diagram of Petiot's house at 21 Rue le Sueur and its triangular room.

Petiot established himself at 66 Rue de Caumartin, where he made a living performing illegal abortions, prescribing drugs to addicts, and evading taxes. In 1936, he was briefly institutionalized again for kleptomania. After the Fall of France in 1940, he also provided fake disability certificates to French citizens who had been drafted to do forced labor in Germany. In May 1941, he told his longtime patient Raoul Fourrier that he was a member of the French Resistance and knew how to smuggle people to the unoccupied zone and Latin America. Petiot hoped that Fourrier, being a hairdresser, could introduce him to many people who wanted to flee from the Germans and would therefore not be missed when they disappeared. Fourrier knew nobody, however, but his partner, an old makeup artist named Edmond Pintard, who had been involved in cabaret, knew some gangsters that ran afoul of Henri Lafont, a mob boss-turned-chief of the French Gestapo.

Petiot agreed to pay a commission per client to Fourrier and Pintard, although he insisted that this was a patriotic enterprise and that it was not designed solely for profit. Meanwhile, he used his son's name to purchase a mansion in 21 Rue Le Sueur, where he excavated a pit, built a furnace, and stored over 500 kg. of quicklime provided by Petiot's younger brother, Maurice. Victims were eventually killed by cyanide poisoning and their bodies disposed of there. Fourrier and Pintard often demanded more money from the victims and then kept it themselves, but they claimed to have believed that the escape network was real the whole time. Starting in 1942, the gangsters were joined by wealthy Jewish refugees from Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands. These victims were contacted by Petiot himself or directed to him by Eryane Kahan, a Romanian Jewish socialite; and René-Gustave Nézondet, a friend made during Petiot's time in Villeneuve. Other victims were killed because Petiot feared that they were going to discover his crimes.

The Germans learned of the network on April 8, 1943. Believing it to be real, they sent in a Jewish prisoner named Yvan Dreyfus to infiltrate the network. Much to their puzzlement, Dreyfus "escaped" and was never seen again. They next sent in a French collaborator, Charles Beretta, who was more successful in his work. As a result, Fourrier, Pintard, and Petiot were arrested by authorities. Petiot was tortured for days, but the only information the Germans could extract from him under that pressure was that the network was real and that it was led by a man named Martinetti. Meanwhile, Petiot's brother took 47 suitcases from 21 Rue le Sueur and drove them to Villeneuve in a truck. Petiot was interned in Fresnes Prison, where he became popular with other inmates because of his purported connection to the Resistance and the constant contempt that he showed towards his captors. He was released on January 14, 1944, after his brother paid 100,000 Francs to the Germans.

Discovery of Murders, Arrest, and ExecutionEdit

Petiot furnace

The furnace where Petiot burned the bodies.

On March 11, the neighbors of 21 Rue le Sueur called police to complain about a terrible stench coming from the chimney, which had been expelling thick, black smoke for five days. Two dispatched officers found the doors barred, and a note saying that the building was closed for a month and instructing any mail sent there to be redirected to an address in Auxerre. However, a neighbor told police that the owner lived in Rue de Camartin and gave them his phone number. The owner asked if anyone had entered the building, and when they said that no one had done so, he told them to wait outside for thirty minutes. When the time passed and nobody appeared, they called the fire department, who broke a window open and opened the doors from the inside. The firemen were shocked when they found multiple dismembered and partially charred human remains all over the entry room, which contained the furnace.

While one of the officers used a bar's phone to request backup, the other saw a nervous Petiot on the street, observing the developing scene from his bike. Upon being approached, he claimed that he was the brother of the house's owner and that his life was in danger, then asked the officer if he was "a patriot". When he said that he was, Petiot went on to say that he was a member of the Resistance and that the bodies belonged to German soldiers and collaborators that his companions had murdered. The officer then told him to leave the scene discreetly, before the reinforcements arrived. This cover was reinforced after the Germans were informed and they replied that Petiot was a "dangerous lunatic" who should be arrested immediately. However, the French police's response was slow and limited. No guards were sent to the train stations, and Petiot was able to leave his home with his wife and son thirty minutes before any officer got there.

Petiot-profile-face

Petiot's mugshot.

In the following days, Petiot's brother, wife, and accomplices were arrested in Auxerre and Paris, but Petiot was able to evade capture by staying in the homes of different friends and patients. He told all of them that the Germans were looking for him for subversive activities. After interrogating the arrested and finding suitcases full of men and women's clothing in Maurice's home, the police realized that Petiot had not been luring and killing allies of the Germans, but their enemies. However, the Allies invaded France right around this time and Petiot took advantage of the confusion brought by the ensuing Battle of Paris, to join the anti-German French Forces of the Interior (FFI) under the alias of Henri Valéri. Because of his purported long experience in the Resistance, "Valéri" rose quickly to Captain and was charged with intelligence gathering and prisoner interrogations.

The man in charge of the murder investigation, Commissioner Georges Massu, decided to lure Petiot out by attacking his ego. In a harsh September 19 press article titled "Petiot, Soldier of the Reich", Massu accused Petiot of being a cruel murderer, a traitor to France, and a collaborationist. In immediate response, Petiot wrote a furious letter to his lawyer, claiming that the article was nothing but lies. Massu realized that the only way the letter could have been written and sent so fast was if Petiot was still in Paris and not in hiding. He reasoned that this could only be possible if Petiot had joined the FFI under an alias, and even correctly guessed that he had let his beard grow to help mask himself. Several members of the FFI were drafted to assist in the search for Petiot, including "Valéri". On October 31, Petiot was recognized in a Paris Métro station and arrested. He was found to be possessing 50 forged identity documents, including a modified rationing card that had originally belonged to a Jewish victim, and what appeared to be a Resistance report denouncing Massu as a collaborationist.

Petiot guillotine

The guillotine used to execute Petiot.

Petiot insisted that he had been a member of the Resistance since 1940 and that when the people learned the truth behind his acts, they would have to free him. He confessed to have killed 63 people but claimed that all of them had been German soldiers or collaborators. The only time he changed his version was when he was confronted with the testimony of Eryane Kahan. The wealthy Jewish woman knew him only by his alias "Dr. Eugène" and had introduced many personal friends to him. She had even tried to go with them herself in one occasion, but she had been blocked off by Petiot, who said that she was more useful to the Resistance if she stayed in Paris. Petiot then said that most of the enemies he killed had been dumped in the Seine, and that the only bodies in the house that were his were the gangsters and their friends, who were all collaborators. He went on to claim that the Jewish victims must have been killed by the Germans along the escape route and planted there to frame him. He then explained how he felt obliged to dismember and burn the bodies as a result, resulting in his capture. After the ensuing media circus, Petiot was found guilty of 26 of the 27 murder charges and sentenced to death. He was guillotined on May 25, 1946.

Modus OperandiEdit

Petiot preyed on people who wished to leave France, advising them to be discreet, sell all their possessions and bring minimum baggage. After the victims paid 25,000 Francs per person (from which Fourrier and Pintard's commissions were extracted), he brought them to 21 Rue le Sueur, always in groups of three or less, cut all the labels in their clothing, and told them that the target country (Cuba or Argentina) required all immigrants to be vaccinated. He then injected them with cyanide. Petiot then undressed bodies (as many had money, gold and jewels sewn into their clothing) and buried them in quicklime to mask the smell of decomposition. The bodies were kept in the room furthest from the street until Petiot decided to dismember and burn them in the furnace.

Massu believed that Petiot poisoned all of his victims in a small, triangular room with no windows and watched them die through a small hole in the wall. He came to that conclusion because this hole was placed strategically in front of some wall rings that the victims could have seized in their agony or been tied to at some point. However, the hole was filled when the bodies were discovered and this idea remains purely conjectural. If the victims left relations behind, Petiot would make anonymous calls or produce letters and telegrams telling them that the victims had arrived safely to their destination. The graphologists who examined the letters said that all were genuine, but had been written in a state of distress.

Known AccomplicesEdit

Known VictimsEdit

Petiot victims

Some of Petiot's victims, from left to right:
Joseph Réocreux
François Albertini
Adrien Estébétéguy
Claudia Chamoux
Annette Basset
Gisèle Rossmy
Yvan Dreyfus
Nelly-Denise Hotin
Dr. Braunberger
Joseph Piereschi
Paulette Grippay
Joachim Guschinow
Kurt Kneller
Lina Wolff
Margaret and Réne Kneller
Jean-Marc van Bever.

  • May 1926: Louise "Louisette" Delaveau, 26 (his rumored mistress; disappeared; her body was never found)
  • March 1930:
    • Henriette Debauve, 45 (another rumored mistress; bludgeoned, then set her body on fire with her house)
    • Léon Fiscot (poisoned)
  • 1935: An unnamed female patient, 30 (possibly; fatally overdosed on morphine)
  • 1942:
    • January 2: Joachim Guschinow
    • March 22: Jean-Marc van Bever
    • March 25: Marthe Khaït
    • June 5: Nelly-Denise Hotin
    • June 20: Dr. Paul-Léon Braunberger, 62
    • July 18: The Kneller family
      • Kurt Kneller (father)
      • Margaret Kneller (mother)
      • René Kneller (son)
    • September: Claudia Chamoux and François Albertini
      • Claudia Chamoux
      • François Albertini
    • November: Réocreux's party
      • Annette Basset (François Albertini's girlfriend)
      • Joseph Réocreux (Claudia Chamoux's boyfriend)
      • Yvonne (surname unknown; presumably an alias)
    • December:
      • The Wolff family
        • Maurice Wolff
        • Lina Wolff (Maurice's wife)
        • Rachel Wolff (Maurice's mother)
      • Ilse Gang (a friend and companion of the Wolffs; attempted)
  • 1943:
    • January:
      • Gilbert and Marianne Baston
      • Chaim and Franziska Stevens (Marianne Baston's parents)
      • Ludwika and Ludwig Anspach (Marianne Baston's sister and brother-in-law)
    • March 27:
      • Adrien Estébétéguy
      • Joséphine-Aimée "Paulette" Grippay
    • March 28: Gisèle Rossmy and Joseph Piereschi
      • Gisèle Rossmy (Adrien Estébétéguy's girlfriend)
      • Joseph Didioni Sidissé Piereschi (Joséphine-Aimée Grippay's boyfriend)
    • April:
      • Michel and Marie Cadoret de l'Epinguen (attempted to kill both)
      • Yvan Dreyfus

On Beyond BordersEdit

In The Lonely Heart, the French press dubbed spree killer Paul Mossier "The Butcher of Paris". Mossier himself did not like the moniker because it had been given before to Petiot. He also claimed that the name "butcher" fit Petiot better, because Mossier considered himself an artist instead. In addition, Mossier believed that this mistake was evidence that the French had lost their sense of history.

SourcesEdit

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