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French Bluebeard Guillotined (February 25, 1922)
page 3

 

The trial created a sensation. Serial killers were nearly unknown in 1919, despite Jack the Ripper's infamous activities in London. And Landru, despite his long criminal record, had once been a man of good social standing, active in the church, and with a wife and family. In fact, he was embarrassed that his wife would have to learn of his infidelity in open court, though she must have known for years that he was unfaithful to her. The sexual aspects of the case were scandalous. Landru takes the standSo many women, and each of them had moved in with Landru without benefit of a marriage license. And not only had he murdered them--he had dismembered and burned them. But if the public had hoped that Landru would spill the salascious details of his crime, they were deeply disappointed. Convinced that he could not be convicted of murder without a body, and also determined that no one could believe that a sane man could commit such crimes, and that the court had adjudged him sane when it pronounced him fit to stand trial, Landru refused to answer the court's questions. When asked directly, "What of your relationship with Madam Guillin?" Landru replied: "I am a gallant man and will say nothing. I cannot think of revealing the nature of my relations with Madam Guillin without the lady's permission." He was arrogant and sarcastic, and as the month-long trial dragged on, public opinion turned further and further against him. After 25 days of testimony, the jury took two hours to pronounce him guilty on all counts. He was sentenced to death.

The sentence was carried out just two months after his conviction. He said goodbye to his attorneys, and gave them some artwork he had created in prison. Nearly 50 years later, someone would finally look under the frame, and discover his handwritten confession, which included details of the killings and told how he had disposed of the bodies. He rejected both the Mass and the traditional glass of brandy, and refused to make a statement. He knelt before the guillotine, and within moments he was dead, without ever having expressed remorse for what he had done.


Note: For centuries, the guillotine was the preferred vehicle of execution in France. Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, whose proposals to the Legislative Assembly were the impetus behind the design, conceived of it as a more egalitarian, enlightened form of execution than hanging or burning. Charles-Henri Sanson, the State's main executioner, saw only its brutal efficiency. In 1792, Madame Guillotine, who had actually been designed by a German engineer named Tobias Schmidt, made her public debut. Although it was generally considered to be a humane form of execution, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the guillotine does not kill instantaneously. Besides the anecdotal accounts of victims who continued to display signs of life after their heads had been detached, research published in the 1960s demonstrated that the brain continues to break sugar down into oxygen for as long as 6 minutes after decapitation. In 1905, a French doctor wrote of an experiment he had conducted with a convicted felon, wherein he spoke the man's name. The eyes opened, and focused on him, not with the glassy stare of the dead, but with the conscious gaze of the living.

The guillotine was last used in France in 1977

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Sources:
Today-in-History Page of Scopes Systems
The first image of Landru came from Dialogus: Henri Landru
Most of the information regarding Henri Landru, and all the other images, came from Henri Landru: Bluebeard
Hort-Pro Online Gardening Magazine
History of the Guillotine


The French Bluebeard in Film:
Monsieur Verdoux VHSMonsieur Verdoux VHS

Charlie Chaplin plays "Henri Verdoux," in a thinly veiled biography of Henri Landru. The original idea for the film came from Orson Welles. Chaplin, uncomfortable with allowing someone else to direct him, made the movie himself. In Chaplin's hands, the story becomes a black comedy with an edge of political dissent.


 

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