Sunday, May 29, 2011

⅏Did You Know: Marcel Petiot, The French Doctor Who Was A Serial Killer

Did You Know...

Marcel André Henri Félix Petiot (17 January 1897 – 25 May 1946) was a French doctor and serial killer convicted of multiple murders after the discovery of the remains of 26 people in his home in Paris after World War II?  He is suspected of killing more than 60 victims during his life.

Born at Auxerre, France, later accounts make various claims of his delinquency and criminal acts during childhood and adolescence such as stealing from classmates and looting mailboxes, but it is unclear whether they were invented afterwards for public consumption.
It should be noted, however, that a psychiatrist diagnosed him as mentally ill on 26 March 1914, and he was expelled from school many times. He finished his education in a special academy in Paris in July 1915.
During World War I, Petiot was drafted into the French infantry in January 1916. In Aisne, he was wounded and gassed and exhibited more symptoms of mental breakdown. He was sent to various rest homes, where he was arrested for stealing army blankets and jailed in Orléans.  In a psychiatric hospital at Fleury-les-Aubrais, he was again diagnosed with various mental ailments but was returned to the front in June 1918. He was transferred three weeks later after he shot himself in the foot, but was attached to a new regiment in September.
Discharged with a pension and free treatment for psychoneurosis, Petiot went on to obtain a medical degree, despite spending part of his time as a student in an asylum. In 1928, he was elected mayor of Villanueve-sur-Yonne, while practicing medicine there, but his term was cut short when the local prefect received numerous complaints about Petiot's theft and shady financial deals.  Petiot was eventually suspended as a mayor in 1931 and resigned. 

That same year, one of Petiot's patients - a Madame Debauve - was robbed and murdered in her home. Gossip blamed the doctor, but his chief accuser another patient - was soon silenced by sudden death. A woman who accused Petiot of actively encouraging her daughter's drug addiction disappeared without a trace, but things were getting hot in Villanueve, and the good doctor struck off in search of a friendlier climate.

In Paris, Petiot attracted patients with his imaginary credentials, and built an impressive reputation for his practice at 66 rue de Caumartin.  However, there were rumours of illegal abortions and overt prescriptions of addictive remedies.  In 1936, he was appointed médecin d'état-civil, with authority to write death certificates.  The same year, he was briefly institutionalized for kleptomania, but was released the following year. 

Petiot's most lucrative activity, however, was his own false escape route. He adopted a "code-name" "Dr. Eugène". He accepted anyone who could afford his price of 25,000 francs per person, regardless of whether they were Jews, resistance fighters, or ordinary criminals. His aides, Raoul Fourrier, Edmond Pintard, and René-Gustave Nézondet, directed victims to him. Petiot claimed that he could arrange a safe passage to Argentina or elsewhere in South America through Portugal. He also claimed that Argentine officials demanded inoculations and injected his victims with cyanide. Then he took all their valuables and disposed of the bodies. People who trusted him to deliver them to safety were never seen alive again.
At first, Petiot dumped the bodies in the Seine, but he later destroyed the bodies by submerging them in quicklime or by incinerating them. In 1941, Petiot bought a house at 21 rue le Sueur.

What Petiot failed to do was to keep a low profile. The Gestapo eventually found out about him and, by April 1943, they had heard all about his "route". Gestapo agent Robert Jodkum forced prisoner Yvan Dreyfus to approach the supposed network, but he simply vanished. A later informer successfully infiltrated the operation and the Gestapo arrested Fourrier, Pintard, and Nézondet. Under torture, they confessed that "Dr Eugène" was Marcel Petiot. Nezondet was later released but three others spent eight months in prison suspected of helping Jews to escape. Even under torture, they did not identify any other members of the resistance – because they actually knew of none. The Gestapo released the three men in January 1944.

During the intervening seven months, Petiot hid with friends, claiming that the Gestapo wanted him because he had killed Germans and informers. He eventually moved in with a patient, Georges Redouté, let his beard grow and adopted various aliases.  Eventuall, on 31 October, Petiot was recognized at a Paris metro station, and arrested. Among his possessions were a pistol, 31,700 francs, and 50 sets of identity documents.

Stacks of suitcases found in
his basement with no traces
of the owners
Petiot was placed on death row at La Santé prison. He continued to claim that he was innocent and that he had only killed enemies of France. He claimed that he had discovered the pile of bodies in 21 Rue le Sueur in February 1944, and assumed that they were collaborators that members of his "network" had killed.
Prosecutors eventually charged him with at least 27 murders for profit. Their estimate of his ill-gotten gains ran to 200 million francs.
Petiot went on trial on 19 March 1946, facing 135 criminal charges. René Floriot acted for the defense, against a team consisting of state prosecutors and twelve civil lawyers hired by relatives of Petiot's victims. Petiot taunted the prosecuting lawyers, and claimed that various victims had been collaborators or double agents, or that vanished people were alive and well in South America under new names. He admitted to killing just nineteen of the twenty-seven victims found in his house, and claimed that they were Germans and collaborators – part of a total of 63 "enemies" killed. Floriot attempted to portray Petiot as a resistance hero, but the judges and jurors were unimpressed. Petiot was convicted of 26 counts of murder, and sentenced to death.

On 25 May, 1946 Petiot was beheaded, after a stay of a few days due to a problem in the release mechanism of the guillotine.

Did you Know....

On Sept. 10, 1977, convicted murderer Hamida Djandoubi became the last person executed by guillotine in France.


Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

  • 1543, May 25, Copernicus Died.  Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus died in what is now Frombork, Poland. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.

  • 1883, May 24, Brooklyn Bridge Opened.  After 14 years and 27 deaths while being constructed, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River is opened, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Designed by the late John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date.
  • 1934, Police Killed Famous Outlawas Bonnie and Clyde.   Wanted outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker are shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police officers as they attempt to escape apprehension in a stolen 1934 Ford Deluxe near Bienville Parish, Louisiana on May 25, 1934.
  • 1940, May 28, Belgium Surrendered Unconditionally.  18 days of ceaseless German bombardment, the king of Belgium, having asked for an armistice, is given only unconditional surrender as an option. He takes it.
  • 1943, May 24, Auschwitz Got a New Doctor.  On this day in 1943, the extermination camp at Auschwitz, Poland, receives a new doctor, 32-year-old Josef Mengele, a man who will earn the nickname "the Angel of Death."  Mengele managed to escape imprisonment after the war, first by working as a farm stableman in Bavaria, then by making his way to South America. He became a citizen of Paraguay in 1959. He later moved to Brazil, where he met up with another former Nazi party member, Wolfgang Gerhard. In 1985, a multinational team of forensic experts traveled to Brazil in search of Mengele. They determined that a man named Gerhard, but believed to be Mengele, had died of a stroke while swimming in 1979. Dental records later confirmed that Mengele had, at some point, assumed Gerhard's identity, and was in fact the stroke victim.
  • 1949, May 23, Federal Republic of Germany was established.  The Federal Republic of Germany (popularly known as West Germany) is formally established as a separate and independent nation. This action marked the effective end to any discussion of reuniting East and West Germany.  For the next 41 years, East and West Germany served as symbols of the divided world, and of the Cold War animosities between the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1990, with Soviet strength ebbing and the Communist Party in East Germany steadily losing its grip on power, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one nation.
  • 1959, May 24, John Foster Dulles Died.  After battling cancer for nearly three years, former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles died. Dulles served as secretary of state from 1953 until shortly before his death in 1959 and was considered one of the primary architects of America's Cold War foreign policy during that period.
  • 1964, May 24, Riot Erupted at Soccer Match. A referee's call in a soccer match between Peru and Argentina sparked a riot on this day in 1964. More than 300 fans were killed and another 500 people were injured in the violent melee that followed at National Stadium in Lima, Peru. 
  • 1987, May 28, Matthias Rust Landed His Plane in Red Square.  Matthias Rust, a 19-year-old amateur pilot from West Germany, on this day, takes off from Helsinki, Finland, travels through more than 400 miles of Soviet airspace, and lands his small Cessna aircraft in Red Square by the Kremlin. The event proved to be an immense embarrassment to the Soviet government and military.
1998, May 28, Comic Phil Hartman Killed by Wife. The Canadian-born comedian and actor Phil Hartman, famous for his work on Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio, is shot to death by his troubled wife, Brynn, in a murder-suicide. He was 49.

Resources:  wikipedia,,, various magazines,,


  1. So much for the United States having the monopoly on serial killers!

    Interesting post.

  2. Hi AOW!
    You're so right!
    I think they are EVERYWHERE... especially places where you least expect them!
    Thanks so much for dropping by! Kath

  3. Hmmm, why would any doctor kill so many people for nothing?? She should be in a mental asylum as everyone thinks so!!!


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