On the trail of Paris's most notorious criminals and serial killers

Published by Manon de Sortiraparis · Published on April 28th, 2021 at 06:09 p.m.
Follow in the footsteps of Paris's most notorious criminals and serial killers, in our company. From Landru to Guy Georges, the "killer of Eastern Paris", not forgetting Doctor Petiot and the Cabard and Miquelon duo, discover the dark side of the capital over the centuries and along the streets.

Paris, the City of Light. Its must-see monuments attract millions of tourists every year, its little hidden squares where it's good to stop and its village districts where it's good to live, its beautiful fountains, its mythical bridges, its museums, its Eiffel Tower... There's no denying that the capital knows how to make our hearts beat faster. But do you know the darker side of Paris?

Throughout its history, the French capital has seen murderers parade through its streets, now famous for their misdeeds. From Landru to Guy Georges, the "killer of Eastern Paris", not forgetting Doctor Petiot and the Cabard and Miquelon duo, discover the stories of Paris's greatest criminals as they have passed through the streets over the years!

  • Barnabé Cabard and Pierre Miquelon, the barber and confectioner behind the legend of Sweeney Todd

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Head for the Cité district in Paris's current 4th arrondissement for a chilling tale of the past. It's the beginning of the 15th century; the economic crisis is raging in the warring kingdom, famine is growing in the homes of the capital, and the sovereign of the time, Charles VI, rules the country with an iron fist not exactly in a velvet glove. In the rue des Marmousets-en-la-Cité (destroyed during the Second Empire's transformation of Paris to build the Hôtel-Dieu), a barber, Barnabé Cabard, and a pastry chef, Pierre Miquelon, join forces for a macabre purpose: to make money at any cost.

They divide up the roles: Barnabé Cabard willslit his customers' throats with a razor and take their savings, while Pierre Miquelon will retrieve the bodies through a trapdoor leading directly to his cellar and make them disappear... by turning them into pies, which are then sold in his patisserie! It's even said that King Charles VI was fond of them - no pun intended. One day, the barking of the dog of one of their victims, a German student, alerted the Marshalsea. The two murderers were arrested, confessed to their crimes and ended up being burned alive in iron cages in the Place de Grève on the day they were sentenced.

At the time, it was customary for houses in which crimes had been committed to be razed to the ground. So it was, and a small expiatory pyramid was erected there until 1536. Although this crime story may be the stuff of urban legend - there are no official documents to back it up - it may remind you of Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd, which was actually inspired by the story.

  • Charles Dautun, a macabre puzzle in Paris

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In November 1814, a severed head, wrapped in linen, was fished out of the Seine by boatmen. On the same day, a human trunk was discovered not far from the Louvre, followed by two severed thighs near the Champs-Elysées. A macabre puzzle, reconstituted and displayed in the morgue on the Ile de la Cité, so that Parisians could try to identify the body. One month later, a woman identified the body as that ofAuguste Dautun.

A strange coincidence: a few months earlier, Dautun's aunt, Jeanne-Marie Dautun, had been found stabbed and robbed at her home by her valet, rue de la Grange Batelière in Paris's 9th arrondissement. The same scenario played out at Auguste Dautun's home on rue Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois in the 1st arrondissement: when the police entered the victim's blood-stained apartment, they discovered that the drawers had been emptied.

Suspicion quickly turned to the brother and nephew of the two victims, Charles Dautun. When questioned, he breaks down and confesses to the murders. The motive for these atrocious crimes? Greed. Having spent all his savings, this former medical student, who later became a soldier, decided to extort money from members of his own family, but not without killing them first. Convicted in 1815, he was guillotined.

  • Henri Pranzini and the triple murder on rue Montaigne

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The"rue Montaigne triple murder"affair dominated the front pages of French daily newspapers for over a month. On March 17, 1887, a triple homicide was committed in the capital's 8th arrondissement, at 17 rue Montaigne - now rue Jean-Mermoz. All three victims had their throats slit, bordering on decapitation. They were Claudine-Marie Regnault, a courtesan known as Régine de Montille,Annette Grémeret, her chambermaid, and Marie Grémeret, the latter's 9-year-old daughter. Once again, the motive was villainous: Régine de Montille's jewels, diamonds and valuables had been stolen.

After several days of investigation, the police were alerted by a Marseilles madam that one of her brothel customers, a certain Henri Pranzini, was paying for his passes with jewels and precious stones. The same day, Pranzini was arrested at Marseille's Grand-Théâtre. The evidence was mounting against this former soldier, a trafficker in his spare time, even as the police were experimenting with fingerprinting. Convicted of the three murders, he was sentenced to death and guillotined on August 31, 1887 outside the Grande Roquette prison in the 11th arrondissement.

After his execution, a cast of his head was made in wax, blown glass and covered with human hair, in order to study the physical characteristics of criminals. The latter is still on display today at the Musée de la Préfecture de Police! His body, meanwhile, was sent to theEcole de Médecine, and a new scandal followed. The skin of Pranzini's corpse had been tanned by a leatherworker in the Rue de la Verrerie, at the request of a high-ranking member of the Sûreté - a former police organization - to make two leather cardholders.

  • Jeanne Weber, the Ogresse de la Goutte d'Or

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Women have also left their mark on the Parisian crime scene. Arriving in Paris from her native Brittany, Jeanne Moulinet married Jean Weber in 1893 and settled in the Goutte d'Or district. Shortly afterwards, three of her children were found dead in strange circumstances. On March 2, 1905, it was the same story again: the 18-month-old child of Jeanne Weber 's sister-in-law suddenly fell ill under her care and died. On March 25 of the same year, Jeanne Weber's 7-year-old niece Germaine suffered a "suffocation" attack. The little girl survived until the next day, when she died of diphtheria, while in the care of her aunt for the second consecutive day. On each occasion, red marks were present on the children 's necks, without alerting the doctors.

A week later, on April 5, 1905, Jeanne Weber looked after her nephew Maurice, aged 2. When her sisters-in-law returned home, they found Jeanne in a rage, standing over the little boy, whose neck was covered in bruises. A complaint was lodged, but Dr Socquet, the forensic pathologist from the Seine public prosecutor's office, and Léon Thoinot, professor of forensic medicine at the University of Paris, concluded that each of the eight murders attributed to Jeanne Weber had been caused by natural causes.

Acquitted and considered an innocent victim, Jeanne Weber moved to the Indre region of France under a false name. After two more child murders, she finally confessed her crimes to the police, who had her committed. Released as "sane" by the doctors and back in Paris, she was caught strangling the 10-year-old son of an innkeeper and was declared insane on December 19, 1908, before being sent to an asylum where she died of nephritis on July 5, 1918.

  • Henri Désiré Landru, the Bluebeard of Gambais

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It's impossible to hear the story of Paris' most famous killers without mentioning the case of the "Bluebeard of Gambais", Henri Désiré Landru. After years of odd jobs, swindles and stints in prison and the penal colony in French Guiana, in 1914 Landru hatched a scheme to make easy money. The idea was simple: pass himself off as a lonely, well-to-do widower in order to seduce young, single women - often widows from the First World War - with money. In just 4 years, Landru used a hundred or so pseudonyms to evade justice and seduce numerous women, recruiting them through matrimonial ads in the daily papers of the day, before robbing and killing them .

First working in La Chaussée-près-Gouvieux, Vernouillet and then Gambais, Landru eventually settled in Paris, at 22, rue de Châteaudun in the 9th arrondissement. It was here that the notorious criminal would burn, in his stove and fireplace, the body parts of his victims that he had not taken care to bury in the woods, such as heads, hands and feet. The families of several of the missing women eventually lodged complaints, and after years of investigation, Landru was arrested at his mistress's home, 76 rue de Rochechouart.

During a search of his home in Gambais, the police found over 1.5kg of charred human bones, 47 teeth, as well as numerous objects that had belonged to his victims, such as pins, buttons, pieces of corset and staples. At the end of a trial during which he fiercely denied the murders and made provocative remarks, Landru was sentenced to death for the 11 murders and guillotined in Versailles on February 25, 1922.

  • Marcel Petiot alias "Doctor" Petiot

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Following in Landru's footsteps, Marcel Petiot was another of Paris's leading serial killers. A soldier in the First World War, Marcel Petiot took his medical degree at the Paris Faculty of Medicine after being discharged for psychiatric problems. On August 11, 1941, while France was under German occupation, he acquired a mansion at 21 rue Le Sueur, in the 16th arrondissement, and undertook major renovations to prevent any visibility from the outside.

Like Landru, who profited from the widows of the Great War, Dr. Petiot profited from the Second World War. Starting in 1942, he took the name Dr. Eugène and offered to help French Jews and other individuals threatened by the Gestapo to cross into the free zone, or even to escape the country via an underground network to Argentina. To do this, he asks his future victims to meet him in his mansion in the middle of the night with a suitcase full of jewels, silverware and cash. Under the pretext of vaccinating them before their long journey to South America, Dr. Petiot fatally gassed the unfortunate men and cut them into pieces. Worse still, Petiot took great pleasure in observing the agony of his victims through a peephole installed in a real gas chamber created from scratch in his cellar.

To make the bodies disappear, the criminal would then plunge them into a well filled with quicklime to prevent the smell of decomposition from spreading through the neighborhood. But the neighbors, alerted by the black smoke rising from Petiot's mansion, accompanied by thestench of pestilence, eventually alerted the police, who found 72 victims' suitcases filled with precious belongings, 655 kilos of miscellaneous items including coats, dresses, men's suits and shoes, as well as several butchered human bodies, ready to be incinerated in two large wood-fired ovens. Convicted ofmurdering 27 people after a highly publicized trial in which Petiot sought to imitate Landru's cynicism, Doctor Petiot was guillotined on May 25, 1946, claiming 63 murders to the end.

  • Thierry Paulin, the "old ladies' killer

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In 1984, being an old lady in the 18th arrondissement of Paris was not a good thing. Since the beginning of the year, many frail, isolated old ladies have been attacked in their homes, robbed of their meagre savings and murdered in a violent, sadistic fashion. Rue Lepic, rue Nicolet, boulevard de Clichy, rue Marc-Séguin, rue Pajol, but also rue des Trois-Frères and rue Armand-Gauthier... The assassin seems to know Paris's 18th arrondissement like the back of his hand!

From 1985 to 1987, after a short break, the murders of old ladies resumed, this time in the 11th, 12th and 14th arrondissements of the capital. The police were on the case. With the help of Berthe Finalteri, a victim who escaped and drew up a detailed sketch of her attacker, the police finally identified the killer: Thierry Paulin, a young Martiniquan with peroxide-blond hair, a waiter at the Paradis Latin, a figure in the Parisian nightlife and a drag queen in his spare time, who lives a life of luxury thanks to his victims' savings.

On December 1, 1987, Thierry Paulin was recognized by chance by a police superintendent on rue de Chabrol in the 10th arrondissement, and arrested. In police custody, he confessed to the murders of 21 people and gave the name of his accomplice and lover, Jean-Thierry Mathurin. On December 4, 1987, Thierry Paulin, then aged 24, was charged with 18 murders - three of which did not tally with police information. Mathurin, 22, was charged with 8 murders. But Thierry Paulin died of AIDS in Fresnes prison on April 16, 1989, before he could stand trial.

  • Guy Georges, the East Paris killer

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1991-1997, 7 years during which the people of Paris will tremble. A killer is rampaging through the capital. Pascale Escarfail, a young literature student at the Sorbonne, was found murdered in her home at 41 rue Delambre on January 24, 1991. Three years later, on January 7, 1994, Catherine Rocher, aged 27, was killed in an underground parking lot on Boulevard de Reuilly. The "East Paris killer", as the press began to dub him, struck again on November 8, 1994, murdering Elsa Benady in an underground parking lot in the 13th arrondissement; then Agnès Nijkamp, whose throat was found slit in her home in the 11th arrondissement, on December 10, 1994. This was followed by the violent murders of Hélène Frinking in July 1995, Magali Sirotti in September 1997 and Estelle Magd in November 1997, interspersed with failed murder attempts. In all, seven young women were found raped, bound and with their throats slit in their homes and in underground parking lots.

On June 16, 1995, Elisabeth Ortega escaped the killer and provided the police with a sketch of her - but this later proved to be inaccurate. The investigation - or rather, investigations - stalled! In fact, different police departments were involved in different investigations, without making the necessary connections between them. It wasn't until the end of 1997 that the link between these crimes was made, and theexistence of a serial killer in the capital was confirmed. At a time when forensic science was still in its infancy, a profile of the killer recovered from the crime scenes was finally established (the now-famous SK1 profile, for "Serial Killer 1") and compared with suspects who had passed through the hands of the police and been released. And it matched!

On March 26, 1998, RTL broadcast the name of the "East Paris killer ", much to the dismay of the criminal investigation department: his name was Guy Georges. A few hours later, a policeman - who now had the killer's mug shot - stumbled across Guy Georges in the street, stopping him in front of the Monoprix on Boulevard de Clichy, in the 9th arrondissement. After denying, then admitting, the charges against him during a trial that proved trying for the civil parties, Guy Georges was finally sentenced to life impr isonment in 2001 for the murder of 20 people. In the wake of this case, the French National Automated DNA Database was set up. At the time of the murders, such a DNA cross-checking system could have enabled Guy Georges to be identified after his 5th murder.

Practical information


quartier de la goutte d'or
75018 Paris 18


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