The Greatest French Serial Killers

TW Rape, murder

Michel Fourniret, Thierry Paulin, Francis Heaulme… These murderers are not as famous as the American serial killers, yet they have nothing to envy them. These men have made the headlines and tormented many investigators, before finally being put out of action. Today, lets discover the cases that have obsessed France:, between terror and fascination…

Joseph Vacher, the « Jack the Ripper of the Southeast”

Joseph Vacher

Born in 1869, Joseph Vacher is the oldest serial killer on this macabre list. He is suspected of being the author of fifty rapes and murders. After a career as a sergeant, he leaves the ranks and becomes a penniless vagabond. This is the beginning of a long series of murders. His modus operandi is chilling: after raping the victim, he strangles her, slits her throat and then mutilates her. After being arrested while assaulting a woman, he finally confesses to eleven murders. However, he was only tried for one murder, for which he was guillotined. Surprisingly, his fate divided society: diagnosed with hallucinations and acute paranoia, it is not known whether he was conscious or not during the acts he committed. 

Henri Désiré Landru, the « bluebeard of Gambais”

Also born in 1869 in Paris, the man had several jobs before setting up a macabre swindle that would claim eleven victims. Henri Landru is a rather attractive man who pretends to be a lonely widower in order to seduce women without families and with large savings.  He invites them to a secluded villa and induces them to give him all their financial assets. Then, the man coldly kills his victims before burning the bodies so as not to leave any trace. However, it is the foul odour escaping from the chimney that will betray the terrible assassin. Henri Désiré Landru was finally guillotined in 1922.

Marcel Petiot, « Doctor Satan”

Marcel Petiot

On March 11, 1944, alerted by neighbours overwhelmed by a foul odour and thick smoke coming out of Dr. Petiot’s home for several days, the police entered his mansion. A macabre discovery followed: human remains from 27 bodies and numerous suitcases containing the belongings of the victims were found. Under the pretext of a false resistance network, Marcel Petiot lured people wishing to flee to his property, particularly Jews. Before killing them, he took their belongings. The man on the run was finally arrested seven months after the terrible discovery, and after a high-profile trial, Marcel Petiot was sentenced to death.

Emile Louis, « the butcher of the Yonne”

Emile Louis

At the end of the 1970’s, in the Yonne region, seven young girls mysteriously disappeared. For thirty years, these crimes will remain unpunished, until the famous day of December 13, 2000, when Emile Louis finally confessed to the murders. Although he retracted his confession, everything points to him: the women were handicapped and were transported by bus by a driver who was none other than Emile Louis. He therefore knew them. All the more incriminating: human bones were found not far from his home. He was finally sentenced to life imprisonment for the case of the « missing women of the Yonne », but also to twenty years of criminal imprisonment for rape and torture of his wife and daughter.

Michel Fourniret, « the Ogre of the Ardennes”

It all began in the late 1980s. Michel Fourniret committed his first murder, that of Isabelle Laville. He will thereafter make a dozen victims, and many unsolved cases. The serial killer usually targets young girls in France and Belgium with the help of his wife Monique Olivier. He has finally been imprisoned since June 2003, after attempting to kidnap a young woman in Namur. Although he has admitted to eleven murders, the authorities still suspect him of being behind many other crimes… 

Francis Heaulme, « the crime hiker”

Everywhere he goes, he kills people. This is how one could describe Francis Heaulme, the itinerant serial killer. He is also characterised by his rather impulsive acts, especially by slitting throats. The man committed a total of eleven murders, both men and women, before he was arrested in 1992. 

Thierry Paulin, « the old ladies killer”

He committed crimes from a very young age by robbing or assaulting elderly people. When he moved to the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, Thierry Paulin met Jean-Thierry Mathurin, who became his lover and accomplice. Together they lead a dissolute and extravagant life, which leads them in 1984 to assault elderly women in their homes for a nefarious reason. For nearly three years, Thierry Paulin terrorized the 18th arrondissement, earning him the nickname « Monster of Montmartre ». The series of sordid murders finally came to an end in 1987, when the killer was stopped by chance in the street by a police commissioner. He  died in prison in 1988 of AIDS. Paulin was found guilty of 21 murders, although he was suspected in 38 cases. 

Manon Houset

Sources : 

https://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/dossier/tueurs-en-serie

https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/entry/les-pires-tueurs-en-serie-francais_fr_5ce263eee4b00735a91a4938

https://www.geo.fr/histoire/landru-le-destine-du-premier-tueur-en-serie-francais-continue-de-fasciner-206855

https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/faits-divers-justice/michel-fourniret-l-ogre-des-ardennes-1605892944

Images :

  • Couverture : ©CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Joseph Vacher : domaine public
  • Marcel Petiot : domaine public
  • Émile Louis : ©CC BY-SA 4.0

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