Photo of the Day

The 47 suitcases seized by police in a private residence at Villeneuve at the Seine Assize Court during the trial of French mass murderer Dr Marcel Petiot. The cases contain clothes which were identified by relatives of some of his victims. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

The 47 suitcases seized by police in a private residence at Villeneuve at the Seine Assize Court?during the trial of French mass murderer Dr Marcel Petiot. The cases contain clothes which were identified by relatives of some of his victims. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Dangerous Lunatic

The Monster of Rue Le Sueur

Meet the French doctor who promised Jews safe passage from Nazis, only to rob and murder them

To all who knew him, he was the most devoted, benevolent doctor in Nazi-occupied Paris. Dr Marcel Petiot provided free care for the poor and risked his life helping persecuted Jews flee to safety.
Or so everyone thought ? until locals in his affluent neighbourhood reported a foul stench from his home and thick black smoke pouring out of his chimney in March 1944.

Nazi-occupied Paris was a terrible place to be in the waning days of World War Two, with Jews, Resistance fighters and ordinary citizens all hoping to escape. Disappearances became so common they often weren?t followed up.

And one man used the lawlessness for his own terrible purposes, killing perhaps as many as 60 people.

Petiot?s criminal career stretched from his teenage years to his mid-life, and ran parallel to a successful military, political, and medical career. He was a real life Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The inherent grisliness of murder makes it hard ? if not impossible ? to describe any murderer as ?better? or ?worse? than another. Still, Marcel Andr? Henri F?lix Petiot was truly superlative in his horror, mainly because of the circumstances and motivations behind his acts: He promised safety and freedom to those leaving Nazi-occupied France, only to strip them of their possessions and lives.

Despite his infamy in France, many elsewhere have never heard his story. As with many serial killers, internal struggle marked much of P?tiot?s early life.

Born on January 17th, 1897, he was the son of a civil servant, and?his uncle, Gaston Petiot, was a professor of philosophy at the College of Auxerre.?From childhood he showed signs of violence, after he strangled a cat after plunging its legs in boiling water.

However, he showed great intelligence, at 5 years old he was reading like a 10-year-old child. He then was found distributing obscene images when he was eight.?Interned at St. Anne for a psychiatric disorder, his mother died when he was 12, he was then subsequently sent to several schools for discipline, but exhibited severe behavioural problems in school and was expelled several times before completing his education.

Petiot had quickly caught the attention of school authorities with his tendency for violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour. He fired his father?s gun in class, and propositioned a fellow student for sex ? at the age of 11. As a teenager, he began his criminal activity in earnest, and found himself charged with theft and damage to public property after he robbed a post box at age 17. His recommended sentence was a psychological evaluation ? the first of many times his mental state was officially evaluated. This time ? as with his subsequent evaluations ? a psychiatrist found him to be suffering from mental illness, and the charges against him were dropped.

He finished his education in a special academy in Paris in July 1915.

During World War I, Petiot volunteered for the French army, entering service in January 1916.
In the Second Battle of the Aisne, he was wounded, gassed, and exhibited more symptoms of mental breakdown. He was?sent to various rest homes, where he was arrested for stealing army blankets, morphine, and other army supplies, as well?as wallets, photographs, and letters, and he was jailed in Orl?ans. In a psychiatric hospital in Fleury-les-Aubrais, he was?again diagnosed with various mental illnesses but was returned to the front in June 1918. He was transferred three weeks?later after he allegedly injured his own foot with a grenade, but was attached to a new regiment in September. A new?diagnosis was enough to get him discharged with a disability pension.

After the war, Petiot entered the accelerated education program intended for war veterans, completed medical school in eight months, and became an intern at the mental hospital in??vreux. He received his medical degree in December 1921 and moved to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, where he received payment for his services both from the patients and from government?medical assistance funds. At this point, he was already using addictive narcotics. While working at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, he gained a reputation for dubious medical practices, such as?supplying narcotics, performing then-illegal abortions, and theft (for example, money from the town’s treasury, the bass drum of a local band, and the stone cross).

Doctor Marcel Petiot, 1927.

Doctor Marcel Petiot, 1927.

Doctor Marcel Petiot

Doctor Marcel Petiot

On arrival, at ?Villeneuve-sur-Yonne the 25-year-old physician had printed fliers comparing himself to the town?s two elderly doctors.

The fliers read: ?Dr. Petiot is young, and only a young doctor can keep up to date on the latest methods born of a progress which marches with giant strides. This is why intelligent patients have confidence in him. Dr. Petiot treats, but does not exploit his patients.?

In fact, while outwardly charming and popular with most of his patients, Petiot secretly enrolled them for state medical assistance, thereby insuring that he was paid twice for each treatment–once by the patient and once by the government. He favoured addictive narcotics in his prescriptions.

When one pharmacist complained of the near-fatal dose Petiot prescribed for a child, Petiot replied, ?What difference does it make to you, anyway? Isn?t it better to do away with this kid who?s not doing anything in the world but pestering its mother??

In private, Petiot remained a loner who turned casual conversations into heated debates, ever insisting on the last word. He lived modestly, but splurged on a sports car which he drove recklessly through Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, causing numerous traffic accidents.

A confirmed thief, Petiot stole from strangers and relatives alike; his brother Maurice insisted on searching his pockets every time Marcel visited his home. Evicted by one landlord for theft of furniture and fixtures, Petiot shrugged off threats of litigation with the remark that as a certified lunatic he could never be convicted.

Around the same time, in March 1922, Petiot clashed with the Commission de R?forme over demands for new psychiatric exams to maintain his disability payments. He declared that he ?purely and simply refused to accept any disability pension at all so as to avoid being subjected to what I find a more than disagreeable bit of exhibitionism.?

Still, the checks kept coming and he was examined once more in July 1923, doctors reporting that his tongue was scarred from bite wounds during epileptic seizures and that Petiot evinced ?total indifference? about his own future. That said, his disability was reduced to 50 percent.

In 1926 Petiot surprised his neighbours by launching a torrid affair with young Louise Delaveau, the daughter of Madame Fleury, an elderly patient. Soon after the affair began, the Fleury home was burglarized and set afire. No one connected the events, but Petiot was suspected when Louise disappeared in May 1926.

Neighbours recalled seeing Petiot load a large trunk into his car, closely resembling another fished out of the river weeks later, filled with the dismembered, decomposed remains of a young woman who was never identified. Ignoring the ?coincidence,? police searched briefly for Louise and then dismissed her as a runaway. She may, in fact, have been Petiot?s first murder victim.

Soon after Louise disappeared, Petiot ran for mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. The long, bitter campaign climaxed in July 1926, when Petiot hired an accomplice to disrupt a political debate with his opponent. When Petiot finished speaking, his crony cut power to the auditorium, blacking out the entire village and starting several fires. Petiot won by a landslide.

His opponent later told the Commission de R?forme that Petiot had boasted of feigning insanity to escape military service. Yet another review of his case confirmed the original diagnosis, pronouncing Petiot?s claims of fraud ?another manifestation of the subject?s mentally unbalanced state.”

The inside of the doctors house.

The inside of the doctors house.

The stove

The stove

Remains found at 21 Rue le Sueur.

Remains found at 21 Rue le Sueur.

Villeneuve-sur-Yonne now had a certified madman in charge, and Petiot acted the part. His kleptomania was an open secret, Mayor Petiot was suspected of stealing money from the town?s treasury, the bass drum from a local band, even a large stone cross that Petiot had once deemed an eyesore. Some despised Petiot; others called him the best mayor ever. Petiot, for his part, blamed all criticism on crass political enemies.

In June 1927, Petiot married Georgette Lablais, the 23-year-old daughter of a wealthy landowner in nearby Seignelay. Their only child, a son Gerhardt, was born the following April.

Eight months after that happy event, Petiot was accused of stealing several cans of oil from Villeneuve-sur-Yonne?s railroad depot. As it turned out, Petiot had purchased the oil legally, but he did commit fraud by denying receipt of the shipment and claiming a refund. In early 1930 the court at Sens fined him F200 and sentenced him to three months in prison. Petiot was suspended as mayor for four months, but managed to have the conviction reversed on appeal.

In the meantime, more serious trouble was afoot.

One night in March 1930, fire razed the home of dairy unionist Armand Debauve. His wife Henriette was found inside, beaten to death with a blunt instrument. Police suspected murder during robbery, since F20,000 was reported missing from the house. Footprints led across the nearby fields toward Villeneuve-sur-Yonne. Rumors spread that Henriette Debauve was Dr. Petiot?s mistress and that he was seen near her home on the night of the crime.

The witness in that case, a Monsieur Fiscot, declared his plans to testify but made a fateful visit to Dr. Petiot?s office instead. Fiscot sought treatment for his rheumatism. He received an injection and died three hours later, Petiot signing the death certificate blaming his demise on an aneurysm.

In April, Armand Debauve spoke to police, telling them that a resident of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne had claimed Dr. Petiot could identify Henriette?s killer. Local gendarmes sought help from police headquarters in Paris, but the file was somehow ?misplaced,? disappearing until April 1946. By that time, Dr. Petiot was charged with multiple murders in Paris and no one seemed interested in reopening the Debauve investigation.

During the next 16 months, the local prefect logged numerous complaints against Mayor Petiot, most involving theft or financial irregularities. Prosecutors investigated, finding that 138 alien registration applications and F2,890 in fees had been held at city hall, never relayed to the proper authorities.

Petiot blamed his secretary, who obliged the mayor by accepting responsibility. But Petiot was still suspended as mayor for a second time in August 1931, and he resigned the next day. The village council also resigned in sympathy, leaving files in disarray and many purchase orders obviously altered.

Petiot?s mayoral office was officially revoked the next month, but he did not seem to mind. Five weeks later, on October 18, he won election as the youngest of 34 general councilors from the Yonne district. As usual, his tenure was stormy, with Petiot accused of stealing electric power from the village of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne in August 1932.

At trial on that charge the following year, the judge dubbed Petiot?s defense ?pure fantasy,? and sentenced him to 15 days in jail and a F300 fine. The appeal dragged on for a year, affirming Petiot?s conviction but suspending the jail time, with his fine reduced to F100. The conviction cost Petiot his council seat, but it hardly mattered, since he had moved his family to Paris in January 1933.

Transportation of remains found at 21 Rue le Sueur.

Transportation of remains found at 21 Rue le Sueur.

Doctor Marcel Petiot after being arrested.

Doctor Marcel Petiot after being arrested.

Petiot promoted himself with typical zeal in Paris, offering patients a wide variety of treatments, claiming credentials both real and imaginary. Advertisements described him as an?interne?(intern) at one mental hospital where he had actually been an?intern??(patient). Outside his home-office at 66 Rue Caumartin, Petiot erected a brass plaque so jam-packed with phony endorsements that another physician complained to the medical association and Petiot was forced to remove it.

Bogus credentials aside, Dr. Petiot attracted a huge clientele and built an exemplary reputation. Years later, at the height of his infamy in 1944, police would interview 2,000 patients without hearing a word of criticism about Dr. Petiot.

At the same time, however, rumors persisted that Petiot was an abortionist (illegal in those days) and that he supplied addicts with drugs under the guise of ?cures.? In 1934, 30-year-old Raymonde Hanss visited Petiot for treatment of an abscess in her mouth. She was still unconscious when Petiot drove her home after surgery. Hanss never regained consciousness and died several hours later.

Her mother, Madame Anna Coquille, demanded an autopsy, which revealed significant levels of morphine in Raymonde?s body. The coroner postponed burial until a full investigation was completed, but authorities closed the case without filing charges. Madame Coquille renewed her complaints in 1942, but the court upheld its original finding of death by natural causes.

Petiot faced his first investigation for narcotics violations in 1935, but police found no conclusive evidence. The next year Petiot was appointed?m?decin d?etat-civil?for the ninth arrondissement of Paris, a post that granted him authority to sign death certificates. As usual, he used the position for personal gain: in December 1942, summoned to pronounce the death of a wealthy lawyer, Petiot was accused of stealing F74,000 from the dead man?s home. Caught shoplifting a book in April 1936, Petiot assaulted a policeman and escaped on foot.

He surrendered two days later, tearfully pleading for mercy, citing his military discharge records as proof that he was not responsible for his behavior. Police dropped the assault charge and Petiot was acquitted of theft on grounds of insanity. His wife, Georgette, arranged for Petiot to enter a private sanitorium in August 1936.

Petiot had barely arrived at the hospital when he began pleading for immediate release. His madness had passed, he assured staff psychiatrists. It was a momentary aberration, caused by his preoccupation with a new invention–a suction machine designed to relieve constipation. Dr. Rogues de Fursac found Petiot ?chronically unbalanced,? but still recommended his release in early September 1936.

Petiot?s liberation was nonetheless stalled while the court appointed three more psychiatrists to review his case. The panel?s report expressed ?strong doubts as to [Petiot?s] good faith at any point during this affair,? but the doctors could find no legal grounds for holding him. Petiot was released in February 1937.

Chastened by his latest confinement, Petiot appeared to clean up his act, with the exception of persistent tax fraud. Between 1937 and 1940 he reported less than 10 percent of his actual income. In 1938, for instance, he declared F13,100, while earning closer to F500,000. That year saw him charged with fraud and fined F35,000, despite a spirited defense that included pleas of poverty.

The life of every Frenchman changed in September 1939, when German troops invaded Poland, thus launching World War II. Polish resistance collapsed in October.

Fighting spread with the Nazi invasion of Denmark and Norway in April. German troops invaded Holland, Belgium and France the following month.

The French commander of Paris declared it an ?open city? in June 1940, and German troops seized the French capital. A collaborationist French government under Marshal Philippe P?tain was organized two weeks later in Vichy, broadcasting orders for a general cease-fire. Forty thousand French soldiers surrendered on June 22, while the Resistance armed and organized for long years of guerrilla war.

In Paris, Dr. Petiot had a new world of opportunity under German occupation. He would use and emulate the Nazis in pursuit of his greatest and most lethal scheme thus far.

Dr Marcel Petiot in the dock.

Dr Marcel Petiot in the dock.

Doctor Marcel Petiot'S attitude in the docks.

Doctor Marcel Petiot’S attitude in the docks.

For P?tiot, Nazi-occupied France provided the perfect backdrop in which he could commit his crimes. Indeed, the country stood divided primarily by Nazi sympathizers and those actively trying to overthrow ? or outrun ? the Gestapo. P?tiot capitalized on the state of fear, taking advantage of the latter.

He began to conceive a plan that would be both fiscally, and corporally, lucrative.

This started by professing himself a member of the French Resistance, perhaps to garner public trust and admiration and thus better conceal his illicit acts, which increasingly involved the sale of illegal drugs. He went so far as to invite Jews to his practice at 66 Rue Caumartin, promising them safe passage out of Nazi-occupied France.

He also offered his home as a safe house for resistance fighters, petty thieves, and hardened criminals trying to outrun the law. Still, what seemed like a noble cause on his part would turn out to be the beginning of one of the most horrifying killing sprees in history.

P?tiot, working under the name ?Dr. Eug?ne,? promised safe passage out of France to anyone who could afford his 25,000 franc fee ? which when adjusted for inflation?would work out to nearly half a million dollars today. He also hired several ?handlers? who helped round people up ? they would, of course, later be tried as accomplices.

No one ever heard from those who took P?tiot up on his offer ? mainly because he killed them all. He would tell his clients that before they could leave the country they needed inoculations, which he gave them ? though in fact he injected them with cyanide. P?tiot then took all his victims? valuables and dumped their corpses into the Seine.

Only the Gestapo would force P?tiot to change this practice: As the Gestapo?s presence in the streets of France grew, it became too risky to take the bodies out of the house and dispose of them. So, after his first few kills, P?tiot started putting the bodies in vats of quicklime to disintegrate them.

In an event only someone like P?tiot could make happen, the Gestapo effectively acted as the ?good guy? and, upon catching wind of ?Dr. Eug?ne?s? activities, arrested his accomplices. Under torture, they revealed his real name ? Marcel P?tiot. By the time the Gestapo went to find him, P?tiot had fled to another part of Paris.

Now working out of 21 Rue le Sueur, sans his lackeys, the task of disposing of the bodies of those he had killed became overwhelming. For reasons that remain unclear, P?tiot left town for a few days in March of 1944. While away, his neighbours began to notice a terrible odor emanating from his house, and that the smoke radiating from his chimney was unusually noxious.

Evidence gathered

Evidence gathered

On Monday morning, March 6, 1944, foul smoke poured from the chimney of a stylish home at 21 Rue le Sueur, Paris. Neighbors suspiciously eyed the three-story 19th-century house, with its private stable and courtyard, once the home of a lesser French princess.

As the hours–then days–dragged on with no abatement of the noxious smoke, a neighbor finally went to complain on Saturday, March 11. He found a note tacked to the door: ?Away for one month. Forward mail to 18 Rue des Lombards in Auxerre.?

Police were summoned, and a pair of officers arrived on bicycles. Neighbors informed them that the owner of the house, Dr. Marcel Petiot, maintained a separate residence two miles away, at 66 Rue Caumartin. Some noted the mysterious parade of callers at Dr. P?tiot?s empty house during the past six months, including nightly visits from a stranger with a horse cart. Some months earlier, two trucks had stopped at No. 21, the first removing 47 suitcases, while the second delivered 30 or 40 heavy sacks of something unknown.

The officers telephoned Dr. Petiot at home. He asked whether they had entered the house, and upon receiving a negative reply he cautioned, ?Don?t do anything. I will be there in 15 minutes.? A half-hour later, with the smoke worsening and no sign of Petiot, the patrolmen called for fire-fighters.

Entering through a second-story window, firemen searched the upper floors before entering the basement. They soon emerged, one vomiting, their chief telling the cops, ?You have some work ahead of you.?

Three officers next went downstairs, where a coal-fed stove was found burning full-blast, a human arm dangling from its open door. Nearby, a heap of coal was mixed with human bones and fragments of several dismembered bodies. It was impossible to count the victims in this tableau of grisly disarray.

Stunned, police left the basement at about the time Dr. Petiot arrived on his bicycle. ?This is serious,? Petiot remarked. ?My head could be at stake.? Then, after questioning each of the lawmen to ascertain that they were French, Petiot identified the basement dead as ?Germans and traitors to our country.?

Petiot claimed to be ?the head of a Resistance group,? with 300 files at home on Rue Caumartin ?which must be destroyed before the enemy finds them.? The French policemen, embittered by years of Nazi occupation, allowed Petiot to leave.

Seven months would pass before they saw him again.

Meanwhile, a search of the death scene proceeded. In Petiot?s garage, police found a large heap of quicklime mixed with human remains, including a recognizable scalp and jawbone. A pit had been dug in the stable, filled with more quicklime and corpses in various stages of decomposition. On the staircase leading from the courtyard to the basement, police found a canvas sack containing the headless left half of a corpse, complete but for its foot and vital organs.

Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu, a 33-year police veteran with more than 3,200 arrests to his credit, immediately took charge of the case. Examining the death house, he noted basement sinks large enough for draining corpses of blood, and a soundproof octagonal chamber with wall-mounted shackles, a peephole centered in its door. Massu was still on the scene at 1:30 a.m., when a telegram arrived from Paris police headquarters. It read: ?Order from German authorities. Arrest Petiot. Dangerous lunatic.?

To French patriots, that order from German invaders suggested Petiot might indeed be a hero of the Resistance. Police dragged their feet on the way to Rue Caumartin–and found Petiot?s apartment abandoned, no trace of the doctor or his family. Rather than search for him, detectives grilled the workmen who had remodeled the house on Rue le Sueur. When Parisian authorities learned that Petiot had been jailed and tortured by the Gestapo from May 1943 until January 1944, it eliminated the rationale for an urgent manhunt.

Back at Rue le Sueur, searchers collected mutilated remnants of at least 10 victims, though Chief Coroner Albert Paul told reporters that ?the number 10 is vastly inferior to the real one.? In addition to identifiable bones and body parts, Dr. Paul cataloged 33 pounds of charred bones, 24 pounds of unburned fragments, 11 pounds of human hair (including ?more than 10? whole scalps), and ?three garbage cans full? of pieces too small to identify.

Based on the substantial pieces, Paul said the oldest victim was a 50-year-old man, the youngest a 25-year-old woman. None bore any knife or gunshot wounds, nor had they been poisoned with any toxic metal. Organic poisons could not be ruled out from the samples in hand. At P?tiot?s apartment on Rue Caumartin, police found quantities of chloroform, digitalis, strychnine and other poisons, plus 50 times a typical physician?s stock of heroin and morphine.

Clearly, there was something odd about Dr. Petiot–but he was gone. Patriot or villain, he had slipped away.

Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu took charge of an official investigation into the man he believed was a ?dangerous lunatic.? Once he rounded up P?tiot?s wife and brother, Maurice, along with the men who had helped P?tiot when he lived at 66 Rue Caumartin, the true picture came together.

The police arrested all of them as accomplices. When they arrived at P?tiot?s home to arrest him and charge him with murder, he was, of course, gone.

The Invasion of Normandy in January of 1944 put the search for P?tiot on hold. Using the war to his advantage yet again, P?tiot hid with friends, explaining that the Gestapo pursued him because he?d murdered some informers. Throughout this period, P?tiot took on a number of different names, let his hair and beard grow out, and managed to evade capture for at least another month.

Unable to keep a truly low profile, P?tiot actually did join up with Resistance fighters, a move which would garner him praise ? and lead to his undoing. While operating under an assumed name, P?tiot gained so much notoriety as a Resistance fighter that a French periodical ran a profile of him. When papers hit the stands, several people recognized him as P?tiot and alerted police that the murderer, in fact, was still in Paris.

Someone recognized P?tiot at a train station in February of 1944, at which point police arrested him and charged him with murder.

Marcel P?tiot went on trial on March 19, 1946 with 135 criminal charges.

March 1946, Paris, France --- A group of photojournalists on a rooftop train their cameras on a courtyard below where a murder reconstruction continues in the case of Dr. Marcel Petiot, suspect in twenty-seven murders. --- Image by ? Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS Im M?rz 1946 fotografierte eine Gruppe Journalisten vom Dach des Gerichtshofs, wie im Hof darunter ein Tathergang im Fall des Serienm?rders Petiot rekonstruiert wurde.

March 1946, Paris, France — A group of photojournalists on a rooftop train their cameras on a courtyard below where a murder reconstruction continues in the case of Dr. Marcel Petiot, suspect in twenty-seven murders. — Image by ? Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS?

The extensive coverage of the Petiot affair soon escalated into a full-blown media circus. Newspapers dubbed the doctor the Butcher of Paris,?Scalper of the Etoile, the monster of rue Le Sueur, the Demonic Ogre, and Doctor Satan. One of the first and more popular sobriquets was the?Modern Bluebeard. Later, other names would be proposed for the murder suspect, from the Underground Assassin to the Werewolf of?Paris.The fervent media coverage extended internationally, the same source reports, and “In Switzerland, Belgium, and Scandinavia, the Petiot
affair dominated headlines on a daily basis.”

P?tiot?s defense was a plea of complete innocence. He admitted killing certain ?enemies of France? as a Resistance member, but denied any murders for profit. According to Petiot, he first became aware of corpses stashed at 21 Rue le Sueur in February 1944, after his release from Nazi custody.

He assumed the dead ?collaborators? had been killed and dumped by members of his Fly-Tox network, long since scattered and unable to verify his story. Petiot had asked brother Maurice for quicklime to dissolve the bodies and camouflage their odor.

Petiot was housed on death row at Sant? prison while authorities investigated his claims. Strangely, for a patriotic hero, he had no defenders in the leadership of recognized Resistance groups. Some knew him as a small-time hanger-on, a fraud, or not at all; other groups, described in detail by Petiot, proved to be nonexistent.

No record survived of his alleged bombing forays, assassination of Nazis, or tests of his various ?secret weapons.? Prosecutors finally dismissed P?tiot?s story and charged him with murdering 27 victims for plunder–an estimated F200 million in cash, gold and jewels that was never recovered.

Petiot?s trial began on March 18 1946, at the Palais de Justice, before a panel of three judges and a seven-man jury. Ren? Floriot once again defended Petiot. Prosecutors were helped by 12 civil lawyers who were hired by the relatives of Petiot?s victims. Petiot took an active role in his own defense, bantering with judges and prosecutors, grilling witnesses, exchanging jibes with the private attorneys.

The guillotine used to behead the Doctor Marcel Petiot.

The guillotine used to behead the Doctor Marcel Petiot.

After the trial?s second day, reporters overheard two jurors and Judge Leser discussing Petiot in private, referring to him as ?a demon? and ?an appalling murderer.? Attorney Floriot immediately sought a mistrial, but the appellate court rejected the motion. The trial resumed after the two offending jurors were replaced.

On the trial?s fifth day, judges and jurors visited 21 Rue le Sueur. As he passed through a phalanx of police and jeering neighbors, Petiot quipped, ?Peculiar homecoming, don?t you think??

Petiot maintained his hero?s posture to the end, admitting that he had killed 19 of the 27 victims found on Rue le Sueur. They were all ?Germans and collaborators,? of course, ranked among the 63 enemies of France whom Petiot admitted killing between 1940 and 1945. The other 44 were not identified, with Petiot telling the court, ?I don?t have to justify myself for murders I?m not accused of committing!?

In fact, he had already said more than enough. Ren? Floriot?s summation hailing Petiot as a hero of the Resistance won a standing ovation from the courtroom audience. But the judges and jurors held a very different view. After deliberating for three hours–a mere 90 seconds for each of the 135 criminal charges–the court convicted Petiot on all but nine counts.

He was acquitted of killing Nelly-Denise Hotin, but found guilty of 26 other premeditated murders. Petiot?s death sentence was a foregone conclusion, although it did not seem to faze him in the slightest.

Petiot had been scheduled to die on the day his appeal was rejected, but the guillotine malfunctioned that morning and his execution was postponed. At 3:30 a.m. May 25, a portable guillotine was delivered to the prison, assembled and ready to do its grim work by less than an hour later.

Summoned from his cell, Petiot refused the traditional glass of rum but accepted a cigarette. He also agreed to meet with the prison chaplain for his wife?s sake, telling the minister, ?I am not a religious man and my conscience is clean.?

The closing ritual was swiftly completed. Petiot signed the register before his hands were bound, his neck shaved, and the collar cut from his shirt. He approached the guillotine calmly. Dr. Albert Paul, among the witnesses, noted that Petiot ?moved with ease, as though he were walking into his office for a routine appointment.? Before he was strapped to the guillotine?s sliding table, Petiot warned the observers, ?Gentlemen, I ask you not to look. This will not be very pretty.?

The blade dropped at 5:05 a.m. According to the witnesses, Petiot was smiling as his head tumbled into the basket.

No one ever discovered what happened to the fortune he amassed with his alleged network, estimates amount to two hundred million francs.

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