Henri Désiré Landru
On February 25, 1922, French serial killer Henri Désiré Landru is executed. Landru was born in Paris, France on April 12, 1869. After leaving school, he spent four years in the French Army from 1887 – 1891. After he was discharged from service, he proceeded to have a sexual relationship with his cousin.
She bore him a daughter, although Landru did not marry her; he married another woman two years later and had four children. He was swindled out of money by a fraudulent employer. He turned to fraud himself, operating scams that usually involved swindling elderly widows. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1900 after being arrested and found guilty of fraud, the first of several such convictions. By 1914, Landru was estranged from his wife and working as a second-hand furniture dealer.
Landru began to put advertisements in the lonely hearts sections in Paris newspapers. With World War I under way, many men were being killed in the trenches, leaving plenty of widows upon whom Landru could prey. Landru would seduce the women who came to his Parisian villa and, after he was given access to their assets, he would kill them and burn their dismembered bodies in his oven. Between 1914 and 1918, Landru claimed 11 victims: 10 women plus the teenage son of one of his victims. With no bodies, the victims were simply listed as missing, and it was virtually impossible for the police to know what had happened to them, as Landru used a wide variety of aliases in his schemes. His aliases were so numerous that he had to keep a ledger listing all the women with whom he corresponded and which particular identity he used for each woman.
In 1919, the sister of one of Landru's victims, Madame Buisson, attempted to track down her missing sibling. She did not know Landru's real name but she knew his appearance and where he lived, and she eventually persuaded the police to arrest him. Initially, Landru was charged only with embezzlement. He refused to talk to police, and with no bodies (police dug up his garden, but with no results), there was seemingly not enough evidence to charge him with murder. However, policemen did eventually find various bits of paperwork that listed the missing women, including Madame Buisson, and combining those with other documents, they finally built up enough evidence to charge him with murder. Landru stood trial on 11 counts of murder in November 1921. He was convicted on all counts, sentenced to death, and guillotined three months later on February 25, 1922 in Versailles.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: