Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Henri Landru

Bluebeard's "Wives"

In 1914, the following advertisement appeared in the Paris newspapers: "Widower with two children, aged 43, with comfortable income, serious and moving in good society, desires to meet widow with a view to matrimony."

For a French widow, faced with a life of loneliness and penury in the depressed economy of wartime France, such an advertisement must have seemed as heaven-sent. Landru, who placed the ad, had no trouble meeting women.

Madame Cuchet
Madame Cuchet

The first woman to meet this 20th Century Bluebeard was Madame Cuchet, a 39-year-old woman with a 16-year-old son, Andre. Cuchet worked in a lingerie shop in Paris and was barely keeping her head above water when she made Landru's acquaintance. He told her his name was Monsieur Diard and that he was an engineer. Their relationship flourished over time but was not without its ups-and-downs.

Madame Guillin
Madame Guillin

Madame Guillin, a 51-year-old widow whose full name was Marie Angelique Desiree Pelletier was last seen at the villa a month later. Also in 1915, a Madame Heon, visited Vernouillet and disappeared.

Whether or not there were others between the murders of Heon and 19-year-old Andree Babelay, a servant girl who disappeared in March 1917 en route to visiting her mother, only history knows. And why Babelay was slain is also a mystery. She was as poor as a church mouse and had nothing to give Landru but her charms. Did she, like Fatima in the legend of Bluebeard, stumble across Landru's secret, or was she killed merely because he could not rid himself of her? Regardless, poor Babelay followed the fate of Landru's other victims and was never seen alive again after meeting up with Landru.

After Babelay disappeared, Landru, apparently busy with other scams like his detached soldier scam and a petrol fraud, left Vernouillet for a new villa in Gambais and promptly had a large cast-iron oven installed. He laid low for almost two years, but soon returned to his murderous ways.

Madame Buisson
Madame Buisson

Landru courted Madame Buisson, a wealthy widow, for nearly a year before he succeeded in creating an estrangement from her family. She moved with him to Gambais, without her son, who went to live with his aunt. In April 1917, Buisson was seen for the last time.

His next victim at Gambais was Mme. Louise Leopoldine Jaume, who disappeared in September 1917. After her disappearance, Landru's new neighbors in Gambais noticed black, noxious smoke pouring from his villa.

Annette Pascal, 38, followed Jaume by vanishing in the spring of 1918, and finally, Marie Therese Marchadier, an "entertainer" known among the non-commissioned officers of French Army as "La Belle Mythese" and who had retired to relative anonymity in Paris, was visited by Landru who wanted to purchase her furniture. A friendship blossomed and she accompanied the murderer to Gambais in late 1918 and promptly disappeared.

In all, at least ten women and one boy (and two dogs) had disappeared after meeting Landru, yet no police had ever suspected him of any misdeeds. It would take a pair of anxious families to bring Bluebeard at long last to justice.

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