March 1944: Thousands of people were desperate to escape Nazi-occupied Paris; and, many sources offered escape—for a price. Under the guise of helping citizens escape the country, Dr. Marcel Petiot collected a fee of 25,000 francs (which equates to $10,000 today). Instead of shepherding his clients to safety, however, he lured them to an empty house… and murdered them.
When neighbours complained about foul-smelling smoke escaping from 21 Rue Le Sueur, police and firemen broke into the building owned by Petiot and followed the source of the smoke to the basement. What they discovered there was a thing of nightmares.
Marcel Petiot is suspected of the murder of around 60 victims during his life, although the true number remains unknown. His first victim might have been Louise Delaveau with whom he had an affair in 1926. Delaveau disappeared in May, and neighbours later said they had seen Petiot load a trunk into his car but police eventually dismissed her case as a runaway.
As it was, early suspicions against Marcel Petiot had more to do with theft, scandal and fraud not murder. He ran for mayor and won, and while in office he embezzled town funds and was suspended. Marcel Petiot was then elected as a councillor and was accused of stealing electric power from the village, and he lost his council seat. Tax evasion, illegally practising medicine, illegal abortions, and other offences was added to the growing list Marcel Petiot’s crimes.
The most gruesome crimes of Marcel Petiot were during World War II. Under the codename “Dr. Eugène”, Marcel Petiot pretended to have a means of getting people wanted by the Germans or the Vichy government to safety outside France. Petiot claimed that he could arrange a passage to South America, for a price of 25,000 francs per person.
Petiot told his victims Argentine officials required all entrants to the country to be inoculated against disease and injected them with cyanide. He then took all their valuables and disposed of the bodies.
Marcel Petiot was hide his murders until March 1944 when authorities discovered a roaring fire in the basement of Rue Le Sueur with human remains in and around it but the elusive Marcel Petiot was still able to avoid capture until after the liberation of Paris eight months later.
After his imprisonment Marcel Petiot insisted he had only killed the enemies of France and was associated with the Resistance. His claims proved groundless and at his trial in 1946, the court found him guilty and Marcel Petiot was executed. As it turned out, information disclosed decades later hinted Marcel Petiot may have indeed been a source for the Allies during the war.
Thomas Maeder explores in gruesome detail the “unspeakable crimes” of Marcel Petiot in a true account of a doctor-turned-killer and his heinous murders.
Marcel Petiot – Excerpt: “The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot”
by Thomas Maeder
[Policemen Joseph Teyssier and Emile Fillion], and a civil-defense officer who chanced to be passing by were led down to the basement, where they found two coal-burning stoves. The one on the left was cold, but the smaller one, to the right, was going full blast, and a human hand, apparently female, dangled from the open door. From the light of the fire the three officers discerned a pile of coal and the bottom steps of a short staircase on which were littered a head, skulls, arms, two nearly complete skeletons, shattered rib cages, feet, hands, jawbones, large chunks of unrecognizable flesh, and a quantity of small bones.
A hatless man in a gray overcoat rode up on a green bicycle and dismounted in front of number 21. He was in his early to mid-40s, with piercing eyes of such dark brown as to look black. He seemed surprised to find the doors to the building ajar, but with an air of confidence and authority approached Fillion and identified himself as the brother of the building’s owner. Teyssier and the two agents led the man into the building; he began climbing the steps toward the main floor, but they quickly motioned him downstairs.
Gazing calmly at the litter of human remains in the basement, the man said: “This is serious. My head may be at stake.” The policemen were scarcely surprised. They accompanied the man back to the street to escape the smell of decayed and burning flesh. He turned to them and asked, “Are you Frenchmen?” Teyssier indignantly asked the reason for this strange and offensive question.
“The bodies you have seen are those of Germans and traitors to our country,” he replied. “I assume you have already notified your superiors and that the Germans will soon learn of your discovery. I am the head of a Resistance group, and I have 300 files at my home which must be destroyed before the enemy finds them.”
By March 1944, Paris had already suffered nearly four years under the Occupation and German military rule. There were two Gestapo offices in the neighborhood of the Rue Le Sueur, and a brothel reserved for German officers was just around the corner. The man spoke with conviction, and it seemed obvious to the French policemen that the carnage was the result of systematic executions by an organized group. Teyssier tipped his cap to a patriot and advised him to flee, promising not to mention the visit when his superiors arrived. And thus Dr. Marcel Petiot—for it was he himself—climbed back on his bicycle and rode off into the night.
Brigadier Henri Chanel soon arrived with three men from the local police station and, after briefly inspecting the still-burning stove, ordered the firemen back to their station and called the police commissaire for the quartier of Porte Dauphine and the appropriate judicial authorities. The commissaire arrived 15 minutes later and promptly called back the firemen to extinguish the stove and remove some of the remains. He then examined the rest of the building.
In the garage next to the consultation room, the commissaire discovered a pile of quicklime—14 feet long, eight feet wide, and three feet high at its peak. Interspersed throughout the pile were fragments of flesh and bone, among which he recognized a jawbone and a detached human scalp. In the adjacent stable he found a former manure pit; a block and tackle was rigged above it and a wooden ladder propped inside. Leaning over, the commissaire discovered it was half filled with several more cubic yards of lime and human remains. On a landing of the staircase leading from the courtyard down to the basement he found a canvas sack containing the headless left side of a human body, complete but for the foot and internal organs. At the bottom of the stairs, next to the mound of coal and corpses, was a hatchet covered with rust-colored stains and, a short distance away, a shovel.
[Commissaire] Georges Massu stared at the piles of remains. He took off his overcoat and climbed into the pit; the bones crunched sickeningly under his shoes and his trousers became covered with lime. In the basement kitchen he noticed that the large double sink was just long enough for an outstretched body and that its sloping bottom was steep enough for blood to flow down without coagulating before reaching the drain.
Meanwhile, the other investigators had found, joined to the consultation room by a small corridor, a triangular chamber—six feet on the short side, eight feet on the longest, and completely empty except for eight heavy iron rings fixed in one wall and a naked light bulb attached to the ceiling. Opposite the entrance was a double wooden door, and beside it an electric doorbell.
Given the layout of the building, the doors presumably led to a street in the rear, but when Massu forced them open he found that they were attached to a solid wall. The wires of the bell led nowhere. A zealous policeman began to remove the room’s wallpaper and was rewarded by the discovery of the wide end of a spyglass such as those placed in apartment doors to identify visitors. The eyepiece was just over six feet off the ground in the stable on the other side of the wall, and next to it were two light switches: one for the stable itself, the other for the triangular room.
As an experiment, Bernard Massu positioned himself between the eight iron rings in the room as though lashed to them. Through the viewer in the stable, the commissaire saw his son’s enlarged face perfectly framed in the field of vision. On his way to the stable, Georges Massu noticed that the door to the triangular room had no knob on the inside.
As yet, there was no indication of who the victims might be nor why they had been killed, but the death scenes the house’s arrangement conjured in Commissaire Massu’s mind grew increasingly horrifying. Under some pretext, he imagined, the doctor instructed a patient to leave his consultation room by the back door. The patient, already drugged or poisoned—gas, perhaps, or an injection—entered the triangular room, whose one true door, virtually soundproof, he could not reopen once it closed. Perhaps Petiot lashed his victims to the rings, then watched their death agonies from the stable…
Adapted from an article by Daniel O’Connor the originally of which featured on The-Line-Up.com. The Lineup is the premier digital destination for fans of true crime, horror, the mysterious, and the paranormal.