The official version of Landru’s lethal rampage was so shocking that it almost defied belief. According to the authorities, Landru had made “romantic contact” with 283 women during the First World War, luring ten of them to his country houses outside Paris where he killed them for their money.
Yet no bodies were ever found, while Landru obdurately protested his innocence. “It is for you to prove the deeds of which I am accused,” he sneered at the investigating magistrate.
The true story of l’affaire Landru, buried in the Paris police archives for the past century, was altogether more disturbing. In Landru’s Secret, Richard Tomlinson draws on more than 5,000 pages of original case documents, including witness statements, police reports and private correspondence, to reveal for the first time that:
Landru killed more women than the 10 victims on the charge sheet.
The police failed to trace at least 72 of the women he contacted.
The authorities ignored the key victim who explained why the killings began.
Landru did not kill for money, but to revel in his power over what he called the “feeble sex”.
Lavishly illustrated with previous unpublished photographs, Landru’s Secret is a story for our times: a female revengers’ tragedy starring the mothers and sisters of the missing fiancées, a lethal misogynist and France’s greatest defense lawyer, intent on saving his repulsive client from the guillotine.
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About the Author
After completing his doctorate at Cambridge University, Richard pursued an award-winning career as a a journalist in China and Europe. He is an acclaimed author, whose most recent book, a biography of the cricketer W.G. Grace, was hailed as “magnificent” (_Daily Telegraph_), “compelling” (_Mail on Sunday_) and “my biography of the year” (_Evening Standard_).
Table of Contents
List of Characters vii
Note on Money ix
Prologue: Alas, I Have Little Hope xi
Part 1 The Disappearances (January 1915-April 1919)
Chapter 1 The Locked Chest 3
Chapter 2 The Lodge at Vernouillet 11
Chapter 3 The 'Garnet Noir' 19
Chapter 4 The Villa Tric 27
Chapter 5 Madame Sombrero 33
Chapter 6 Lulu 43
Chapter 7 Sacré Coeur 53
Chapter 8 The Fatal List 67
Part 2 The Investigation (April 1919 - November 1921)
Chapter 9 The Enigma of Gambais 81
Chapter 10 Why Would I Have Killed Them? 87
Chapter 11 I Will Tell You Something Horrible 99
Chapter 12 Conscience Recoils Before Such a Monster 113
Part 3 The Trial (7 - 30 November 1921)
Chapter 13 Chivalry No Longer Exists 127
Chapter 14 Philomène's Dream 137
Chapter 15 Her Private Life Does Not Concern Me 143
Chapter 16 You Accuse Me, You Prove It 155
Chapter 17 Let Us Not Look for Tragedy 165
Chapter 18 You Cannot Live With the Dead 181
Chapter 19 A Veritable Puzzle 195
Chapter 20 You Have Death in Your Soul 201
Chapter 21 Do You Feel Nothing in Your Hearts? 209
Chapter 22 A Terrible Doubt Came to You 217
Part 4 Landru's Secret
Chapter 23 The Signpost 225
Chapter 24 The Road to Gambais 231
Chapter 25 The Road to Vernouiliet 241
Afterword: From the Quai de la Pinède to the Jardin des Plantes 251
Note on Sources 287
Select Bibliography 289