Thursday, September 22, 2011

Alias “Lady Guilfort,” A Parisian Serial Killer from England – Late 1700s

NOTE: Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie (1625 – 14 June 1709) is considered to be the founder of the first (inaugurated in 1667) modern police force. He was its lieutenant general from March 1667 to January 1697. The following source gives the alias “Jabirouska,” which was but one of many aliases –  “Lady Guilfort” being yet another – of an English woman whose real name was never discovered. Some accounts of the case mention the name “Jabirouska” but not “Guilfort.” While the story certainly bears the marks of legend and fiction it nevertheless has been repeated as factual up to this day, appearing in a current standard textbook on criminal justice ([Herbert Alan Johnson & Mark Jones, History of Criminal Justice, 5th edition, Anderson Publishing / Elseiver Inc., Waltham, Ma., 2011, p. 107)

FULL TEXT (1860 US source): At the time when M. de la Reynie was lieutenant-general of police under Louis XIV., a great sensation was caused at Paris by the mysterious disappearance of not fewer than twenty-six young men, aged from seventeen to twenty-five, belonging to noble or wealthy families. Among the common people the report was that the young men had been murdered by a foreign princess, in order that she might take baths of their blood to cure herself of a liver complaint. The matter at last became so serious that Louis XIV complained of it to M. de la Reynie, and the latter consulted one of his ablest agents, names Lecoq.

This person at once suspected that the young men must have fallen into some snare set for them by female charms, and he employed a natural son of his own, a handsome and intelligent young man, to try and discover the mystery. The young man, whose name was Exupere, was sent splendidly dressed, every day to the Tuileres, the Palace Royale, and the Luxembourg, which were then the places of fashionable resort. At length, he saw in the Tuileries a young woman of marvelous beauty, attended by an aged female, and his looks expressed his admiration. She seemed far from displeased, and at length her attendant, accosting him, said that she was a Polish princess by the name of Jabirouska, immensely rich, and that, as she was much struck by him, she would perhaps allow him to visit her. The young man declared that he had conceived a violent passion for the lady, and after some conversation the attendant told him that, if at nine o’clock at night he would present himself in front of the church of St. Germain-l’Auxerois, she would meet him and take him to her mistress.

The young man of course told Lecoq of this, and in the evening the latter caused several of his men to be placed in such a way as not to lose sight of Exupere, and in the event of his incurring any danger to be able to render him assistance. At the appointed hour the young man was at the rendezvous, and the old woman joined him there. She wanted to bandage his eyes, but he refused to let her do so. She then led him by various obscure streets to the Rue de Ofrevres, and there introduced him into a small house, near the Chapel Saint Eloi. After walking along a dark corridor the young man was introduced into a sumptuously furnished room, in which he found the beautiful foreigner.

She received him so kindly that he entirely forgot to give to Lecoq outside a signal which had been agreed on. After a while the lady retired, and the young man proceeding to examine the room, found behind a screen a glass case in which were twenty-six men’s heads, each placed in a silver dish, each so skillfully embalmed that it retained the appearance of life! He started back with horror; but at the same time a whistle outside was heard, being the signal of Lecoq, and in a few seconds after the windows were forced open, and that officer and his men, who had ascended by ladders, jumped into the room. The soi-disant princess hearing the noise, rushed into the apartment, followed by four ferocious-looking bandits, but the police were strong enough to arrest all five. The bandits were in due time condemned to death and executed. As to the female, she turned out not to be a Pole, but an English woman, who is stated in Puchet’s account to have enticed the young men to her house to satisfy her passions, and had them murdered in order to rob them. She also was condemned to death, but escaped in a strange way. The king spoke of the affair to his brother, to the Chevalier de Lorraine, and some other high personages. The chevalier suggested to the prince that it would be amusing to sup with so singular a criminal. Monsieur at first objected, but at last consented. By means of a blank letter de cachet, the prince caused the woman to be given up to some person sent by him, on the pretext that she was to be conveyed to another prison. He had her, however, carried to a country house some miles across the country, where he, the Chevalier de Lorraine, and M. d-Effiat, were waiting to receive her. The whole four supped together.

At length monsieur, having seen enough of her, suggested that he ought to be sent back to the Bastille; but his companions proposed instead that she should be conveyed either to London or Brussels and act at liberty. The good-natured prince consented, and went away. The two nobles spent the night in an orgie with the woman, telling her that the next day they would convey her out of the country; but instead of trusting to them, she thought best to save herself; so, plying them well with drink until they were overcome, she locked them in, and escaping, was seen no more. The governor of the Bastile, on learning that the woman had been got out of his custody by a trick of the king’s brother, thought that the best thing he could do was to pretend that she was dead, and accordingly had a process verbal drawn up to that effect.

[“A Wholesale Murderess.” Puget Sound Herald (Steilacoom, Washington Territory, Aug. 31, 1860, p. 1]

A different source offers a different explanation of the motive other than robbery: the victims’ bodies were being sold to medical professionals, the heads being preserved to be sold to German researchers in phrenology while the rest of the bodies were sold in Paris for use by medical students.

[“The French Police” (pp. 372 ff.), The New Monthly Magazine, London, Chapman and Hall, 1864, Vol. 131, pp. 375 ff.]

[Other sources: Jacques Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des Archives de la Police de Paris, pour servir à l'histoire de la morale et de la police, depuis Louis XIV jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, A. Levasseur et Cie., 1838, pp. 161 ff. ; Jean Herves, Le Parc aux Cerfs et les petites Maisons Galantes, Paris, Bibliotecques des Curieux, 1910]

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