Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baptistine Philip (Phillip), French Serial Killer - 1879


Note: Some sources give the spelling as "Phillip."

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FULL TEXT: One of the most remarkable cases of wholesale poisoning since the days of Brinvilliers and Palmer concluded to-day before the Assizes of the Bouches-du-Rhone. The court sat at Aix, where the affair has created the greatest sensation. The prisoner is a middle-aged woman named Baptistine Philip, and she is accused of having poisoned her mistress, her uncle, and then her husband. The first alleged crime dates as far back as 1871. At that period she was in the service of an old widow lady named Martin, who was known to possess a round sum of money. The prisoner had not been there more than a month before the aged lady was taken ill and died in convulsions.

The house was searched by her relatives, but nothing save a few stray francs were found. In spite of these suspicious circumstances, no proceedings were taken against the servant. The prisoner then returned to the house of her husband, who lived with his uncle, an elderly widower in possession of a small fortune. In a short time the prisoner, according to the indictment, because the uncle’s mistress, and ultimately induced him to make a will in favor of his nephew, that is to say, her husband. A few weeks after this, in June 1876, the uncle died suddenly, and although the neighbors suspected foul play, still nothing was said to the Police.

The prisoner now got her husband to make a will in her favor. She then formed the acquaintance of a young man in the neighborhood, a clerk to the Mayor of Lambesc, and was afterward heard to express her regret that she was not a widow sp that she might get married to him. Eventually, on the 31st of November, 1878, her husband was taken ill, and died suddenly in terrible agony. The neighbors were at last aroused to action. The Police were informed of the prevailing suspicions, and the prisoner was arrested. The body of her husband was examined, and the doctors found a quantity of arsenic in it. This led to the exhuming of the bodies of the old widow lady and the uncle, and the same poison was discovered in both.

The trial has occupied several days. On the first day the Judge questioned the prisoner, and found he had met his match in the peasant Baptistine Philip. The Judge began thus: “You knew where to look when you designs necessitated the use of the substances which you have made such a criminal use?” The prisoner replied: “I never even knew where those substances were to be found, and even if I had known –“ The Judge interrupted her, and went on to state that she had poisoned the Widow Martin. To this she retorted that the village doctor had deposed that she died of choleric diarrhea., whereupon the Judge said he had since retracted that statement.

Coming to the second case of alleged poisoning, the Judge having stated that a doctor was called in to see the victim and stopped the vomiting, the prisoner quickly interrupted, and said: “Then it was not poison.” So the unequal struggle went on, till, at the end of the interrogatoire, the Judge having made the usual observation to the prisoner, “That is your system of defense,” the prisoner exclaimed, “God in Heaven! You do not need a system when you have done nothing.” The hearing of the witnesses then began.

Several exciting incidents took place during the examination with regard to the death of the old lady, Martin. The prisoner, on being asked what had become of the money the deceased was known to have on the premises, replied that her mistress a few days before her death paid a large sum to the washer-woman. The person was forthwith called, and she denied the statement, on which the accused called her all sorts of ugly names, and the Judge had to reprimand her. Respecting the death of her uncle she also stoutly denied that she had become his mistress and was jealous when he talked of getting married. The evidence concerning the prisoner’s husband showed him to have been a weak-minded
man, passionately fond of his wife. Here the accused exclaimed, “I was the happiest of women; why should I have destroyed that happiness by killing him, as you pretend?”

M. Isidore Blanc, Secretary to the Mayor of Lambesc, said he made the acquaintance of the prisoner shortly after her husband’s death. The accused denied it and ridiculed the idea of falling in love with a man old enough to be her father. Another important witness was a chemist named Girard, in whose service the prisoner had been before became the servant of the old widow lady, Martin. He said the key of her trunk opened the cupboard where he kept the poisons. A woman named Honorat declared that the prisoner when her husband was taken ill would go to the chemist and prepare the medicine herself, if the chemist was not at home. The medical evidence was then taken. Both the doctors who attended the three deceased persons, and the experts, declared that they had never come across such conclusive proofs of poisoning as those they had discovered in their post-moretem examination. The experts had, by means of the Marsh apparatus, detected in all the bodies a large quantity of arsenic, which was shown to the jury in glass tubes. Here the Judge reminded the prisoner that she was the only person who attended the deceased in their sickness, and the only person by their side when they died. To this she answered, “It is fatality; it is a mystery; I know nothing, only that I am innocent.”

The trial ended in the prisoner being found guilty, with extenuating circumstances, and she was sentenced to hard labor for life.

[“The French Female Poisoner. – How She Contradicted The Judge And Was Sent To Prison For Life.” The New York Times (N.Y.), Sep. 9, 1879, p. ?]

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