Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jeanne Gilbert, French Serial Killer – 1908


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): A woman named Jeanne Gilbert is under arrest in the village of St. Amand Montrond on suspicion of a series of murders of relatives by poisoning. If the charges be proved against her they will form one of the most terrible crimes in history.

In the village, and in the town of Bourges near it, the belief in the guilt of Jeanne Gilbert is unanimous, and several efforts were made to lynch her as she was taken to prison.

Jeanne Gilbert is a married woman with a fortune of £4000 of her own. Her husband, a man in a good position, absolutely refuses to believe in her guilt. He has closed all the shutters of his house and shut himself up with his little daughter, refusing to see anyone. Jeanne Gilbert is thirty, and has been married for ten years.

She is a good-looking woman, dark-haired and dark-eyed, a good housewife, and until the deaths of many of her friends and relatives from arsenical poisoning threw suspicion on her she was popular in the village. One evening about two years ago M. Gilbert’s father, after eating some chicken prepared by his daughter-in-law, was taken violently ill and died. A few days later his wife was taken ill in the same way, and died within an hour.

In September, 1906, Jeanne Gilbert’s father, M. Girault, received a present from his daughter of a plum tart made by her own hands. That evening he died in terrible pain. Mme. Girault, Jeanne Gilbert’s mother, who had also tasted the tart, was very ill, but recovered. Less than two months afterwards she died, suffering from exactly the same symptoms as before, after eating some grapes which her daughter had sent her. And a servant of the Gilberts died in the same way a few weeks later.

In every one of these cases the symptoms were the same – violent burning pains, uncontrollable sickness, and death.

On March 21, at about ten o’clock in the morning, Jeanne Gilbert went to see her cousin, M. Pailot, whose house is some fifty yards from her own. M. Pailot and his wife were at work in their vineyard. Jeanne Gilbert passed through the empty house and joined them there, leaving them soon afterwards.

When M. and Mme. Pailot and their “son and daughter-in-law returned to the house they found a large white cheese on the window-sill. Thinking that it was a present from one of their relations, who had probably left it there on finding no one at home, the whole family partook of it at dinner. But soon after they were taken violently ill, and on Monday Mme. Pailot expired, in spite of the care bestowed on her by her cousin Jeanne, who had hastened to her bedside to nurse her on hearing of the occurrence.

The remainder of the cheese was examined and found to contain arsenic, whereupon M. Pailot openly accused Jeanne of having done the work.

In spite of her vehement protestations at innocence her house was searched, and the discovery of a piece of brown paper, which proved to be the other half of that in which the cheese was wrapped, led to her immediate arrest.

Since her arrest Mme. Gilbert his maintained a calm demeanour, and she declares that it is a pity, “such silly tales get about.” Before going to prison she sent a wreath of flowers to “my beloved cousin,” but it was returned by M. Pailot.

[“Rival of the Borgias. – Woman Accused of Poisoning Her Relatives.” The Auckland Star (New Zealand), May 30, 1908, p. 15]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): If all that is alleged against her be true, then Jeanne Gilbert, a French peasant woman of thirty-two, must be one of the most atrocious poisoners on record. She was brought up at the Assize Court at Bourges on Monday, January 25, charged with having poisoned her father, her mother, her mother-in-law, and a cousin, and with attempting to poison live other relatives.

According to the prosecution, Gilbert did away with her father and mother merely in order to get off paying to them a email annuity amounting to £12, while she also made up her mind to inherit the property of her relatives, which, as they were but struggling farmers and wine growers, was very small in extent

Her modus operandi was to send the deadly poison cunningly concealed in tarts and other appetising dainties, which process went on during a period extending over two years.

Her cousin, Mme. Pellean, died in March, 1906, after partaking of some cheese that had been left at her house by some person unknown. All the members of the family were taken ill, but Mme. Pelleao alone died. It was found that death was due to arsenical poisoning.

About the same time a paper bag containing arsenic was found close to Mm. Pellean’s house; this bag, it was discovered, was made from a sheet from an account book belonging to Jeanne Gilbert it was further proved that she had bought a large quantity of arsenic two months before, saying she wanted it for killing rats.

Further inquiries showed how other relatives of Jeanne Gilbert had died in suspicious circumstances, and how at various times, under false names, she had purchased arsenic. Her father died after eating a plum pie which Jeanne had sent him. A month later her mother died after eating some meat, again supplied by Jeanne Gilbert.

When it was proposed to exhume the various bodies, Jeanne professed to be greatly shocked. “You must not disturb the dead!” she said. “You will bring ill luck upon us all if you do.” But the exhumations were made and the poison was discovered.

Jeanne, who is a fine brunette, stoutly maintained her innocence when arrested.

“I am innocent of everything I am accused of. I give you my word of honour I am,” she said. In court she repeated tills asseveration and denounced several witnesses as liars.

Prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced to penal servitude for life.

[“Peasant Woman As Poisoner – Farmer’s Wife Charged With Causing Many Deaths.” The Auckland Star (New Zealand),  Mar. 13, 1909, p. 15]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Jeanne Gilbert, the wife of a farmer living near Bourges (France), was recently sentenced to penal servitude for life for having murdered four relatives and tried to murder four other persons by poisoning them with arsenic. The deliberations with which the crimes were committed, and the callous attitude of the murderess, caused intense public interest in the case, and Bourges was thronged with spectators during the trial. Jeanne Gilbert was discontented with her life in the country, and she deliberately poisoned her mother, her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, and a cousin, in order to obtain small amounts of property in each case, with the ultimate intention of leaving the district. She purchased quantities of arsenic from a local chemist at regular intervals, and administered it to her victims in home-made cakes and pastries. The four murders extended over a period of more than two years, and when, the bodies were exhumed and arsenic found in large quantities the woman merely expressed surprise that traces of the poison were discovered after so long a time. Before beginning her series of murders the poisoner made a number of experiments on animals, and even killed her own dog in order to observe the effect of arsenic.

[“Wholesale Poisoning.” The Colonist (Nelson, New Zealand), Mar. 29, 1909, p. 1]

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VICTIMS:

Died: (4 deaths were attributed to her; some source name among the dead a servant and her father, but it is for now presumed that the following lisr is the most accurate.)
M. Gilbert, father-in-law (died circa 1906)
Mme. Gilbert, mother-in-law (died circa 1906)
M. Girault, father (died circa Sep. 1906)
Mme. Pellean, cousin (died in Mar. 1906)

Survived:
4 other persons whom she attempted to poison.

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