FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): At Montauban, near Toulouse, a series of most abominable crimes have taken place, and under the very eyes of the authorities. Eight women were put on their trial for infanticide, and practising abortion. But the “head devils” were two named Delpech and Coyne. The former was a fat brute, aged 52, a convicted thief, and the keeper of a brothel. She confessed having murdered nine infants, entrusted to her to nurse. Her baby farming consisted in drowning the little darlings in a basin of water, then cutting them up into morsels in her lap, and burying the remains in her kitchen under the stairs, or in the water-closet. All this she confessed with a savage glee, describing the process in full court, and in the presence of the skeletons of seven of her massacred innocents. She practised abortion for a fee as low as two pounds of brown sugar, her first patient being her own daughter, aged 17, whose child she had some months before killed after coming into the world, by pouring vitriol and sugar down its throat. Some of the victims she left to the rats, gave to the pigs, and it is suspected eat portions. The ogress was equal to any inhumanity. Coyne was a midwife, extremely handsome, and aged 32. She recommended mothers to place their offspring with Delpech to nurse, dividing with that wretch the receipts. Both most openly instigated young girls to sin, assuring them of being easily freed from its evidence. Coyne accepted two chickens and 100 chestnuts for an abortion. During the trial Delpech indulged in continued laughter. She was found guilty, with “extenuating circumstances,” which takes away the penalty of death. The judge sentenced her to transportation for life, and on retiring she sent kisses of adieu to the audience. She has had the audacity to appeal against her sentence. Coyne was sent to the galleys for ten years, one woman was acquitted, and the others imprisoned for short periods.
[From “Parisian Gossip.” The Southland Times (Invercargill, New Zealand) May 20, 1869, pp. 2-3]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): A trial, the details of which are perfectly awful has just been decided at Toulouse. Eight women were accused of procuring abortion and murdering children. One Delpech, called the “Ogresse,” had got off once before when she was tried for the murder of two women, who had died under her operations. This she admitted, with a pleasing smile.
Having operated on her own daughters and others, as she openly admitted, she then went into another business.
“You devoted yourself to another profession?” said the magistrate, mildly.
“Yes, unluckily,” was the reply.
“Children were left in your charge, and they disappeared?”
“Yes, sir: but I was not a free agent.”
“How did you kill these wretched infants?”
“I was not a free agent.”
“These children were found after they had been dead two or three days?”
“Yes, sir; I kept one for two or three days at the foot of my bed!’
“You killed them by putting their heads in a pail of water. Is it not so?”
She chopped up one child.
The judge then asks, “You suffocated another?”
“Comme l’autre; mon Dieu, oui.”
“Yes; exactly the same as the others.”
“And you buried it under the staircase?”
“Yes; dug a hole with a shovel.” Here she roared with laughter.
“And the third, child ?” “Oh; always the same operation.”
The story is too dreadful. She received 100f., 200f., 500f., and undertook to send the children to an institution. She simply killed them, and when one man asked her for his child or his money, she and her accomplice arranged that they would hand over “the money they got for the next” to the injured parent.
“Then you killed these nine children. But that is not all. You also killed your granddaughter! You gave her vitriol, did you not?”
“Si fait; si fait!” (This is pleasingly explained as an expression equivalent to assent.)
There was a certain Madame Coyne who was only one degree removed a crime from Delpech. She was the agent who received the child, and the two or three hundred francs; and, having deducted a most liberal commission, handed over 100f. (4:1.) as the future provision for this wretched morsel of humanity.
“And you thought that Delpech could bring up a child on 41. sterling?” asked the judge.
The details of the trial are unfit for publication. Seven out of the eight prisoners were found “Guilty,” and two of them sentenced to the alleys – Delpech, the chief culprit, for life, and Coyne or ten years. The other sentences were: – Barriere two years; Verne, four; Pauline, three; Eulalie, two ; and Plantade, one year’s imprisonment.
[“Wholesale Infanticide.” Lloyd’s Weekly Newsletter (London, England), Mar. 14, 1869, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): WE shall not disgust our readers with a minute analysis of the horrible details of a recent trial in Montauban, in the course of which it was proved that no fewer than eight wretched women had been concerned through along series of years with some of the worst crimes which disgrace humanity. They were tried and convicted of the crimes of infanticide and of procuring abortion; in the latter case, some as agents, some as patients. One woman, the central figure of the group, Delpech, was proved to have murdered no less than nine infants, one her own daughter’s illegitimate child, and all under circumstances of the most inconceivable and fiendish brutality. She seems to have commenced her career of infanticide with this murder of her grandchild, to which the mother was privy, by administering vitriol; and in the other cases she had recourse to the simpler process of holding the victims’ heads under water — the Times’ Correspondent says boiling water, but this does not appear in the French report in the Constitutionnel which has reached us.
These infanticides were connected with the familiar system of baby-farming, as we call it, or, as in their pretty way the French wits style it, the manufacture of angels. In every case the mothers, and in one the alleged father, entrusted illegitimate children to the tender care of the woman Delpech, who, in consideration of money aid down, ranging in different cases from 100 to 500 francs, undertook to lace the poor little wretches in various nursing institutions, which duty she discharged by murdering them off-hand, and occasionally cutting them in pieces and hiding them in various parts of her house. Generally the mothers exhibited a significant lack of interest in their miserable offspring; and in one instance no inquiries were made for five years. The whole matter reads its own horrible lesson, which it would be impertinent to enlarge upon or to exaggerate; and doubtless its lesson will not be lost upon our eloquent contemporary of the daily press, who has been especially minute and especially impressive in expressing his horror of this social depravity, and who at the same time regularly inserts the advertisements of baby-farming establishments among ourselves which, if they have not much the same results, are sadly suspected of sometimes carrying on a trade little better than that of the woman Delpech.
Apart from these considerations, which are on the surface of the case, we repose to examine it as a typical instance of what seem to be t e very strange results of French criminal proceedings. And, first, the details of the trial do not reflect much credit on the vaunted superiority of the French police. The history of the woman Delpech – at least her criminal history – runs as for back as the year 1857. The stages of her guilt are successive, and increase in infamy and crime. Commencing with what the Act of Accusation in sonorous French tongue calls the trade of “proxénêtisme,” Delpech took naturally to baby-farming and consequent infanticide, and at last to the more lucrative trade of abortion. It was only in consequence of some unlucky failure in this last branch of her profession, which ended in the death of her two victims, that Delpech was brought to justice. That is to say, for twelve years she had been suspected by the police, who were indeed active enough to convict her more than once during this time for some small robberies. But her greater crimes were not detected, or, if suspected, they were not gone into. At any moment she might have been caught almost in the act, for the skeletons and scattered bones of at least seven of her victims were discovered when — that is, after some ten years — the suspicions of the police were at last roused into action. But, unsatisfactory as this specimen of the detective powers of the French police seems to be, this preliminary consideration is insignificant when compared with the result of the criminal proceedings at the assizes of Montauban. The Judge, more Francorum, had it all his own way. In the course of his examination of the principal prisoner, Delpech, she confessed everything; and the very leading questions as to her guilt put from the Bench were met with instantaneous alacrity or assent and explosions of laughter on the part of the accused which had to be accounted for, and on these jovialities in the dock, planned and pre-arranged for the purpose, her counsel framed a very pretty defence. True that the accused confessed everything; but then she was mad. She had on some occasions gone to the cemetery and had invoked the ghosts of her parents, who, according to her own account, dictated to her the confession of these crimes. The ingenious advocate assed over the fact that the prisoner’s guilt was sufficiently proved y extraneous testimony apart from her confession. But he went on to argue — Look at the woman; observe her demeanour in Court; watch heir convulsed by alternate fits of laughter an tears; take note of these unquestionable signs of madness. And so he went on, and at last moved the Court with a formal appeal. “Whereas the fact of insanity at the moment of the commission of crime excludes all culpability, and therefore all penalties; whereas the existence of insanity after the commission of crime is a bar to judgment; whereas in this case the evidence of experts will probably prove such insanity in the prisoner,” &c. &c., the Court was moved to suspend all proceedings, as against Delpech, till these subjects were investigated. This hint will perhaps not be lost upon our legal practitioners; but the dodge met with little countenance from the French Judge, who immediately tool: the opinion of the prison doctor, who replied very distinctly that Delpech’s madness was all simulated, and her grinning and laughter only got up for the occasion. As far as the Court went, the Ogress — for this is the nickname which Delpech has acquitted — overdid her fictitious madness. But, as regards the jury, she partly succeeded. Knowing the nature of French folks, so susceptible of theatrical impressions, she had recourse to all the advantages which art and nature gave her. She appears to be a preternaturally hideous woman, and she is depicted in the report with remarkable powers of personal description, which lead us to suspect that the artists of the Daily Telegraph were subsidized for the occasion. In picturesque but not engaging language we are told of her tremendous black eyebrows, and her head turbaned with a yellow handkerchief; her huge prominent nose, fort at un peu plongemzt; the hideous space between her broad nostrils and frightful mouth, traversed by cavernous wrinkles; and her charms are accentuated by long, sharp, bestial teeth, and a. huge chin, which completes a savage an animal jaw. To the value of these personal advantages for playing the maniac our agreeable Delpech was not insensible; throughout the trial she grinned, she growled, she laughed demoniac laughter, and alternated with copious floods of tears; and for the two operations she kept two separate handkerchiefs, one to muffle her sobs of grief, and one to stifle her hilarity. Now and then she seems to have forgot her rifle, and interchanged the characters and handkerchiefs of this new version of Jean qui pleure and Jean qui rit. But even this mistake might be a stretch of artistic power, and though it had little effect on the unsympathetic Judge, it told — at least we suppose it told — on the jury; for though they found her guilty, it was under those convenient “extenuating circumstances” which have relieved the greatest criminal of the day from the extreme punishment of death.
Anyhow Delpech, though convicted, has only been punished with imprisonment and hard labor for life. What the extenuating circumstances may be which weighed with the Montauban jury we are only left to conjecture. Perhaps they were impressed with the feelings of one of the witnesses, who observed, with some plaintiveness, “ What are poor folks to do who have many mouths to feed and no bread to give them?” an observation which the Judge characterized as “ full of interest, but scarcely proper.” Perhaps the jury thought, as has been suggested, that it was an extenuating circumstance that the Ogress murdered a round dozen of her fellow-creatures, and that she ought to have been guillotined if she had murdered only a single baby. Or, what is much more likely, they really were influenced by} the plea of insanity. The influence which this plea exercises on stupid people like jurymen is subtle. It is not in this case that they really believed that Delpech was mad; but it had been alleged that she was mad. Whether this was so or not, the plea had at least this effect, that she might have been mad. Therefore the extenuating circumstances consisted, not in the fact of madness, but in the possibility of madness, and the allegation of madness. The confusion between a fact and a possibility raises what muzzle-headed people call a doubt, and they give the accused the benefit of this fiction which they dignify with the importance of a doubt, but which is in truth only mere stupid incapacity to distinguish between facts proved and possibilities suggested – a stupidity which is not confined to French jury-boxes.
On the whole, the results of this trial tend to reconcile us to what are undoubtedly defects in our own criminal proceedings. At Montauban we must admit that justice has failed, although the guilt of the accused was established with a certainty which is very seldom possible in our own Courts. It seems that in aiming at too much, and in endeavouring to invest human justice with the awful attributes of a Divine retribution, the main object of the French system runs the risk of defeating itself. Human passion, prejudice, caprice, pigheadedness, or what not, will have its say, an will interpose between what the advocate for the prosecution in this case, the Procureur-Impérial — called the supreme and necessary expiation of crime. To what else are we to attribute the success of a remarkable and sensational dodge tried, and tried successfully, on behalf of one of these miserable culprits, a woman named Boyer? She, the only one of the eight prisoners, was acquitted absolutely, although the evidence against her, that of being a consenting party to abortion practised on her own person, was precisely the same as that which convicted others of the accused. Why was Boyer acquitted? Because of a coup de théatre executed in open court, to which we should fail to do justice unless we produced it as reported in the French papers :—
En me rappelant, ajoute le défenseur, le chiffre des victimes de la femme Delpech, je trouve un singulier contraste. La justice demande compte de neuf victimes, je défends une femme qui a donné neuf enfans à la societé. Je no puis pas vous les produire tous ici: trois sont morts. Mais les six autres sont ici.
Les voilà: levez-irons, enfans de la femme Boyer, venez demander votre more ii messieurs les jurés (les enfans de l’accusée tiennent un moment debout en poussant des sanglots), prouvez-leur que voici la regardez comme une bonne mère ; dites combles vous l’aimez. (Agitation dans la salit.)
M. LE PRESIDENT. – L’audience est susceptibles pour quelques instans.
Before the jury retired, on being in the usual form asked whether she had anything to add to her defence, la femme Boyer neatly replied, “Je demande, messieurs, que vous me rendez mes enfans.” The jury were too polite and gallant not to accede to this amiable criminal’s request, and this excellent parent of six living children, the mother of the Montauban Gracchuses who are to be, la femme Boyer est aquittée.
[“Infanticide In France.” The Saturday Review (London, England), Mar. 20, 1869, p. 385]