~ STRANGLERS OF PARIS – FOUND IN REAL LIFE. – The Daring Leader of a Band of Parisian Garroters and Robbers, at Last in the Hands of Justice – The Story of Her Startling Career – A Life History as Gruesome and Bloody as Any Ever Traced by Gaboriau Drawing to Its Close – The Heroine’s Strange Personality and Her Thrilling Capture. ~
After months of patient and novel strategy, exhausting all the resources of the cleverest detectives in the world, Marie Ret, “Queen of the Stranglers,” has at last fallen into the toils of the Paris police.
All Paris breathes easier. All France feels a sense of relief, for with this vicious woman abroad since she began her cruel career of crime no one has felt at ease
Marie Ret is known to have played an important part in at least a dozen horrible murders by strangulation, and several murders are laid to her individual charge. There is little or nothing in modern history of womankind with which to compare the sanguinary career of this “Queen of the Stranglers.” Cunning, unnatural and uncanny as she has been in her mad, murderous life, the one touch of nature that has moved her in years has been her undoing. Her capture was effected through her reckless desire to meet again the man she loved.
Marie’s life history excels in gruesome criminality of the lurid imagination of Sue or Gaboriau. The stamp of the murderess is on her features. Though old in crime, she is but twenty-eight years of age. She is 5 feet 8 inches tall, and has a finely proportioned figure. She stands erect, and defiance is constantly depicted on her hardened face. She is lithe and active, and her strength is phenomenal for one of her sex. She is without fear, and a fiend incarnate when roused.
Her hair is jet black, and her sunken gray eyes are set unusually close together. Her features give evidence that she was once a handsome woman, but her expression now Is more that of a beast of prey than any human being—fierce, lowering and furtive. Her sinister aspect is intensified by several scars, the mark of, desperate hand-to-hand encounters. One gash, more ugly than the others, lies deep in her left cheek and rims across her nose. Her hands are singularly small and soft, indicating that she has done no menial work.
The parentage of Marie is unknown. She seems to have been a waif of the streets, left to mold her own destiny. She chose the worst career imaginable – that of a persistent destroyer of human life. She fell among the wickedest people of the wickedest city, and from her earliest girlhood she has been marked as the companion, instigator, accomplice and mistress of some of the worst Parisian criminals. She made the dens of Belleville and Montmartre her rendezvous. She was loved, in their rough way, by the vicious inhabitants of those districts. They loved her for her daring, and as she grew to womanhood, her influence among the most dangerous organized gangs of the steadily increased.
The exigencies of her career of crime she has applied the power of initiative resource and personal daring which compelled the admiration and docile obedience of successive bands of robbers and systematic murderers. Having played their best parts, as subjects of their “girl queen” they have nearly all gone to the guillotine or are paying the penalty for their crimes in New Caledonia.
But Marie time and time again eluded the myrmidons of the law, for her instruments, her desperate accomplices, false to all else, were true to the last to her, and could not be induced to give the police information concerning her. Three times this Amazon among women, who thoroughly deserves the soubriquet by which she has long been known, “the Terror of the Fortifications,” has been in the grasp of the police, but all the arts of the examining magistrate failed to trap her into convicting herself.
Two years ago Paris was aghast at the perpetration of a series of eleven terrible murders. The method of each was strangulation, and the object in each case was apparently nothing more than murder. The scenes of all the crimes were the vicinities of the principal gates leading out of Paris through the fortifications. The victims were of the lower walks of life or of the middle classes, workmen or small tradesmen. In each instance they were attacked as they were returning afoot to their homes in the city in the dark winter evenings. In no case was the booty obtained more than 100 francs. Everything of value was taken from the victims’ bodies, even their boots and clothes.
It was known that a strong-minded young woman of the lower class of society was the chief actor in these tragedies, and she soon came to be known as “the Terror of the Fortifications.” The Paris fortifications are surrounded by a broad moat full of slimy green water. It was in the water of this moat that the bodies were found, and it was found after examination that each presented similar injuries. The gruesome work was evidently that of garroters, trained by some master hand. That hand is now known to have been Marie Ret’s.
The modus operandi was for Marie to decoy the intended victim into the thick bushes surrounding the fortifications. Once inside he was seized from behind by two accomplices and garroted. To make assurance doubly sure the woman leader herself plunged a dagger into the victim’s heart. After the body had been stripped and the clothing rifled the corpse was cast into the stagnant water of the moat.
Since midsummer the police have been gradually gathering in members of the murderous band, until nearly twenty have been taken. But the capture of which they are proudest is that of the woman leader, who was put under lock and key. On Thursday, Nov. 4, more than a dozen murders and many robberies are charged against them. In the lodgings of one member of .the band nearly fifty stolen watches and twenty pairs of boots were found.
The male members of the gang when captured from time to time were induced to furnish more or less information about their male accomplices, but were one and all as mute as oysters when questioned by the Juge d’Instruction concerning their chief. Most of them trembled and turned pale at the mention of her name. Marie’s power over her associates was not that of a handsome woman over the average man, but was the power of a strong will over weaker ones. Even after six men known to belong to Marie Ret’s band had been arrested and convicted on charges of murder two more horrible murders were committed to precisely the same manner as the others, and it is believed that they were committed by Marie herself. Detectives then swarmed about the fortifications, and the woman murderer was driven into deeper retreat than ever.
Despairing of all other means of detecting her the police decided to put Jacques Gozin, a dangerous character with whom she was known to have had intimate relations, under perpetual surveillance. Jacques is a handsome young man, and is reported to be a shop thief. Her infatuation for him was safely relied on to lead Marie eventually to her capture. For five months the shadowing of Gozin proved ineffectual. As the close watch kept upon him made it impossible for him to gain his livelihood by the usual means he was, reduced to an almost starving condition.
Eventually, on Nov. 4, Marie risked everything to see her starving lover. She went to visit him in a low cabaret in the Avenue des Ternes. There several detectives and two gendarmes swooped down upon her. A desperate struggle ensued, and the woman proved almost a match for them even against such odds. She fought like an enraged tigress at bay, and several of the officers bear the marks of a sharp knife which aha managed to use freely before she was overpowered.
Like most murderers Marie Ret was always a woman of very few words, and since her capture she has not betrayed herself. Since her detention she has lived in constant terror of her accomplices giving information about her to the police. She has always been regarded by her associates as being a mascot, but now that she has fallen from power into the hands of the police, like many of her subjects before her, the officials believe that they will halve no difficulty in getting evidence against her from her confederates. The criminal hordes of Belleville and Montmartre are as much relieved by her capture as are the law-abiding citizens of Paris.
Several murders having been laid to her individual charge, this police expect to be able to send her to the guillotine soon after the next assizes.
The capture of Marie Ret will lead at last to the death of Gustave De Feu, known in Paris as the “Murderer made by God.” For three years the guillotine has been hungry for him, but a happy phrase and the sentiment of the French people have, up to this time saved him.
In all the annals of Parisian crime no murderer has excited the same interest as De Feu. His case from every standpoint is unique, and that has been his salvation. He is the first murderer sentenced to the guillotine in France who has not been executed within a reasonable time after sentence had been passed.
Three years have elapsed since De Feu was ordered to the guillotine, but so tremendous was the demand, made by the French public in his behalf that ho was transported for life to the French penal settlement at New Caledonia.
De Feu was a brick mason. He was accounted a good workman. He held one job continuously for fourteen years. He lost it, not through any fault of his own, but as a result of a general strike in the trade.
Up to that time and for months after no one paid particular attention to him. His life had been a regular routine. But the strike altered that.
He had to get work. He, applied at many places and at many places got employment. But he was forced out of every job by a bodily deformity. He had enormous hands – hands that wore out of all proportion to his body; hands that would have looked out of place on the biggest of giants.
They were monstrous hands – three times as large as a human hand should be. They were so large and long and ungainly that all his fellow-workmen laughed at them and ridiculed him out of his position. They were his curse, those hands. But they were strong. Between his fingers and thumbs he could bend money and iron. He could grind a brick to pieces in the palm of his hand, or twist a horseshoe into any shape.
But laughed out of every position De Feu could earn no money, and having no money he could buy no food. When he begged men and women would say to him, “A man with hands like you should be able to make a living.” Thus did his hands place him between two fires.
He was hungry and he could stand it no longer. One night near the Paris fortifications he asked a man for money He was refused. With one hand, De Feu grasped the man by the neck. With the other rifled his pockets. He ran, but at the point of a revolver two gendarmes arrested him. They brought him back to the victim to get his account of the affair. The victim was dead. The one grasp of that monstrous hand had broken his neck.
De Feu was tried, convicted and sentenced to the guillotine. The trial was memorable. De Feu said only one thing. He said: “If I am a murderer, then I am a murderer made by God. I didn’t mean to kill him. It was my hand. I didn’t know It was so strong.”
That was all he said. But that speech caught the French people. They arose en masse in his defense, and for three years he has cheated the guillotine.
But the capture of Marie Ret brings out the true story. De Feu proves to have been a member of her gang of stranglers and now no doubt he will suffer the penalty of his crime.
[“Stranglers of Paris – Found in Real Life,” The World (New York, N.Y.), Nov. 14, 1897, p. 33]
For similar cases, see: Female Serial Killer Bandits
For similar cases, see: Female Serial Killer Bandits