Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rachel Galtie, French Serial Killer - 1904

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Paris, Nov. 12. – In the trial of Rachel Galtie, accused of poisoning her husband, brother, and grandmother, it was shown by the testimony of physicians that all of the deceased had come to their death by the administration of arsenic in small regular doses.

Mme. Galtie is one of the most remarkable criminals over arraigned at the French bar. She does not seem to be either insane or a degenerate, and no motive for the wholesale murdering has been adduced. She is a young woman and remarkably pretty.

Testimony of neighbors and relatives showed that the prisoner was apparently very fond of the victims, and that during their life she had seemingly shown them every consideration. Mme. Caltie listened unmoved to all the damaging evidence produced against her.

[“Murder A Diversion With Alleged Woman Poisoner – Rachel Galtie Accused of Killing Even Best Friends Apparently Without Without the Slightest Motive.” The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Il.), Nov. 18, 1904, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): A sensational case occupied the Court of Auch, in the Gers, last month. Madame Galtie was on trial for the poisoning of her husband, who was a justice of the peace, of her grandmother, and of her brother, each, of whom had been insured. The case attracted great attention.

The woman is beautiful to look upon, but she has cruel eyes and thin lips, which she keeps well closed, except when answering questions. In Court, she seemed to be absolutely indifferent to everything, and listened to the judge’s scathing denunciation of her conduct without flinching. Her past was brought up, but she merely smiled as the judge told how, when a girl, she used to sew the ears of cats together, and stick crochet needles in the eyes of canaries. Once she seemed to flare up for a moment, when the president reminded her that her father had seen, her sitting in the lap of a young man on the day or her brother’s death. “He did not see us,” she said quickly, and repeated the words when the judge persisted in contradicting her. All that Rachael Galtie admitted was one charge, that of having stolen money and jewellery from one of her friends, Madame Larrien, whose house she tried to burn down. This extraordinary woman, Galtie, wanted money for dress, jewellery, and trips to Paris. She lived with her husband, the justice of the peace, in Saint-Clar, a quiet out-of-the-way place, but containing some other young married women, who were better off than herself. These even looked down upon her, as she was a butcher’s daughter, and the wife of a man who had barely £90 a year as a minor law official. Rachael Gaitie resolved, therefore, to get money by any means, so as to be equal with the richer women, who sneered at her. Arsenic was the stuff used by accused, according to the indictment, but she strenuously affirmed that she only bought the poison for rate. “There were no rats in the house,” said the judge.

One of the witnesses stated that accused adhered to her original affirmation, even when reminded that the post-mortem examination of the bodies of her victims established the fact that arsenic had been used. “I assure you,” she insisted, “that the stuff was for rats.” “Oh! there were rats everywhere you went,” retorted the judge, and Madame Galtie nodded in the affirmative.

Among the principal witnesses called was a veterinary surgeon, who sold some arsenic to accused. He stated -that he at first gave the stuff to Madame Galtie herself. Three days later he was surprised to find the servant of accused coming to him for more arsenic. “He told the girl that he bad already given her mistress enough arsenic to poison all the rats in the town. The servant replied that the rats were eating up the stuff like magic. Another important witness was a chemist, who also supplied arsenic to Madame Galtie, and who, when he heard of the deaths of her husband, grandmother, and brother, had his suspicions, which he subsequently communicated to the Procurator of the Republic. Madame Larrien, the woman from whom accused admitted that she stole jewels, deposed that Madame Galtie was quite gay on the day of her brother’s death.

A doctor, who attended the brother, Gaston Dupont, said that the young man showed all the symptoms of having been poisoned. Madame Larrien likewise affirmed that Gaston Dupont suffered fearful pains before he died, and that his cries and moans were terrible to hear. His sister, accused, was at the same time attributing his illness to some whipped cream which he had taken at table. The same witness deposed as to the fire at her residence, during which her jewels and other, articles, were stolen.

Prisoner was eventually adjudged guilty, and sentenced to twenty years’ penal servitude. She took her sentence with the utmost coolness.

[“Beauty On Trial. – Triple Charge Against A Young Woman.” The Star (Christchurch, New Zealand), Dec. 28, 1904, p. 2]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Paris, Oct. 20. — If the practice of executing women had not been practically abolished in Prance there would certainly not be any mercy shown to the widow of the Juge de Paix at St. Clair should she be found guilty, as there is every reason to suppose she will be, of the atrocious murder of her husband, brother, and grandmother by arsenic poisoning.

To exact from the accused that they shall first of all prove themselves to be innocent is too often the practice of the French criminal law, although the code condemns his in principle. The press, as a rule, follows the same lines, and prejudges the case to the detriment of the prisoner. But in his instance unusual fairness has been displayed toward the wretched woman who is accused. Whether, owing to the evidence against her being so overwhelming, something of the pity for .those condemned is already felt for her, or whether a new era opening in French judicial annals, it would be difficult to say.

Mme. Galtié is the daughter of a well-to-do butcher named Dupont, established in the small country town of Casseneuil, close to Villeneuye-sur-Lot. She received an education somewhat above her station, and, being exceedingly vivacious and pretty, was constantly spoiled.

When quite young she made up her mind to marry a local functionary named Galtié who had been Chief Secretary to the Prefect of the Lot, and at the time of the engagement was employed at the mairie of Casseneuil. She was evidently anxious to escape from the atmosphere of small commercialism in which she had been brought up, and to cut a brilliant figure in the local official world.

Her parents were opposed to the match which, nevertheless, took place, and her husband almost immediately afterward was appointed Juge de Paix, or Justice of the Peace, at St. Clar. Here Mme. Galtié achieved at least a portion of her ambition She made the acquaintance of the best families in the little town, and her attractive manners and her beauty made her a general favorite.


But the limited means of the Justice of the Peace brought her many disappointments, and not a few humiliations. She was soon hopelessly in debt, and it was in order to procure funds that she committed he first crime – a crime to which she has since fully confessed.

She had a friend in the wife, of a navy Captain, a Mme. Larrieu. This woman was preparing to leave her house on a visit, and the amiable Mme. Galtie offered to help her pack up. The service was politely declined, but Mme. Galtié was not to be put off so easily, and was at her friend’s house when the trunks were about to be closed. At that moment an alarm of fire was raised, and the basement of the Larjie home was found to be in flames. The discovery of a straw mattress staked in petroleum and of a box of matches close by proved that the fire must have been the deliberate work of a criminal, Mme. Galtié, in a state bordering on hysterics, explained that she had seen a strange man enter the house, and then rush away a moment after the fire had declared itself.

Mme. Barrieu had left all her jewels on her dressing table, preparatory to packing up, and while she was busy relating to the police what had happened, some one, who Mme. Galtié has since admitted to have been herself, took all the jewels away. The Juge de Paix subsequently caused the arrest, on his wife’s advice, of two persons in the town on suspicion of being the authors of the robbery.


The 10,000 f. which Mme. Galtié obtained for these jewels did not, however, last her long. She was soon in money difficulties again, and at this juncture she succeeded in inducing her husband to insure his life for 20,000 f. He found the payment of the premiums too onerous, and, without informing his wife, had the policy, canceled.

Very shortly afterward he began to show symptoms of a mysterious malady, the nature of which completely baffled the doctors. He grew worse and worse, and soon died, without the cause of any illness having been clearly diagnosed.

Mme. Galtie, left a widow and without visible resources, returned to her father’s house at Casseneuil, accompanied by her little boy, aged four, who, by the way, had been mystetiously thrown down a well not long before his father’s death, and rescued only in the nick of time by neighbors.

At Casseneuil, Mme. Galtié learned that at the death of her grandmother, who was bedridden, she would inherit a sum of 10,000 f. and some house property. She at once constituted herself the old lady’s nurse, tending her apparently with the utmost devotion and cure. In a few weeks the grandmother died in terrible agony. Mme. Galtié now returned to St. Clar, I where, after a period of mourning, she began to lead a gay life which quickly exhausted her means.

She next begged her brother, a young pharmacist, to stop with her, and, as he adored his sister, he could not refuse. She also induced him to insure his life in her favor, promising to pay the premium herself as it was more than he could afford. The amount of the policy was 50,000 f.

Gaston Dupont, the brother, soon fell sick of the same mysterious illness which had carried off the late M. Galtié. During a short time spent away from his sister’s house in the fulfillment of his military duties, he became convalescent, but as soon as he returned the old sickness seized him. At moments he thought he must have been poisoned, but was reassured when his sister pointed out that she herself prepared his food and mixed his medicines for him. The doctors treated him for gastritis, and after a short agony he also died.

The sister’s indifferent conduct while her brothers body was still awaiting burial for a moment aroused the suspicions of her father, but he was quickly cajoled by his fascinating daughter into forgiveness. Mme. Galtié then left St. Clar.


By this time the neighbors began to suspect that there had been foul play. They remembered the large purchases of arsenic which Mme. Galtié had constantly been making, on the pretense of poisoning rats; anonymous letters denouncing her as a murderess poured in upon the local police authorities, and even the streets of the little town of St. Clar were placarded with manuscript bills declaring that “Mme. Galtié had poisoned her husband, her brother, and her grandmother.”

Her arrest was decided upon, and the examination of the three corpses showed that each contained large quantities of arsenic, sufficient to have caused the death of several persons. She was committed for trial on the charge of the triple murder. She has since admitted that she stole jewelry on three occasions, but strenuously denies the murders. Her attitude in prison has been perfectly complacent and indifferent, and she affects to treat the terrible accusation against her as an unthinkable absurdity. As the circumstantial evidence is so strong, the counsel for the defense will probably endeavor to show that she is not fully responsible for her actions.

[“Triple Murder, Said To Woman, Stirs France - Husband, Grandmother, and Brother Died of Slow Poisoning. - Tale Of Deadly Ambition - Mme. Galtie Sought to Rise Above Her Station – Her First Crime the Theft of Friend’s Jewels.” New York Times (N.Y.), Nov. 5, 1904, p. 10]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): After a trial extending over three days, Mme. Galtie, the attractive young woman of 25, charged with poisoning three persons, has just been condemned to twenty years’ hard labour at the Assizes held at Audi, in the south of France.

The woman is the widow of a Magistrate and the peculiarly atrocious and cold-blooded, nature of her crimes has aroused an extraordinary amount of interest in the case.

Her victims were her husband, her grandmother, and her brother, whom she murdered by administering to them large doses of arsenic, after first insuring their lives in her own favour. Her sole motive appears to have been an overmastering desire to obtain sufficient money to indulge in the luxuries of dress and personal adornment, which her husband’s limited means would not permit her to obtain. M. Galtie, whose life she insured for £800 was the first victim. One premium only was paid. Shortly afterwards he became suddenly ill, and though a singularly robust man, was dead at the end of three days. The next victim was Mme. Galtie’s grandmother, who died after a short illness in which she, too, was attended by the accused.

Gascon Dupont, the woman’s brother, a pharmaceutical student, was the third victim. Brother and sister had always been extremely attached to one another, and the young man appears not to have had the slightest suspicion of his sister’s sinister intentions when she insured his life for £ 2000. He was surprised, and declared he was too young to be insured, but finally acquiesced in the scheme. One premium was paid by his sister, and then he, too had to pay with his life for his complaisance.

The facts of the case admitted of no denial, Mme. Galtie observed an attitude of the most supreme indifference, answered all the questions put to her in a most nonchalant manner, and while the jury was absent calmly smoked a cigarette presented to her by one of the gendarmes in charge of her.

[“Female Poisoner.” Wanganui Herald (New Zealand), Jan. 6, 1905, p. 7]


Long accounts of the case appears in the following books in French (on google books):

Edgard Troimaux, “Cour D’Assises Du Gers; Mm. Galtié, L’Empoisonneuse de Saint-Clair,” Procès Célèbres de l’Année Judiciare 1904-1905, pp. 136-152

E. Lambert, “Affaire Rachel Galtie (L’Empoisonause de Saint-Clair),” Archives d'anthropologie criminelle, de Criminologie et de Pdychologie Normal et Pathologique, Volume 20, 1904, pp. 81-146; Illus. between 122-3.





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