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  • The Paris Torso Mystery

    Hello,

    Even though I have been browsing this forum with interest for several years, I only registered two weeks ago, and I have contented myself with intervening sparingly.
    However, I'm taking the plunge to create a topic on the theme of the "torso murder" in Paris, which has been mentioned here and there on the forum but has never, unless I'm mistaken, been the subject of a separate thread.
    As a Frenchman (no one's perfect) living in the Paris region, I have been interested in the torso of Paris, also referred to in the French press of the time as the "mystery of Montrouge," for several years now.
    I allow myself to share below some information that might, who knows, interest a few members of this forum.

    Note that in the following years, newspapers established a connection between the Montrouge crime in 1886, the torso murders in London (1887-1889), the crimes of Jack the Ripper (there was often confusion between Thames torso murders and JtR’s crimes) and another Parisian torso mystery that occurred on October 30, 1892. For those interested, I briefly mentioned this crime from October 30, 1892, on this forum (here) a few days ago.


    P.S.: Sorry me for my poor English.
    “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
    Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

  • #2
    The "Petit-Montrouge" neighborhood is the 55th administrative district of Paris, located in the 14th arrondissement. It was created in 1860 when a part of the municipality of Montrouge was annexed by Paris. Montrouge was originally divided into two distinct sectors, the Grand-Montrouge – corresponding to the current municipality of Montrouge – and the Petit-Montrouge, which was "absorbed" by Paris in 1860 and became a full-fledged district.
    Therefore, the designation "Mystery of Montrouge" is misleading: it is indeed in the "Parisian" part of the former municipality of Montrouge ("Petit-Montrouge") that the criminal operated.

    On the map below, the neighborhood boundary has been indicated by dashed lines. Furthermore, if the first package discovered in the urinal on Avenue d'Orléans, on the eastern side of Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge church [red star n°1], was exactly in the heart of the Petit-Montrouge neighborhood, the second package (Rue d'Alésia, a few meters after the intersection with Rue des Plantes) [red star n°2] and the third package (Rue Giordano Bruno) [red star n°3] were slightly outside the perimeter, in the neighboring Plaisance neighborhood.


    Click image for larger version

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    Source: bibliothèque nationale de France.
    “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
    Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

    Comment


    • #3
      Hypothetical route of the murderer:

      ​​
      Source of the cadastral plan: Archives de la Ville de Paris
      “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
      Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

      Comment


      • #4
        First package (red star n°1)

        The first package was discovered in the urinal of Avenue d'Orléans (now Avenue du Général Leclerc), on the side of the Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge church, by Mr. Pamplume, a tramway conductor who had just finished his shift.

        What exactly did this package contain? In an outer envelope (a large white oilcloth, "family tablecloth" type) encircled by a braided rope, and an inner envelope made of a greenish fabric, there were bloody fragments of the human body:
        - two arms;
        - one leg;
        - a calf.

        Note that only the newspaper "Le XIXe Siècle", in its edition of Thursday, August 5, provides the correct date of the crime: "Tuesday night to Wednesday." All other newspapers, also dated Thursday, August 5, simply place the crime "last night," implying that it was committed from Wednesday night to Thursday, which contradicts the date of the human debris being recorded in the morgue register: August 4 at noon.

        The photo below was taken around 1877. In any case, it is necessarily before 1879, the date of the death of its author, Charles Marville, the official photographer of the City of Paris. At the bottom right of the photo, the urinal with six stalls where the package was discovered is clearly visible:

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        Source: State Library Victoria


        The same photo with a magnifying effect on the urinal
        :

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        ​Approximate location of where the urinal on Avenue d'Orléans was located, very close to the current metro exit (Alésia station):

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        “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
        Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

        Comment


        • #5
          Second package (red star n°2)

          Discovery of the second piece of flesh on Rue d'Alésia, in a urinal formed by a recess, in front of the house with the number 131 and protected by a sheet metal shelter.

          A certain Mr. Tecquer, a customs employee, made the grim discovery while on his way to work at Vaugirard Station. It was the lower part of a woman's body: the pelvis, a part of the lower abdomen, and a detached portion of the left thigh. On this part of the body, the uterus had been removed.

          The photograph below, found in the collection of iconographic documents from the Archives de la Ville de Paris, is an unexpected aid. It represents the portion of Rue d'Alésia located between numbers 106 and 112. With a little attention, we can distinguish the urinal, concealed by a sheet metal plate, at the level of number 110.


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          ​Source : Archives de la Ville de Paris.


          Detail of the same shot zooming in on the sheet metal shelter of the urinal:

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          Approximate location of where the urinal on Rue d'Alésia was located at number 110:

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          © DR
          “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
          Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

          Comment


          • #6
            Third package (red star n°3)

            The third segment was found on Giordano Bruno Street, on the other side of the fence overlooking the tracks of the ring railway. The contents of this third package confirmed the horror of that fateful night from August 3 to 4, 1886: a horribly mutilated bust of a woman, almost dissected. The abdomen had been opened and emptied of its entrails and viscera, the skin detached, and the right breast violently torn off. This bust, covered in blood, had not been wrapped like the other recovered parts of the body.
            These human remains, like the previous ones, were brought to the police station located in the town hall of the 14th arrondissement. So, they had a complete corpse minus the head, a part of the right thigh, and the right breast.

            Below is another precious photograph found in the collection of iconographic documents from the Archives of the City of Paris. It depicts the portion of Rue des Plantes (number 69, to be precise) facing Giordano Bruno Street. It is this house, on the facade of which you can read "Maternal boarding house, young children in daycare or residence," that is visible in the background of Guilliod's drawing, published in the edition of Saturday, August 14, 1886, of "L’Univers illustré".

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            69, rue des Plantes. Source : Archives de la Ville de Paris.



            The edition of Saturday, August 14, 1886, of "L’Univers illustré":
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            Source : bibliothèque nationale de France (p. 516).


            Approximate location of where the third package was located, on Giordano Bruno Street:

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            © DR
            Last edited by Charlie; 12-01-2023, 07:51 PM.
            “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
            Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

            Comment


            • #7
              Irony of fate: the unknown woman of the Parisian killer of 1886 was buried only a few meters from the unknown woman on Rue de Botzaris.

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              Cimetière de Bagneux, imprimerie de Dufrénoy (Paris), 1905. Source : bibliothèque nationale de France.​
              “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
              Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

              Comment


              • #8
                Bon jour Charlie, merci!

                And, as I'm now approaching the breaking point of my French, I just wanted to welcome you to the boards and assure you your English requires no apologies, while my French is in urgent need of medical assistance.

                That's an interesting case you've presented. It's not one I'm at all familiar with, but I've gone through your posts with interest. You've done an nice job of presenting them, so again, thanks for that. Unfortunately, the image showing the hypothetical route isn't showing up for me (broken link or something), so either it's just gremlins on my end, or it may be there's an issue of some sort with that image and/or link.

                One thing I noticed is that the parts found in locations 1 and 2 were wrapped, while the upper torso found at location 3 was not.

                All three dump sites were found the same day, and the locations aren't such that one would expect them to have remained hidden for long, all pointing to the 3 dumpings occurring in one trip. That would point to the offender having some sort of transport. Also, given the upper torso was not wrapped, it seems to me that is going to be the first bit the offender needs to get rid of as it is the most attention grabbing and of creates the most risk. So, and perhaps the proposed route already indicates this, but I would think the offender's route starts at body location 3 to get rid of that portion first, and after that does the other two locations in either order (they are both close, so hard to tell). Also, that portion being found over a fence next to the street, sounds like it may have been tossed from a carriage quite quickly, which also makes some sort of sense.

                Cutting up a corpse to aid in its disposal is not an everyday occurrence, but it is not so uncommon that it automatically makes one think two crimes are connected. Given the offender appears to have had transport available, though, would suggest that they dismembered the body partly because they were working alone and couldn't move the whole body easily on their own. Also, given they had transport but remained in the city, for some reason they didn't have time to travel out to a secluded rural area to dispose of the body, suggesting someone whose presence would be missed that morning (presumable the disposal occurred under the cover of night).

                So the offender is probably employed, has access to a carriage and horses, and unless the victim was their wife, lives alone (needs a place to be able to dismember the body) or has some private area where the dismemberment was performed.

                Death during a botched abortion is also to be considered, but dismembering a corpse and then public disposal seems a strange choice for someone trying to conceal something like that. In the London cases many of the torsos were dumped in waterways, like the Thames, presumably in the hopes that the bodies would never be found, while this case it is clear the offender is not concerned if the body is eventually found, only that it not be found with them. However, there's no accounting for the choices people make in a panic, so this line of thought is worth considering as well (and could very well lead to very different ideas from those I presented above).

                Anyway, it is entirely possible people have already explored along both of those lines already, and have shown them to be lacking. These are just some ideas that occurred to me while reading your posts, which I thought I would share.

                Welcome to the boards.

                - Jeff

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi Jeff,
                  You're right, it's likely that the murderer had a means of transportation, whatever it may be. The newspapers report that the night before, a employee noticed a carriage with several packages moving slowly through the deserted streets of the neighborhood.

                  Furthermore, several other people claimed that around 11:30 PM, they saw an individual dragging a heavily loaded handcart. As for the order I suggested (1 = Avenue d'Orléans, 2 = rue d'Alésia, 3 = rue Giordano Bruno), it seems to have been adopted by the Parisian police (the equivalent of the London CID).

                  As for why the packages were left visible to passersby (except for package 3, which is why I believe it was disturbed and thrown into the bushes), it's a mystery... and I think it will remain one...
                  ​​
                  “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
                  Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    In November 1888, during the Jack the Ripper crimes, Judge Gaston Laurent-Atthalin and the Chief of Parisian Police couldn't ignore the striking similarities between the Petit-Montrouge crime and some of the murders in London, both in terms of modus operandi and the displayed barbarity. Consequently, they decided to dispatch Brigadier Jaume, one of the finest investigators from the Parisian Police, equipped with various pieces of evidence, including the English oilcloth used to wrap some of the human remains from the Paris torso. The goal was to aid the metropolitan police in shedding light on the series of crimes. The outcome of this remarkable mission of the Parisian police in the heart of Jack the Ripper and the Torso Killer's London remains unknown.


                    "Le charivari" du 25-11-88 (p. 2):

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                    Translation:
                    "Do the French and English police intend to create a counterpart to the fable: The Blind and the Paralytic? Individually, they exhibit an unfortunate powerlessness. Now, they are joining forces. The head of the Sûreté, Mr. Goron, believes that the dismembered woman from Montrouge might be a victim of the anonymous assailant currently active in the Whitechapel area.
                    In Montrouge, the right breast and uterus had been torn out; the torso was severed at the neck and thigh levels with a butcher's knife; the right arm and head were missing. Even more strikingly, the torso was wrapped in English oilcloth and tied with a whipcord, also of English make; the same brand of fabric was found with the bloody remains. That's why a sergeant has set out for London. I doubt it will be of much use, and perhaps the police would have been better off not reminding us, just when we were starting to forget, of one of the instances where it showed its incapacity most vividly."
                    “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
                    Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Charlie View Post
                      Hi Jeff,
                      You're right, it's likely that the murderer had a means of transportation, whatever it may be. The newspapers report that the night before, a employee noticed a carriage with several packages moving slowly through the deserted streets of the neighborhood.

                      Furthermore, several other people claimed that around 11:30 PM, they saw an individual dragging a heavily loaded handcart. As for the order I suggested (1 = Avenue d'Orléans, 2 = rue d'Alésia, 3 = rue Giordano Bruno), it seems to have been adopted by the Parisian police (the equivalent of the London CID).

                      As for why the packages were left visible to passersby (except for package 3, which is why I believe it was disturbed and thrown into the bushes), it's a mystery... and I think it will remain one...
                      ​​
                      Hi Charlie,

                      It is possible the police at the time had additional evidence to suggest the order, and if so that would certainly over-ride my suggestion, which is only based upon inferences that easily could be wrong; it's just a hypothesis after all, and should be open to testing, not resistant to it!

                      I suppose, though, depositing the two wrapped packages in urinals could be in part because by going into a public toilet it adds some degree of privacy for the offender. People don't tend to watch others going into a toilet area, and it allows them to remain unobserved for a period of time, so that when they emerge without their package that is less likely to be noted. Moreover, the offender might have hoped the general odour of the area may help conceal them a bit longer, combined with the idea that people may not be as prone to examine a package they find in a toilet, again extending their discovery time by some margin? The one that wasn't wrapped, by being in bushes, might have been out of necessity due to it being obviously something to report when found.

                      On the other hand, the later news story in your post #10, seems to suggest the upper torso had been wrapped in oil-cloth and bound with string? If so, then it doesn't appear to have been as "unwrapped" at the time of disposal as I understood it to be, which would also negate my initial reasoning for my suggested order. The more "hasty" appearing discarding of that, if 3rd, could just reflect the desire to get rid of the last section as quickly as possible and "be done with it".

                      Interesting case.

                      Were there any suspects ever suggested (other than the idea of it being possibly connected to the murders later in London by an unknown individual I mean), either at the time or by later researchers?

                      - Jeff

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hi Jeff,
                        To my knowledge, there was no suspect. According to the newspapers, 20 leads were followed, but none yielded results. Similarly, despite all the searches conducted in the neighborhood and even in a broader radius, the head was never found, making the identification of the victim impossible. The police failed on all fronts and became the laughingstock of public opinion and the press. This cost the chief of the Parisian Sûreté, Ernest Taylor (equivalent to James Monro of the CID), his position. He was replaced by Marie François Goron in November 1887.
                        “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
                        Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Charlie View Post
                          Hi Jeff,
                          To my knowledge, there was no suspect. According to the newspapers, 20 leads were followed, but none yielded results. Similarly, despite all the searches conducted in the neighborhood and even in a broader radius, the head was never found, making the identification of the victim impossible. The police failed on all fronts and became the laughingstock of public opinion and the press. This cost the chief of the Parisian Sûreté, Ernest Taylor (equivalent to James Monro of the CID), his position. He was replaced by Marie François Goron in November 1887.
                          Hi Charlie,

                          Ah, thanks for that. Without ever identifying the victim a case becomes incredibly difficult. Even today investigations stall if the victim remains unidentified, so the public distain heaped upon the police was undeserved, well, unless they botched other things up but I rather suspect it was simply the inability to solve a murder case when one doesn't know who it was that was murdered! I did a quick search to see if I could read up a bit more, but there appears to be very little available, at least in English, on this case, so all the more grateful for your bringing it up.

                          - Jeff

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Great series of posts Charlie.

                            Like Jeff points out, not much available on the case in English. There was a very short thread on JTR Forum which has a few links but not a lot else.



                            I'd be interested to see what else you can find.
                            Thems the Vagaries.....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi Jeff & Al Bundy’s Eyes,

                              ​I have a few documents left that I can upload this weekend when I have an hour or two available. Regarding the link to JtR Forums, I did see it indeed. I understood that a few years ago, some people here (especially Debra A and mariab, I believe) were interested in the Paris Torso subject, but I don't know if their investigation led to the discovery of additional elements.
                              “There had been a madness of murder in the air. Some red star had come too close to the earth…”
                              Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray

                              Comment

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