Women sent French serial ladykiller to guillotine

Landru's police mugshot (1909)

Police were uninterested in a series of disappearances, so relatives started piecing together all the evidence

As the nights draw in and Halloween approaches, our fascination with the macabre resurfaces – and a new book by Richard Tomlinson could be required reading for those who enjoy a shiver of horror.

 His book, Landru’s Secret: The Deadly Seductions of France’s Lonely Hearts Serial Killer, is a biography of one of France’s most notorious murderers, Henri Landru, who was dubbed Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard) by the press in the early 20th century.

The idea of writing the book goes back to the early 80s, said the author. “I was a student in Paris, doing a PhD on the 3ème République.

“I was going through old newspapers and looking at cases and old stories connected to attitudes towards women, and somebody said to me, ‘You should look at the Landru case’. That was the beginning.” 

Marie-Catherine Landru (1919)

Henri Désiré Landru (1869-1922) was born into a devout Catholic family in Paris but grew into a drifter, working variously as a plumber’s accountant, a furniture salesman, and a toy maker’s assistant. 

He married Marie-Catherine in 1893 and they had four children. 

Landru drifted into petty crime, fraud, and confidence trickery, and spent much of his time evading the police. 

From 1904 until the outbreak of the First World War, he was in and out of prison on various charges.

By 1914, he had already pulled off an ambitious hoax involving a fictitious automobile factory, swindled his wife ...

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