The Papin Sisters and France’s Most Gruesome Murder Case

Life seemed to be against the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, from the time of their births, in 1905 and 1911 respectively. They were born into a highly dysfunctional family. Their mother reportedly had affairs, and their father was an abusive alcoholic. Their mother never showed them any affection, and was so mentally unstable that she threatened to commit suicide at least once. It must have felt like a blessing to both girls when they were sent to live with aunts and uncles as young children, though it meant they were separated from each other for many years.

By 1926, both sisters were old enough to work. Luckily, they were able to find a live-in domestic work that allowed them to stay together in the home of Rene Lancelin, a lawyer. Also living in the home were Lancelin’s wife, Leonie, and his adult daughter, Genevieve.

historicmysteries.com

They were reportedly good servants, if slightly strange. They went to church every Sunday and did not cause any trouble. But they were very unsocial and even spent their time off together sitting in their shared bedroom. Mrs. Lancelin was a strict employer, but both girls seemed amenable to her constant demands.

Things went along fine in the Lancelin home for 7 years. But on the night of February 2, 1933, the Lancelin women did not show up for a dinner party at a friend’s home. Mr. Lancelin became concerned and went home to find the house quiet yet locked from the inside. Worried, he called the police.

When the police were able to get inside the house, they discovered a scene that would disturb the entire country of France. Mrs. Lancelin and her daughter had been beaten to death. Their heads had been beaten so bad they were not recognizable, and their eyes were gouged out.

The police then went to check on the Papin sisters. They were safe, laying together in bed in their nightclothes. In their room was a hammer covered in blood and human hair. They confessed to the murders right away, saying that they had killed both women after an argument with Mrs. Lancelin. Both were immediately arrested.

While in jail awaiting trial, Christine showed signs of severe mental illness. She suffered fits during which she tried to gouge out her own eyes. And Lea appeared to be completely under the control of her older sister. Police even wondered if they were involved in an incestuous relationship.

The case drew attention from many important French thinkers of the day. Many argued that the murders were a result of the harsh class struggle in France. Some said they should not be blamed since they had to work under difficult conditions for rich people who treated them poorly.

In September 1933, the two were found guilty. Lea received a prison sentence, but Christine was sentenced to death by guillotine, despite her mental illness.

Soon after the original sentencing, Christine’s sentence was changed to life imprisonment. She eventually had to be moved to mental asylum because as her illness worsened and she began to refuse to eat. She died in 1937 after spending the preceding years wasting away. Lea was released in 1941 and lived under an assumed name. She may have died as late as 2000. Their crime is still one of the most shocking crimes in French history.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The unstoppable Iron Mike

    If you thought Iron Man was indestructible wait until you hear about Michael Malloy or Mike The Durable as his friends liked to call him. Malloy was a firefighter who lives in New York City during the 1920s but by 1933 he was homeless and had fallen deep into the clutches of alcoholism. You see...

    Read More
  • You Want To Live Forever? Start By Getting A Dog.

    Next time you find yourself screaming at your dog in anger because the young puppy chewed up your shoes, tore down your curtains or ruined your sofa, do keep this in mind: Buddy may actually be adding years on your life! In Sweden, researchers followed over 3 million people over the age of forty for...

    Read More
  • The Town That Respectfully Maintained The Grave Of A Toilet

    General George Smith Patton was a highly decorated senior officer of the United States Army, he is best known for commanding the U.S Third Army during the Allied liberation of Normandy in June 1944. His military exploits are well noted and documented, in fact, he is seen as one of the greatest war generals to...

    Read More
  • New Evidence Shows Menopause Treatment Not a Cancer Risk

    An exciting major new study has found that taking hormone replacement therapy to counter the symptoms of menopause does not increase a woman’s risk of early death. Researchers in the early 2000s discovered a link between women taking HRT for over five years and a higher risk of cancer. It even detailed how patients could...

    Read More
  • The Mysterious tale of Lucky Lord Lucan

    Some claim it to be one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century and when you dive into the story it really just begs the question - what in the world happened to Lucky Lord Lucan? On November 7, 1974, Lord Richard John Bingham the Seventh Earl of Lucan murdered his wife’s nanny by...

    Read More
  • A French Noblewoman Who Became a Ferocious Pirate Legend

    During the height of the Hundred Years War between England and France, one French noblewoman became feared throughout France for her ferocious never-ending appetite for revenge. Jeanne de Clisson with the help of the English outfitted three warships and caused havoc to any French ships crossing the English channel. Some may say privateer but at...

    Read More
  • The Native American Who Saved the Pilgrims

    Many of us are familiar with the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, but have you heard of Squanto, the Patuxet Native American from Cape Cod Bay that saved the Pilgrims from disease and disaster? Squanto was a young man when, in 1614, he was abducted by Spanish conquistadors. He was forcefully taken by ship back...

    Read More