Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The eating of a human being by another human has been regarded by many in new-age societies as absolutely disgusting and wrong. In other cultures, the act of cannibalism has been seen as a rite of passage, a religious theme, or simply as a means to survive. In the mentally ill, those who commit cannibalism have no bearings, for the “killers” have no understanding of right or wrong. With chemical imbalances or inherited lunacy, the mentally ill have no ability to stop. A corpse to the sane population could be a delicious meal to the insane person. Formally called anthropophagi, cannibalism literally means the eating of one animal by another animal. But what are humans, without our distinctive opinions and intelligent thought processes? We are animals, killing other animals to satisfy our taste for meat.
The motive for cannibalism interests many people, the vast majority of the public longing for a believable reason. The most compelling and perhaps acceptable purpose for killing and eating another human is starvation. For the criminally insane, cannibalism is a means in which to taste the forbidden flesh of a human being, or to satisfy the unusual need to take the soul of their victim. In the old legends of the American Indian culture, it has been said that eating another human can make the body much stronger, virile, and capable of fighting with immense viciousness.
Hannibal Lecter, a well known fictional character depicted in the motion picture Silence of the Lambs, was a prominent and sophisticated psychiatrist who killed and ate many of his victims with interesting and classy recipes. This motivation was spawned by witnessing the cannibalization of his young sister Mischa in Lithuania during the Second World War. In the case of the infamous Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, a very real and terrifying individual, murdered and ate the children he met loitering near trains. Andrei grew up in war torn Ukraine SSR also during the Second World War. His mother, in an attempt to keep Andrei in the home, told him a frightening tale of his older brother being cannibalized in the streets by the starving residents of his small city. Jeffrey Dahmer, resident of Milwaukee, murdered and ate several of his victims in his apartment, but his true motive was to make a living zombie, a man that could never leave him. Nicolas Cocaign, one of France’s newest and strangest cannibals, appeared to have no reason to kill, other than the fact that he wanted to take the soul of his victim and, as an afterthought, to see what he tasted like.
When Nicolas was abandoned by his homeless and penniless mother, he was adopted at age three by a loving and dedicated family named the Cocaign’s in 1974. Though placed with an honest and caring new family, Nicolas was plagued by the abandonment of his mother, the few memories he had remained subconsciously and negatively etched in his mind. Nicolas, certainly not a product of his upbringing with the Cocaign family, was an abysmal and problematic child, often in trouble at school and quickly became a nuisance to the local police for his petty crimes. He even stole money from his parents along with any other precious belongs he could pawn or sell on the streets. After Nicolas was a victim of rape at the age of 13, Genevieve Cocaign, Nicolas’ mother, arranged appointments for Nicolas with a psychiatrist. Genevieve was already aware of her son’s mental instability and tried her best to help somehow rehabilitate Nicolas. In Genevieve’s mind, a mother’s love was never ending, and she was completely devoted to helping Nicolas cope with his struggles.
Genevieve and her husband were residing at a retirement home in Gaillefontaine, France, when Nicolas acquired a new girlfriend, Natacha, and moved into the home with them. He prided himself in raising various arachnids and snakes, finding himself more and more drawn to the macabre. Raising two children with Natacha, Nicolas appeared normal to his girlfriend, but eventually became, for lack of a better word, unbalanced. Three years into the relationship, Nicolas suddenly became tangled in a world of several personalities, none of which Natacha could recognize in the man she had come to deeply love. Hiding in the backwoods of their home at the time, Natacha soon learned that Nicolas was participating in some form of abnormal masochism. When she confronted him about it, a new personality in Nicolas emerged, a man who was intensely attracted to and fascinated with the act of cannibalism. Natacha was unable to understand Nicolas’ sudden absorption with this topic and believed him to have a simple interest that he would never indulge.
Following this bizarre conversation with Natacha, Nicolas began tracking the streets for victims he could most likely abuse in some form. Although his true intensions are unclear at this time, Nicolas might have been searching for someone to intentionally hurt or possibly cannibalize. What eventually occurred was a situation involving the armed and attempted rape of a woman. Nicolas was then charged and convicted for his crime and was sent to Rouen Prison. This was not Nicolas’ first visit to prison. He had spent time as an adolescent and as a young man in prisons for a variety of different crimes. But now that Nicolas’ mental state had begun to crumble, he was no longer what one would call an ideal prisoner.
Nicolas knew that something immediately was wrong with his thinking and begged the guards to send him to a psychiatric unit. His requests were ignored and Nicolas’ image of reality was rapidly becoming violent and illogical. Sharing an 11 square meter cell with two other men, Thierry Baudry and David Lagrue, Nicolas might have started suffering an illness known by many inmates as “stir crazy”. Being locked up for many years with little space and no privacy can cause this affliction to literally break down the mind, often revealing a deep seeded obsession of mistrust and irrational rage among convicts. The slightest bit of deviation from another prisoner can provoke a great argument or even murder.
Thierry Baudry, 41, serving time for sexual assault, made the terrible mistake of riling Nicolas one night on January 2, 2007. When confronted by Nicolas over the trivial matter of bathroom hygiene, Baudry tried to back off, sensing that Nicolas was in a nasty mood. In Nicolas’ paranoia, he thought he saw what looked like “a dirty and aggressive look” and decided to make Baudry pay for his disrespect. Nicolas wouldn’t let the issue go, and began punching and kicking Baudry violently. When Baudry was satisfactorily beaten and unable to defend himself on the ground, Nicolas forced a plastic bag over his head in an attempt to murder him by suffocation.
When he was under the assumption he had killed Baudry, Nicolas cut open the abdomen of Baudry, breaking his rib, and searched for Baudry’s heart. When he thought he found it, he began eating the organ raw. With a better idea in mind, he decided to cook the organ on a portable camping stove that was allowed by guards in the cells. Nicolas fried it with olive oil, sautéed onions, and salt and pepper. Though Rouen Prison was far from perfect, it is nearly impossible that Nicolas was starving. Eating Baudry was a choice, a maniacal one at that, but certainly done out of pleasure. Nicolas took great delight in finally indulging himself in cannibalism, something he had been dreaming of for years it seemed. David Lagrue, 36, the third cellmate, had been so fearful that Nicolas would choose him next; he pretended to be asleep while the killing took place.
The next day, a Rouen prison guard found Baudry’s torn and dissected body on the floor of the prison cell. Left in the cell was Nicolas Cocaign, covered in blood, and David Lagrue, just waking from sleep. The infirmary doctor noted that in Baudry was missing two chest muscles and part of his left lung. Nicolas Cocaign was brought in for questioning, and he instantly admitted to have dined on Baudry’s body the night before. Nicolas, with an eerie smile, told officials that he liked what he had done.
Merely a week before the tragedy, Perth Now, an Australian newspaper claimed that conditions in French Prisons were demeaning and shameful. Basic human rights were disregarded and Rouen Prison and other French prisons were labeled as having one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. This does not explain nor excuse Nicolas Cocaign’s actions, but it does give insight into the living conditions he was under which might have sparked his mad and ravenous craving for human flesh. At the very least, Nicolas’ violent temper might have been exacerbated by the confined and restricted prison cell.
The trial in Normandy lasted a mere four days beginning in the last week of June 2009. Nicolas, face tattooed with bloody tears and a skull, appeared in court looking well-groomed and dressed professionally. After being given psychiatric treatment, he went before the court stating that he felt stable and well enough to proceed with the trial. Though at this time, no diagnosis has been made for Nicolas, his attorney Fabien Picchiottio believed that his client was without a doubt completely insane. Demanding Nicolas serve his time in a psychiatric hospital, Picchiottio felt that his client was unquestionably in need of medical help. He further went on to add that though it is very strange for a patient to recognize their own ailment, Nicolas all the same would benefit from psychiatric treatment. Sufferers of mental illnesses are often unable to distinguish the psychosis they experience. For example, paranoid schizophrenics are almost always in the dark about their sickness, believing that an unreasonable person or situation is haunting them or out to sabotage them.
Fabien Picchiottio, devoted to finding his client legally insane, searched out a possible reason Nicolas had committed cannibalism. He held responsible the Rouen Prison in northwestern France for not allowing Cocaign to seek professional help for his unstable mental state. Nicolas’ mother, Genevieve Cocaign, testified at the trial, stating that her son was unsafe, dangerous, and badly needed help. In 2005, she even sent a letter to the then minister of the interior, French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Her letter went ignored, as did the many she sent after that. Genevieve tried to explain her son’s mental problems had begun at the age of 3, when he was abandoned by his biological mother and was adopted by the Cocaign family. Natacha also testified, expressing her belief that Nicolas had been undergoing severe personality changes before he was incarcerated. This was a desperate plea to prove to the judge and the public that Nicolas was incredibly mentally disturbed.
Nicolas admitted his fault in court, confessing that he was fully accountable for the death of Thierry Baudry, but insisting that he had pled for help at the Rouen Prison. His explanation for the killing was that he initially thought he was eating Baudry’s heart and "wanted to take his soul." But, he added, "I was curious to see what he tasted like." To Baudry’s mother and four siblings, Nicolas said, “I want to excuse myself before the Baudry family, if they accept my apology.” Baudry’s mother, Jacqueline, said “I want to know why he did this to my son. I want him to pay.”
Nicolas claimed that the death of Baudry was a “cry for help” for the Rouen Prison system. "No one was listening to me…. I made several appeals for help, saying I was a man capable of being dangerous. I took action, and then they took me seriously," Nicolas told the court. To eat another inmate is extraordinarily excessive, but to Nicolas, it seemed the only way to bid for attention. That, in itself, was regarded as a definite cry for help.
Nicolas’ lawyer argued that Cocaign was not responsible for the crime because of his mental disorder. To show to the grieving family that he did not agree or approve with the killing, he said “What he did horrifies me, [But] one doesn't judge the insane.” The prosecutor countered this statement with “Horror is not synonymous with folly.” To judge the insane is to judge a small child who has snuck into the cookie jar. They know no right or wrong, only that the cookie tastes good while eating it. The mentally sick are certainly to be punished for their crimes. But living in an assisted facility that can manage their medication is monumentally better than living in a prison system that cannot offer treatment and rehabilitation for their recklessness or madness.
Baudry’s family left the courtroom promptly when the gory details were announced by the medical examiner. Making the Cocaign case more disturbing was the disclosure by Dr. Patrick Laburthe-Tolra claiming that Baudry was still alive when Nicolas began his dissection of the body. He further went on to say that Baudry’s heart was still beating and he was still breathing when his chest was being cut open and his lung removed. This was proved by the fact that blood was present in the left lung when it was taken out and eaten. Nicolas testified that he had intended on eating Baudry’s heart, but had erred when selecting the organ.
After four days in court, Nicolas Cocaign was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder and acts of “barbarism.” With good behavior and proper psychiatric treatment, he may only serve 20 years. Though claiming she had never had a calm moment with him, Genevieve visits her son regularly and still loves him unconditionally. David Lagrue, the third prisoner on that fateful night in 2007, later transferred to another prison and committed suicide in November 20, 2009. Langrue’s death was thought to have been caused because of the lasting and traumatizing effect of Baudry’s death.
Bonnie and Clyde, murderous and thieving lovers, were well known criminals from 1931 to 1934. Gunned down by Louisiana police, the two killers went out in what some would call “a hail of bullets.” There has been much controversy that Bonnie Parker, although involved in the crimes the pair committed, had never shot the guns that killed many people during bank hold ups and the robbing of small stores. Others believe that Bonnie was a “hell of a loader” and killed up to three police officers. Either way, the story of Bonnie and Clyde has gone down in history as the Great Depression serial killers. What might be considered a small and minute detail of the case was the fact that Bonnie and Clyde were particularly madly and passionately in love with each other. If Clyde thought killing and thieving was a thrilling and indisputable way to earn a living, Bonnie followed suit without a disparaging thought. Bonnie in turn, became fascinated with crime and devoted herself completely to Clyde’s vision of death and thievery.
Fifty-two years after the Bonnie and Clyde crimes, Australian residents David and Catherine Birnie began their own story of crime. In October of 1986, they raped and murdered four young women, burying their bodies in shallow graves with no remorse or heed. Dedicated and fanatically in love with David, Catherine participated in each crime, believing that David would love her and appreciate her more if she helped him in his quest to rape, mutilate, and ultimately kill his victims. There was nothing Catherine wouldn’t do to satisfy David. She viewed her romance with David as monumentally historical and utterly unforgettable.
David Birnie was born in 1951, the eldest of six children in suburb of Wattle Grove, east of Perth in Australia. His parents were notorious alcoholics, their children often taken away by concerned authorities. By 1961, his parents divorced when he was only ten, and he was expected to care for his five siblings. David refused to see his parents again, bitterly believing them to be the reason his life had become distorted and unbalanced. At 15, David began work at a horseracing track, trying to earn a decent living but finding his increasing adolescent sexual needs overwhelming. After exposing himself to a young woman, he was sacked from his job.
Catherine Harrison’s mother died when she was an infant, and her father took her to South Africa to begin a new life. Finding the child troublesome to take care of, he sent her back to Australia where she lived with her grandparents. Again, finding her too difficult to raise, Catherine was handed off to her uncle and aunt. After meeting his next door neighbor, a sweet and pretty 15-year-old Catherine, David was immediately taken by her. Catherine was said to be a sad and introverted girl, longing to be loved and understandably fearful that she would be taken away from the third family she knew. When she met David, who seemed to adore her completely, Catherine surrendered to her dream and fell feet first in love. Catherine quickly became pregnant with her first child and the two teenagers rejoiced in the new life they would be bringing into the world. To add a special pact and thrill to their relationship, they began committing crimes including petty theft, and burglaries.
On June 11, 1969, David and Catherine were sent to Perth Police Court for eleven counts of criminal activity including $3,000 worth of stolen goods and breaking and entering. They also admitted to trying to crack a safe at the local drive-in. Young and unable to find reason for their crimes, David and Catherine had no alibi and plead guilty. David was sent to a correctional institution for nine months, while a very pregnant Catherine was placed on probation. When it was revealed that the two teenagers had committed eight further crimes of breaking and entering, David was sent to prison for 3 years, while Catherine was given probation for 4 years. After breaking out of prison a year later, David and Catherine couldn’t seem to stop themselves and began committing more crimes. Catherine’s first child with David was then taken away by welfare workers.
After a short stint in a detention center, Catherine and David departed and married other partners and tried to begin new lives. By 21, Catherine was living with her new husband, Donald McLaughlin, deciding end her life of crime. Catherine stayed at home to unsuccessfully clean her filthy and revolting home. Without a proper mother or parental figure to teach her how to take care of a household, Catherine had no knowledge of domestic hygiene. Proving to be a terrible wife, Catherine attempted to raise her five children literally in squalor. Catherine’s first child with McLaughlin, just an infant at the time, was hit by a car and died instantly. Catherine witnessed the death and was deeply affected by it. This would later be analyzed by psychiatrists as a possible reason she felt the need to commit crimes with David. To forget the death of her child, Catherine immersed herself in violence and murder. Catherine had never forgotten her first love, David, and soon abandoned her family and her home to be with David, whom she had still been seeing for two years.
After thirteen years apart, Catherine and David quickly reunited. Though never formally married, Catherine took David’s last name and became his common law wife. The couple moved into 3 Moorhouse Street, Willagee just outside of Perth. David might have been the love of her life, but David had an unquenchable and insatiable need for sex, demanding it six times a day. When Catherine refused his advances, David simply turned to his brother, James, with whom he had some kind of incestuous relationship with. On James’ 21st birthday, David’s gift to him was sex with Catherine, who obliged to satisfy David. He sat and watched the affair occur, aroused by the idea of his wife having sex with his brother. James later admitted to police that David used a hypodermic needle filled with cocaine on the tip of his penis to enhance his orgasms.
David needed sexual gratification all the time, and had no fears asserting himself on someone who was willing or unwilling to have him. Catherine and David decided that raping young girls was the answer to their problems. David assured Catherine that she would achieve amazing and unprecedented orgasms by watching David rape a bound and gagged woman. She believed him.
To find their first victim, David advertised cheap tires in the local paper, and soon enough, a young woman answered the advertisement. On October 6, 1986, Mary Neilson, aged 22, knocked on the door of 3 Moorhouse Street. The tiny home was overgrown with weeds and dead flowers and was badly in need of repainting. This home was later seen as famous, much like John Christie’s 10 Rillington Street in London and Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment 213, in Milwaukee. David chained Mary to the bed and raped her while Catherine watched. Unsatisfied, David found that he needed more to feel fulfilled. He wanted blood on his hands. David and Catherine drove Mary to Glen Eagle State Forest where she was raped again. David strangled her with a nylon stocking while she tried to beg for mercy. David stabbed Mary and mutilated her body, burying her in a shallow grave near Armadale.
Approximately 2 weeks later, David and Catherine picked up 15-year-old hitchhiker Susannah Candy, an excellent student at Hollywood High School and a smart pleasant young woman. She was kept in their home as a prisoner for several days while being raped by David. Catherine joined in on the sexual relations this time, David enjoying the ménage à trois. Ordering her to write two letters to her parents assuring she was safe and well and would be returning home soon, Susannah realized that David and Catherine would be disposing of her soon. The two killers could not have Susannah identify them. Catherine, in a jealous rage, strangled Susannah because she thought David was giving her too much attention. Her body was later buried next to Mary Neilson.
The next victim of the Birnie’s was a friend, 31-year-old air hostess Noelene Patterson. The Birnie’s had helped her decorate her home, and she felt quite safe when they picked her up after she ran out of gas on the road. Noelene was regarded by friends and family as outgoing and popular, charming and polite. Over a period of 3 days, Noelene was chained to the bed and violently sexually assaulted by David in their home. Catherine was again jealous of the woman David seemed to be affectionate with and demanded that he kill her. Noelene was attractive and entranced David completely. Catherine thought of Noelene as the woman she could never be and was not about to let David have her. Because David could not murder someone he knew, he mercifully gave her a large dose of sleeping pills and waited until she passed out before strangling her. When burying her next to the other slain women, Catherine threw dirt in her face as a final goodbye to the woman she felt had been trying to steal her husband.
The fourth and final victim was 21-year-old Denise Brown, a computer operator. She was abducted by the Birnie’s on November 4, 1986 after being picked up at a bus stop on Stirling Highway. Denise was raped repeatedly in the Birnie home. They made her call a friend to let her know she was well and safe and no one need look for her. After being taken to a pine plantation, Denise was raped yet again. Denise had extreme injury David’s dull knife, which had not worked as well as he had expected. Catherine gave him a larger knife, and Denise was stabbed while David raped her again and again. Attempting to bury her in a shallow grave, Denise sat up in the grave, her knife wounds non fatal. David struck her in the skull with an axe. When she sat up once more, David took the head of the axe and cracked her skull with it. Denise was buried on the edge of Gnangara pine plantation. This was the last killing to take place in a 27 day period.
On November 10, 1987, a 17-year-old girl was found running naked and sobbing to a supermarket in Fremantle. She told police she had been abducted and forced into a car while walking through the wealthy area of Nedlands, a suburb of Perth. The man and woman that had taken her had brought her to their home where she was chained to a bed and forced sexual relations. Catherine watched the whole time. The only reason the young girl had escaped was when David went to work and Catherine freed her from her chains. The girl escaped the home from a window in the bedroom. Although deeply disturbed, the girl was able to identify the home, phone number, and the faces of her assailants. David was said to have an abnormally long hooked nose and Catherine was described as a mid thirties short woman with a permanent frown and high cheekbones.
The women missing had come from good backgrounds, and it became obvious that they had all been abducted, none of them having a reason to leave their homes and never return. Detective Sergeant Paul Ferguson was the prime investigator on the case, and quickly realized that he was dealing with a serial killer. After the description given by the 17-year-old, Ferguson understood that the girl had positively seen the faces of the killers, suggesting there might have been a motive for letting her go. The Birnie’s knew they had been caught after the young girl was found and were taken from their home and interrogated by police. David first claimed that the young girl had willingly gone to the house to smoke marijuana and had also willingly had sex with David. To prove that she had actually been in the home, the girl smartly left her bag and cigarettes in the ceiling of the home. David confessed first and gave specific details of where each body were buried, and was quite chatty and cheerful when leading police to the bodies. Catherine confessed soon after.
After apprehended, Catherine took police to the site of Susannah’s body. Catherine, seeming to have lost all morality and tact, said of Susannah, “She was a female. Females hurt and destroy males.” Furthermore, with Catherine now freely talking, the police had time to question her and find some kind of reason she had involved herself in murder. Catherine’s only admission was that she had been so smitten with David, she was unable to say no to him. Catherine showed the police where Noelene was buried, seeming to have a particular disgust with the deceased woman. Spitting on the make-shift grave in front of police, Catherine admitted that she had hated the woman for captivating her husband.
A nineteen-year-old woman student came forward after the murders hit the news. She claimed she was walking home from the university when a couple tried to pick her up. She felt uneasy about getting in the car when she saw what she assumed was a young boy or girl laying in the backseat. The body was that of Denise Brown, drugged by sleeping pills and passed out. The student declined a ride and the car soon drove away. Her description of the driver and the woman in the passenger seat matched perfectly with Catherine and David Birnie.
Upon searching the Birnie home, police found an advertisement in a newspaper circled in red ink. It read, “URGENT. Looking for a lonely person. Prefer female 18 to 24 years, share single room flat.” Catherine confessed right away that she had been a willing accomplice in the crimes, even photographing David raping the young women. It was also claimed that although she was jealous of these women, she took great pleasure in helping David have sex with his victims. Psychiatrists and detectives were bothered by Catherine’s absolute obsession with David. Her entire life was devoted to this man, and she would help him find, abduct, rape, and finally kill each woman they found together. Catherine signed a detailed statement admitting her part in the murders. In Catherine’s confession, she claimed that she had freed the last 17-year-old girl because she felt that the murders would go on forever if they didn’t stop now. She admitted that she enjoyed murdering and raping the women, but wanted it to end.
David admitted to the rape and murder of four women and pled guilty for each of the murders. He believed that showing a great deal of remorse would help his case. He tried to show himself as a sorrowful sex addict that had no choice but to murder his victims so they could not identify him. While awaiting his trial, inmates in the jail attacked him and he ended up needing medical attention. Catherine fell to her knees when hearing that David had been hurt in jail.
On November 12, 1986, Catherine and David stood trial at Fremantle Magistrates' Court charged with four counts of murder and rape. Dressed casually, with Catherine barefoot, neither had legal representation. When given the option of 8 or 30 days before going back to court, Catherine looked at David and declared that she would go when he went. The Birnie’s went to court on February 10, 1987. Catherine fought viciously with the guards, demanding that they not touch her. When she saw David in the courtroom, she calmed down immediately.
Sitting directly behind him, Catherine held David’s hand as the sentence was read. Catherine and David were to serve four consecutive life sentences in prison, eligible for parole in 20 years. Mr. Justice Wallace told the court that David Birnie “should not be let out of prison- ever.” Catherine Birnie was sent to Bandyup Prison in northern Perth, while David was to serve his time at Fremantle Prison. Neither Birnie’s appealed their sentence. When the trial was over, Catherine showed a desperation that had previously not been viewed. She was dragged screaming and kicking and spitting when led to the van that would take her to the prison. After leaving the courtroom, the public screamed and threw garbage at David. Hollering for David’s death, he smiled and blew them a kiss.
David continued his violent temperament in prison and was often in the middle of fights, beaten up, and spent much time in the prison infirmary. For four years, the Birnies exchanged a total of 2,600 letters, though they were denied any direct contact or visits. In 1990, David claimed that being apart from Catherine was sending him into a complete physical and mental breakdown that would eventually cause him to commit suicide. The judge refused a reunion between David and Catherine despite his frantic plea.
Although devoted to Catherine, in 1993, David’s personal computer was confiscated by prison officials, where they found evidence of an enormous amount of pornography. Apparently, David Birnie was suffering from a severe sex addiction, even in prison. The eventual possibility that the Birnie’s would ever be released was found unlikely by the Australian Attorney General, which he made very public. At 4:30 a.m. on October 2, 2005, 55-year-old David Birnie was found hanged in his maximum security cell at Perth's Casuarina prison. Catherine was not allowed to attend his funeral. She was denied parole in 2007, and again in 2010, her paperwork stating “never to be released.” Only two other women promised parole had ever been given that particular punishment.
When a serial killer begins his or her crime spree, they are eventually forced to find a place to hide the bodies of their victims. Some leave them in dark and foreboding alleyways, while some dismember the body parts and scatter them in wooded areas. Some even leave the bodies discarded on local highways. H.H. Holmes of Chicago cremated his victims or placed them in vats of acid to strip them of any identity, leaving only a skeleton which he would then use to sell to medical schools. Ed Gein of Wisconsin used the flesh of his victims to furnish his cluttered and maniacally decorated home. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley of England buried slain children in the Saddleworth Moors. Carl Panzram fed his unlucky victims to alligators. John Christie chose a particular way to dispose of the women he killed. Instead of distancing himself from the crimes, he hid the decomposing bodies in the walls of his apartment or placed them under the floorboards. He also put them in the outdoor washroom shared by other tenants, and buried them in the garden just outside his window.
John Christie felt an odd bond to his victims, especially after they were deceased. He preferred to keep them as close as he possibly could, often leaving the bodies sitting in chairs, or in his bed days after they had died. Though he adamantly denied sexual contact with his victims, Christie might have been described by any doctor as a necropheliac. Furthermore, a disorder known as romantic necrophilia might have been a better term for him, for he did engage in sexual contact with his victims after death. He kept them with him until the odor of decaying flesh became too much to handle. A romantic necropheliac cannot let their victims go, even when the perpetrator has no desire to continue the relationship. Instead, the bodies are kept nearby, so the killer might visit them again in an attempt to refresh their memory of the crime. Or, in extreme cases, the killer might decide to unearth the body to commit sex acts over and over.
The passivity of his victims thrilled John Christie immensely, giving him unauthorized permission to do as he wished with the bodies of the women he felt were usually unattainable to him. The bodies of these women could not comment on his impotency, or laugh at him in any way. He believed that these women should belong to him without question, and he took full advantage of the limp bodies that littered his tiny home in Notting Hill. To successfully understand the mind and inner workings of John Christie, one must first dissect Christie as a human being.
John Reginald Halliday Christie was born on April 8, 1898 to a carpet designer and amateur actress. John Christie was one of seven children, living in Halifax, Yorkshire. The Christie father was said to be a very violent and abusive man, often beating his children for no reason. Though John was a good student in school, he had no lasting friendships and did not develop any social awareness. In an effort to become a normal and likeable fellow, John became a choirboy at the local church. At the age of 8, John witnessed the body of his dead grandfather in his casket. John became increasingly captivated with death, and found himself irrefutably fascinated with the deceased. He spent his after school hours in graveyards, wandering through the grass and smelling the roses on each grave. His favorite spot in the cemetery was the crypt which held young children. He often tried to open the caskets, enjoying the fear and apprehension that came with the taboo of viewing a dead child’s body. At home, John was his mother’s favorite child and she dominated him with femininity, his four sisters reinforcing this. With reddish ginger hair and pale blue eyes, he was considered by his sisters as “pretty” and began using him as their personal doll to dress up in girl’s clothing and play house with. John’s memory was deeply affected by the girl’s clothes he was forced to wear, and this was the beginning of his hatred for all women.
When John reached his teenage years, he was still being treated by his sisters as a girl they could play with. To assert his masculinity, he began dating women and eventually found himself in a sexual encounter with a girlfriend. Unable to perform sexually, his self esteem dropped and he quickly gave up on women, believing them to be frustrating and mean. He was later nicknamed “Can’t-Do-It-Christie” by his peers who heard of his impotency. When in the company of his sisters, John became sexually attracted to them, but also resented them for emasculating him. This in turn made John even more sexually repressed, which enraged him endlessly.
John, at 19, decided to seek out local prostitutes, possibly to rid him of the taunting nickname and rumors of his ineffective sexual organ. But John’s affliction of impotence continued and the prostitutes readily pointed this out to him. John never forgot the sound of laughter from these prostitutes and later would punish them for their audacity. To add to his problems, John appeared to have symptoms of hypochondria, believing himself ailing from diseases and illnesses he did not actually suffer from. John also developed an abnormal fear of dirt.
After completing school, John Christie enlisted in the British Army, an effort to prove that he was now a man and not his sister’s plaything anymore. His time in the Army was short lived, for he was present during a mustard gas explosion which temporarily blinded him and damaged his larynx. In 1919, at age 21, Christie was given a small disability pension. Though his condition was said to be mild and uncomplicated, Christie was mute for three years. When he was able to speak, it was in a whispered tone. Doctors believed Christie’s state was due to a hysterical reaction to trauma rather than a real physical ailment.
In 1920, Christie married a local girl, Ethel Waddington, a plump and very passive young woman. They settled in Halifax and Christie began work at a postal office. To calm and relax him from his tense and stressful life, Christie started gardening in front of his home. Although Christie was admittedly afraid of dirt, gardening was something he was dedicated to and enthusiastic with. Christie and his wife Ethel were regarded by neighbors and friends as very quiet and private. Others saw the couple as odd and unpleasant. Ethel was reported to have been terrified of her husband, often visiting her family and friends whenever Christie showed signs of abnormalities or “craziness.”
Christie apparently loved his wife Ethel, but continued to visit prostitutes throughout the marriage. Broadening his horizons, he also became a thief, which landed him in jail numerous times. Ethel, concerned and at her wits end, decided not to tolerate Christie’s lies and deceit any longer. Ethel and Christie separated after four years of marriage, and Christie moved to London by himself. Not long after arriving in London, Christie began dating scores of women, most of them prostitutes, attempting to prove that he could attain an erection and achieve orgasms. In due course, Christie and a local prostitute moved into a small flat together. Christie’s temper was brutal at that time, for during an argument, he hit his new girlfriend over the head with a cricket bat. She was not seriously injured, but charged him with assault. Christie spent six months in prison, where he discovered his undying and precious love for Ethel. He sent her a letter, begging for her to join him in London when he was released from prison.
After a ten year separation, Ethel and Christie reconciled in 1933. They moved to the west area of London in Notting Hill, North Kensington, considered to be a sleazy and seedy place at the time. 10 Rillington Place was the home they ultimately chose to inhabit. The home was a three floor apartment building, and the Christie’s resided on the bottom floor. They shared an outdoor washroom with the other tenants, but Christie and Ethel seemed happy, regardless. Finally reunited, they cared little about the shabby house they lived in.
When World War Two broke in 1939, Christie was accepted as a constable in the War Reserve Police. Apparently, no one had researched Christie’s past, showing he was a multiple felon and had spent much of his early adult life in jail. Nevertheless, Christie proved himself to be a tireless and what some would say “fanatical” officer intent on upholding the law. He also used this unique opportunity to seek out available women he could have sex with, mainly prostitutes. He may have been happily married to Ethel, but he could not stop himself from serial affairs with dangerous women. Christie served four years in the War Reserve Police before being fired for unknown reasons.
The hypochondria Christie suffered from was quickly magnified when he was hit by a car in the early 1940’s. It was reported that he visited his doctor 173 times in the span of fifteen years. Christie claimed to have suffered from anything such as backaches to flu-like symptoms. His never ending conquest to have a medical condition took up a large portion of his time, but never got in the way of his hunt for prostitutes. With Ethel off visiting relatives in Sheffield, Christie was able to bring his “women of the night” home with him any time he pleased.
John Christie found a beautiful young woman in a bar in 1943. With short brown hair and alluring brown eyes, Ruth Fuerst immediately caught his eye. The 21-year-old Australian was tall and wildly in love with life, shown in her character and behavior. To earn a bit of extra cash, Ruth might have been a possible prostitute, something Christie was passionately attracted to. While his wife was away visiting Sheffield, Christie brought Ruth willingly to 10 Rillington Place. After polite pleasantries, Christie and Ruth retired to the bed to begin sexual relations. While they were having sex, Christie strangled Ruth with a rope. Intending to keep his sweet love close, he hid Ruth under the floorboards until Ethel came home. When Ethel left for work the next morning, Christie removed Ruth’s body from the floorboards and placed her naked in the garden in the backyard. Years later, Christie admitted to police, “I gazed down at her body and felt a quiet peaceful thrill. I had no regrets.” Ruth would remain there for a decade; with only Christie aware of her whereabouts.
One year later, in 1944, Christie met Muriel Eady, a woman he worked with at a radio firm. At 32, Muriel was short and heavy, and already had a boyfriend. Christie and his wife often entertained Muriel and her friends with tea and movies, finding themselves happy to spend time with not only a co-worker, but an agreeable and nice woman. One night, while his wife was away, Christie lured her to his home for tea and a bit of company. Muriel suffered from catarrh, essentially a very bad chest cold associated with chronic coughing up of mucus and phylum. Christie claimed to have a positive remedy for her catarrh, involving breathing in fumes that would now be similar to an inhaler or nebulizer. Instead of a real dose of medicinal therapy, Muriel was tricked into inhaling carbon monoxide, making her dizzy and unable to move. Christie then raped her while strangling her with a stocking. Muriel, fully dressed, was buried next to Ruth in the garden.
Four years passed before John Christie committed what would be his next accused crime. Christie’s taste in prostitutes and other women were undeniably prominent, and it seems impossible that he ended his rape and murder spree for four years. Christie had a habit of hiding his bodies either in his home or nearby his home, so the murder of a woman buried in another area seems unlikely.
After living in their home for 10 years, the Christie’s had new neighbors who moved into the top floor of the Rillington apartments in 1948. Timothy, Beryl, and her 14-month-old daughter Geraldine Evans moved in and became quick friends of the Christie’s. Timothy, 24, drove a van for a living and was illiterate. With a low IQ rendering him borderline retarded and harboring the intellect of a ten-year-old, Timothy was in much need of help when it came to very simple things. A terribly confusing and difficult situation arose in the Evans family soon after they moved in. Beryl Evans had become pregnant for the second time, and the child was very much unwanted by Beryl. John Christie, as usual, intervened and claimed that he had a concoction that would rid Beryl of her pregnancy. She had been taking a massive amount of pills in an attempt to abort her child, but Christie was able to convince her that his mixture would be much safer and better on her body. Early in November 1948, Beryl was dead.
Timothy Evans, not John Christie, initially confessed to disposing of her body. Timothy went to the police telling them that his wife had been taking pills to abort her baby, and that she had died in the process. He said that he had stuffed Beryl’s body down the drains outside the front door, but told the police he was not the killer. Intending to find Beryl’s body, the police quickly found that Timothy could not have disposed of his wife’s body as he had claimed. It took three men to remove the manhole where Beryl was said to be, proving Timothy could not have been the only person involved. When police exposed the bodies of Beryl and Geraldine Evans in a hidden alcove of the shared washroom, Timothy hurriedly changed his story.
It had been Christie that killed his wife, according to Timothy. Beryl had been given some kind of pill by Christie that would allow her to comfortably and painlessly lose her baby. Something had gone wrong though, and Timothy found Beryl bleeding from every orifice, her body already cold when he found her. The death of Geraldine Evans had never been planned, and Timothy would not admit involvement in her death. His daughter had been the love of his life, and killing her had never been part of the agreement he and Christie devised. Timothy claimed he had simply followed the instructions of Christie, who had promised Timothy that Beryl would be fine after she passed the unborn child.
On January 11, 1950, Evans stood trial at the Old Bailey Court in London for the death of his wife and baby. Using John Christie as his prime witness, the prosecutor put Christie up on the stand. Although he appeared strange and perhaps unhinged, Christie surprised the court with his admission. He claimed that Beryl was trying to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. When she did not succeed, she offered Christie sex in exchange for helping her end her life. Christie told the court he did not have sex with her, but did provide her with pills to carry out the abortion. Christie further explained that he was just a bystander.
Evans was unable to convince a jury that he was innocent, but with his low intelligence, it seems he might have been confused or unable to recall the true events leading to his wife and daughter’s death. For one thing, Evans had given the police the wrong location of Beryl’s body, and he had also known nothing of Geraldine’s death. Most damning was the fact that Beryl had been strangled, Christie’s favorite method of killing. All of the evidence that could have cleared Evans, such as testimony from the carpenters working on the Rillington apartments and neighbor’s factual account of the days leading up to Beryl’s death. Ethel Christie’s statement was also buried in the prosecutor’s paperwork. Evans was found guilty and went to the gallows on March 9, 1950.
In mid December of 1952, Ethel Christie disappeared from her home on Rillington Place. Christie claimed that Ethel had been visiting her relatives as usual, but this time she didn’t come back. Christie confessed that he believed Ethel had taken his sleeping pills and had attempted suicide. Christie said that Ethel had some sort of suffocation episode, in which Christie decided to put her out of her misery by strangling her in bed. He kept Ethel in the bed for three days before disposing of her body “to keep him close to her. “ Her body, unlike the others was not sexually violated. Christie put a pillowcase over her face and bundled her body in a blanket along with several of her dresses. Christie pried up the floorboards in the tiny living room and placed her body in the hole.
Now, with his wife gone, Christie had ample time to seek out more prostitutes and bring them home. On January 2, 1953, less than a month after his wife’s death, Christie ran into a heavily drunk 25-year-old prostitute, Rita Nelson. To soothe herself from the fact that she was 6 months pregnant, Rita was just drunk enough to believe the story that Christie was able to help her abort it. After some kind of heated argument and a frying pan bashed over Christie’s head, Rita was strangled and left in his living room chair. Christie maintained that he had blacked out and had suddenly awaked to find the corpse of Rita sitting motionless in his chair. Christie claimed Rita was the aggressor and had died while he was trying to defend himself. Rita was put in the wall after one day of decomposing in Christie’s chair.
Early in February, 1953, Christie picked up another prostitute who was inebriated beyond her logical thinking. Kathleen Maloney, aged 26, met Christie in a local café. He enticed her back to his bottom floor apartment for sexual relations. Christie gassed Kathleen first to make her faint and unaware of her surroundings. Christie and Kathleen must have some kind of fight and it was claimed that Christie used self defense to hinder Kathleen from fighting with him. It is unknown specifically if Kathleen might have had intercourse either before or after she was killed, though it seems likely that Christie strangled her during sex, as he usually did. He again claimed that he was blacked out while the murder took place. The next morning, Christie had a cup of tea with Kathleen’s corpse opposite him at the table. Then, he diapered her and placed her body in the wall with the others.
Depending on the story Christie put together, his next victim had a similar story to those who had been killed before. Hectorina MacLennan, a 26-year-old prostitute, met her death on March 6, 1953. According to Christie’s story, the two had had a fight which ended with Hectorina strangled by the collar of her own shirt. Christie, to make sure she was really dead, gassed her and strangled her before making love to her. He told authorities he had blacked out during the murder. As with all the other victims, Christie claimed self defense yet again. He clipped her brassiere to the blanket around her legs to keep her sitting up in the chair. He later put her body in the wall after sharing a cup of tea and a meal with her dead body.
When the other tenants began to notice the stench of something horrible, Christie decided to move, spraying disinfectant on the wall and on the floor. Christie fraudulently sublet his apartment to a young and pleasant couple. The new tenants moved in, expecting to live a quiet and agreeable life on Rillington Place. But, the landlord soon found the new tenants living in what was supposed to be Christie’s home. The couple left the home and the landlord granted the upper floor residents to use Christie’s kitchen. Beresford Brown and his wife, looking for a place to put up shelves, knocked on the cheap partition walls to find a decent place to add slight renovations. Finding a hollow spot, they removed the alcove and discovered a dead body hidden in the wall. The police were immediately notified and they searched the entire apartment for other bodies. Three bodies were in the wall, one in the floorboards, and two in the garden.
In the wall, Rita Nelson and Kathleen Maloney were assumed to be dead for 8-12 weeks, each of them strangled by a rope or stocking and sexually assaulted. Hectorina had been dead for 4 weeks, strangled and also sexually assaulted. Ethel was buried under the floorboards, brought to the mortuary the next day. Compared to the young prostitutes, Ethel’s body was that of a much older and larger woman, missing several teeth. Ethel had been a victim of strangling with a rope and it was estimated she was in her fifties. Under the floorboards, she had been dead 12-15 weeks. Searching in the garden, police found two more bodies; each had been dead for at least a decade. While attempting to find more bodies, the police uncovered a tobacco can which held four different sets of pubic hair.
In the streets, Christie had run out of money and was homeless and jobless for at least ten days. His picture and information of his crimes were on the cover of every newspaper, so Christie tried to retain in low profile. But Christie was soon found after a police officer found him under Putney Bridge in London on March 30, 1953.
Christie, under interrogation, apparently had a complete physical and mental breakdown. He had no guilt for his crimes but claimed he did suffer from headaches and amnesia. He claimed that all the killings had been accidental and denied any sexual activities took place with the bodies despite the overwhelming evidence that he had engaged in sex acts with the corpses. He spoke of his crimes in the third person, suggesting that he was suffering some kind of personality disorder. He also claimed that his ultimate goal had been to murder 12 victims. Christie went into trial for only the death of his wife, Ethel Christie. At the Old Bailey in London on June 22, 1953, the same court Timothy Evans had been under trial, Christie pled not guilty by reason of insanity.
Derek Curtis-Bennett defended Christie, believing he could prove that Christie was insane. A psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Jack Abbott Hobson, added his medical opinion to the trial. Stating that Christie was well aware of each crime he committed, he was also an extreme hysteric who had trouble deciphering what he had done was wrong. Dr. Jack Abbott Hobson further added that Christie bared a deficiency that lacked reason and accountability, thus allowing him to participate in the immorality of murder and other criminal acts. Christie was found by psychiatrists in the prosecution as a liar and a murderer, finding that Christie was not a hysteric or defected in any way.
Christie confessed to the prosecutor Sir Lionel Heald and the rest of the court that he committed all of the murders, including that of Beryl Evans. Though Timothy Evans had been hanged for Beryl and Geraldine’s murder, Christie made a frantic attempt at seeming insane. He admitted that he was the one who had in fact murdered Beryl by carbon monoxide inhalation and strangulation. Three days into the case on June 25, 1953, he was found guilty of murder, by Judge Justice Finnemore. Christie was sentenced to death and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison by executioner Albert Pierrepoint, the same man to have executed Timothy Evans.
The tobacco can holding four sets of pubic hair was analyzed, and none of the hair matched the seven victims. In the case of Timothy Evans, several inquiries were made on his behalf. It was later found that Evan’s death was a miscarriage of justice, proving that John Christie had killed Beryl Evans. The murder of Geraldine was never confirmed, and to this day, no one knows why she was murdered. Christie has always been a suspect, but police were never able to charge him with the crime. Though his hanging was irreversible, Timothy Evans was cleared of the murders.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The Lady Killer of France
The frightening fairytale of Bluebeard dates back to the seventeenth century. Penned by French writer Charles Perrault, the story begins with the inevitable “once upon a time” and details a man named Bluebeard who has married many women but all have disappeared. After meeting with his neighbor, a beautiful young woman, Bluebeard asks for her hand in marriage. She is hesitant, but is swept off her feet by his unmistakable charms. Soon after their marriage, Bluebeard is called away for business. He gives his new bride the keys to his castle, explaining that she may enter every room except for the basement. Alone in the castle, the woman turns the keys over and over in her hands, wondering if she should obey her husband. But curiosity consumes her and she eagerly rushes down the stairs to visit the forbidden and dark basement. Putting the key into the lock, she gingerly opens the heavy door. As her eyes adjust to the darkness, she slowly begins to see what her husband was hiding from her.
Hung from hooks on the wall are the rotting corpses of Bluebeard’s previous wives. The entire room is thick with the stench of death, and the ground is flooded with blood. In her haste to escape from the monstrosity, the young woman drops her keys. Retrieving them, she quickly shuts the door and flees from the basement. On the top of the stairs, she tries to catch her breath and steady her rapidly beating heart. When she looks at the keys in her shaking hands, she finds the keys covered in sticky and what seems to be fresh blood. The young woman washes them for an hour and soon discovers that the one key that will not wash clean is the basement key. It is stained dark red, and her attempt to rid the discolored key fail again and again.
Bluebeard arrives back at the castle early and greets his wife with a kiss and an embrace. When he finds the damning evidence that the forbidden key has been used, he becomes enraged and vows that his wife will soon join the others on a hook in the basement room. Bluebeard roughly drags his wife through the castle, intending to kill her upon reaching the basement. But the woman begs for mercy, asking her murderous husband to grant her fifteen minutes to pray to God. Bluebeard agrees and locks her in the highest tower of the castle, allowing him time to finely sharpen his knife.
In the deserted room, the young woman runs to the window where she immediately sees her two brothers riding their horses back to their home next to the castle. She is able to flag them down by waving her arms violently, and the two men hasten their arrival. When the fifteen minutes pass, Bluebeard opens the door and forces his wife down the stairs to the basement. Raising his knife in the air, he is interrupted by her two brothers who have quietly snuck in through the front door. They are able to disarm Bluebeard and after a short struggle, Bluebeard is killed by the two brothers. The young woman is freed from the castle and goes on to inherit the wealth of her late husband.
This children’s tale is known throughout history, the lesson presumably being that one should not heed the human instinct of curiosity, rather be cautious instead, for inside the door of truth may be a grim and horrifying sight. In the early twentieth century, France met the new Bluebeard, a man that was not depicted in worn and tattered children’s books. Henri Désiré Landru was Bluebeard in the flesh, a man without remorse, a villainous and greedy creature who murdered his wives and stalked the streets of Paris with an air of undeserved dignity. Short and bald with a distinctive scraggly red beard, Landru predominantly relied on his fantastic intelligence and charm to infatuate the women he wanted. He relentlessly hunted middle-aged wealthy and trusting women, finding that they were the perfect target to satisfy his infinite greed. With men away fighting World War One, Henri found the task of snaring women in his lethal trap an easy one.
Henri Désiré Landru was born on April 12, 1869 to poor but happy and hardworking parents. After bearing a daughter, they longed for a son, and Henri was a welcome and tremendously joyful edition to the family. Henri’s middle name Désiré is French for the term “much desired”. From an early age, Henri was taught to be a good natured and honest young man. His father worked as a book salesman and his mother was a dressmaker. Schooled by monks, Henri was an intelligent and well spoken boy who sang in the church choir and took great pleasure in being an altar boy. The Landru family was very close, and Henri’s parents worked hard to bring him up proper and well-behaved.
Henri served in the French military from 1887 to 1891, earning himself the proud title of sergeant. It seems that he could have led a very prosperous and decent life, but Henri soon learned how to lie, cheat, and steal. Growing up underprivileged, he realized that he would not like to remain that way throughout his life. Instead of earning his money, he found that stealing was much easier and decided to pursue a life of crime to support himself.
After leaving the military, Henri became entangled in misdeeds, befriending local hoods, pimps and thieves. He married his cousin, Remy, at 24 and had four children with her. Though he did try to work honest jobs, his preferred occupation was petty theft which landed him in jail numerous times. Police found Henri to have little to no sense of responsibility when it came to admission of his crimes. Henri’s father was so distraught over his son’s repeated felonious behavior, he became incredibly depressed. He thought he had brought up Henri as a good and respectable man, but it appeared that Henri’s defiance was unstoppable. Henri’s father then hung himself, believing he had failed Henri completely.
In 1914, Henri Landru, now 43, had devised a plan to assure his wealth in society. He began advertising himself as a widower, even though he was still legally married to Remy, seeking rich middle-aged women he believed would support him. Going by the name Monsieur Diard, Henri met Madame Jeanne Cuchet, 39, in December 1914. Jeanne found Henri, this small and harmless looking man, undeniably charming and courteous. He was also interested in her 18-year-old son André, something that delighted Jeanne immeasurably. Jeanne had been searching for a man to marry, but was also hoping to find a father for her son. Henri seemed like her dream come true. Without a doubt in her mind, she moved in with Henri in a house called The Lodge in Vernouillet, just outside of Paris. Jeanne Cuchet and her son disappeared soon after they began living at the home. Henri informally inherited 15,000 francs worth of Jeanne’s securities.
Moving to Villa Ermitage at Gambais, Henri was able to charm many women with his remarkably witty and enchanting appeal. Using the alias’ Monsieur Cuchet, Fremyet, Dupont, and Lucien Guillet, Henri was able to entice eight more women between 1915 and 1921. Some he lived with, some he falsely married and some he simply dated. He met these women while searching through the local singles advertisements or at fine restaurants in Paris. Henri now had wealth, and he had become accustomed to it. He was only willing to settle for an affluent lifestyle, strolling through the wealthy areas of Paris for his unlucky amour.
Among his girlfriends were Madame Louise Jaume, a 38-year-old devout Catholic separated from her husband, Andrée Babelay, a 19-year-old servant girl, divorced Madame Anne-Marie Pascal, 37-year-old Madame Marie-Therese Marchadier, Madame Anna Colomb, Madame Celeste Buisson, Madame Therése Laborde-Line from Argentina and 51-year-old Madame Désirée Guillin, a former governess with an inheritance of 22,000 francs.
Madame Pelat, Anna Colomb’s sister, became worried when she received no replies from the letters she sent to her sister at Henri’s home at Gambais. Madmoiselle Lacoste, sister of Celeste Buisson, also became suspicious when Celeste appeared to be missing. Both women contacted the Mayor of Gambais and he contacted authorities. After an arrest warrant was issued for Henri on April 11th, 1919, Madmoiselle Lacoste spotted Henri in Paris by pure chance. He was with yet another woman strolling around Rue de Rivoli. Henri had moved to 76 Rue de Rochechouart where police soon traced him. Henri, in a moment of panic, attempted to throw a book out the window, which police were able to easily retrieve. In the book were handwritten recordings of all the women he had been dating, how rich they were, and what he wanted from them.
Upon inspecting the home at the Villa in Gambais, police found approximately 290 bits of bone fragments and teeth in the fireplace. For years, suspicious dark smoke had been coming out of the chimney, and now police realized that the bodies of Henri’s victims were being burned in the kitchen stove. The method of killing was unknown, but poisoning was suspected because of Henri’s small stature, rendering him unable to overpower the women he seduced. Enormous amounts of women’s clothing and personal possessions were found in the home as well. When questioned, Henri had no answers and never admitted guilt.
At the Seine-et-Oise Assize Court in November 1921, Henri maintained his innocence and arrogantly refused to discuss the topic of the missing women on the grounds that to speak of such blasphemies would be rude and cruel to Remy, the wife he was legally still married to. He was charged with 11 murders; though it was disputed he had committed more killings in the span of 7 years. Henri attained one of France’s top lawyers, Moro Giafferi, who tried to claim that Henri was a slave trader and had sent all the women to a brothel in Brazil. This was a weak argument, for no one believed that Brazil had a terrible need for middle-aged French women.
Henri was found guilty of the 11 murders, but the jurors asked for clemency in his case. Henri was sentenced to death by the presiding judge. Attempting to comfort his attorney, Henri gave Giafferi a drawing he had scribbled while in his jail cell. On the back of the note was a confession stating, “I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen stove.”Before the death sentence, Henri was able to talk the warders out of shaving off his ginger beard. He also snubbed the priest on his way to the execution. His last words were “I shall be brave.” He was then guillotined on February 25, 1922.
Though Henri was not an exact depiction of the Bluebeard mentioned in fairytales, there were direct similarities. Henri Landru murdered his many “wives”, wore a striking and unforgettably long beard, and was considered by many to be a distrustful and fearful scoundrel. The lesson learned in the Landru case, if any, was to remain guarded and wary of what seemed too good to be true. For Henri, the lesson he learned while waiting for the blade of the guillotine to drop was that colossal greed brings an unfortunate end.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
In the early 1940’s, London residents were literally living in darkness. The German Luftwaffe, essential to the blitzkrieg, constantly flew over central Europe terrorizing the skies. To avoid nighttime aerial bombings, every light in the city was switched off, light posts darkened, and the windows of buildings and factories painted black. In fact, it was prohibited for residents to show any shard of light in the streets, and people were criminally prosecuted if they deviated from this law. Citizens locked themselves indoors or hid in underground bunkers, waiting for World War two to end. The few who dared to haunt the streets at night were local prostitutes, trying to earn their living among deserted and dark alleyways.
Prostitutes, for as long as they have existed, have lived dangerous and treacherous lives. They have long since been regarded by sadistic customers as perfect victims to murder. Prostitutes often have no family to search for them when they go missing and their street chums are usually afraid of police and thus do not report an absent friend. For one week in 1942, five prostitutes found themselves face to face with England’s newest and deadliest version of Jack the Ripper.
On February 9, 1942, Evelyn Margaret Hamilton, a 42-year-old teacher, was found strangled in an air-raid shelter in Montague Place in the Marylebone area of London. There was no evidence of sexual assault or mutilation to the body. It was unknown whether the death had occurred in the shelter or if she had been placed there after death. The motive of this murder was thought to be robbery, for Evelyn’s purse and money had been snatched.
The next day, the body of prostitute Evelyn Oatley, aka Nita Ward, was found nude and strangled in her Soho flat. The 35-year-old woman’s throat had been cut and a can opener was used to rip open her torso after she was killed. Police noted that she had been brutally raped. Detective Chief Inspector Greeno of Scotland Yard presided over this case and the subsequent murders. The killings were suspected to be completely random and it was believed these murders were done out of hatred for women. Fingerprints were found on the bloody can opener and evidence from the imprints on Evelyn’s neck showed that the killer was left-handed.
The body of 43-year-old prostitute Margaret Frances Lowe, street name Pearl, was found by her 14-year-old daughter in her home in the west end of London. Margaret was nude, her body cut with a razor blade and knife. A silk stocking was tightly bound around her neck. Her panties were pulled down halfway down her thighs showing the ruthless nature of her killer’s sexual urgency. All of Margaret’s wounds were inflicted post mortem, just like the previous murders. On February 14, 1942, Doris Jounannet, also known as Doris Robson, was found strangled and sexually mutilated in her flat in Sussex Gardens, Paddington. The 32-year-old was a prostitute in the Leicester Square, although she was married to a 70-year-old Hotel Manager of the Paddington Hotel. Her husband had noted that the milk had not been taken in, and became worried upon entering the home. Eyewitnesses reported that Doris had been seen the night before her murder with a man in uniform. Doris’ body was still warm when Inspector Greeno arrived.
When the newspapers heard of the recent killings, they dubbed the murderer as the “Blackout Ripper” for two reasons. The suspect was mutilating his victims much like Jack the Ripper and had been doing so in the “blacked out” streets of London. These crimes had been done in the span of one week, and the police were earnestly searching out the killer, interviewing local prostitutes who were hesitant to disclose information, even though the police assured complete discretion. After being told what the “Blackout Ripper” was doing to his victims, the women readily gave out descriptions of men they found strange or particularly violent.
Two prostitutes came forward with the information the police badly needed. Margaret Heywood, aka Greta, admitted that she had encountered a man that deeply disturbed her. In the nights following the first four murders, Greta said she had had dinner and a drink with a man in uniform at The Captain’s Cabin, a local haunt for prostitutes. Greta believed this man to be an unsafe client after he made an oppressive attempt to put his arm around her and drag her into a doorway. The man tried to strangle her, but upon hearing her screams, a delivery man came to her rescue. The aggressive man fled the scene and left behind his RAF gas mask bearing his service number, 525987.
Cathleen Mulcahy, aka Kate King, also came forward to the police. The same night the serviceman had tried to kill Greta, Kate was working the streets in Paddington. After meeting an amiable and seemingly polite man, she escorted him back to her flat in Southwark Street. While Kate was undressing for the assumed sexual encounter, the man grabbed her from behind and tried to strangle her. Kate was used to men with bad tempers and vile demeanors and fought this man furiously, causing the man to flee quickly. He left his uniform belt behind, which had his service number etched into it.
On February 16, 1942, RAF serviceman Gordon Cummings was apprehended by police after tracking him down from the numbers listed on his belt and gas mask. Gordon said that the gas mask wasn’t his, but when he couldn’t prove why his number was on it, he did however have an alibi: His name was listed on the log book at his billet, showing he was at his post during the killings. But Inspector Greeno soon found that at the price of a drink or pack of smokes, other servicemen would sign in for absent colleagues. In his possession Gordon was found to have the cigarette cases that belonged to Margaret Lowe and Evelyn Oatley and a fountain pen owned by Doris Jounannet. Gordon’s fingerprints were also found on the can opener used to cruelly tear out Evelyn Oatley’s torso. Gordon was also left-handed, proving that the handprints imprinted on the victim’s throats had been his.
Gordon Frederick Cummings enlisted in the RAF (Royal Air Force) in 1939. He quickly earned the nickname “The Count” because of his consistent bragging remarks to his contemporaries that he was the illegitimate son of noble heritage. Cummings was a handsome and well built man, standing at attention as pictured in his army photograph at age 27. Not only did his wife find him appealing with his false upper class accent, but so did the prostitutes he often visited in the poor districts of London. Not much is known about Gordon Cummings’ personal life before 1939, except for the fact that he was fired from many jobs for his dishonesty and insolence. Cummings’ main aspiration in life was to become a dignified upper-class gentleman. His feeling was that since he claimed to have come from a wealthy and dignified background, living as a pauper for the rest of his life was not something he was willing to settle for. Cummings was a thief, stealing money and trinkets from his many visits to prostitute’s homes. He apparently had no qualms about stealing from the underprivileged.
Cummings’ motive for killing was thought to be out of hatred for women, but no other motive was clearly outlined. He might have been suffering from a mental illness that suddenly sparked one single week in February 1942, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake. Cummings appeared to have no history of violence before 1942; he was pleasant and kind to his wife and got along well with the other RAF servicemen. His crimes were almost completely without reason. Mutilating his victims in such a precise and evil manner, Cummings might have been dreaming of committing these murders for years. If he had not been caught so quickly, he might have continued his spree of crimes for months, even years. The fact that he left behind evidence proving he was present at each killing shows he was hasty and had not planned them out as well as he had hoped.
While in jail, awaiting his trial, Cummings’ wrote a letter to his wife, saying, “Although I don’t know, I think I must be guilty – the evidence is overwhelming.” This statement seems to imply that Cummings perhaps was not aware he had committed murder, losing lucid consciousness or blacking out during the killings. Or, he might have made this statement in an attempt to calm his wife’s fear that the man that she married was not the serial murderer involved in the shocking brutal crimes. The image she had of her husband might remain untainted if he claimed he was somehow innocent or not sane. Either way, Cummings did have a large amount of evidence against him, and it was nearly impossible to prove he wasn’t at least a suspect in the “Blackout Ripper” case.
The trial on April 27, 1942 at the Old Bailey Courthouse lasted only two days. He was charged with only the murder of Evelyn Oatley. If acquitted, the police planned to charge him with the three other murders. The verdict from the jury took only 30 minutes to find Gordon guilty. The judge, Justice Asquith, demanded a death sentence. Gordon appealed the sentence, but Lord Chief Justice Humphries dismissed it and ordered that Gordon go to the gallows. Albert Pierrepoint was the official hangman and performed the execution at Wandsworth Prison on June 25, 1942. Ironically, the sound of sirens during an air raid sang out while Gordon was being hanged. Gordon’s killings went down in criminal history as the first to chiefly use fingerprinting as a significant role in finding a killer.
A fifth murder was uncovered after Gordon Cummings’ death. A woman named Mrs. Church was murdered in October 1941, Gordon’s fingerprints all over her body.
In the mind of an accused child killer
“The only thing that influenced him to choose our imprisonment instead of death was our youth; we need only have introduced our birth certificates in evidence!” – Nathan Leopold, ‘Life Plus 99 Years’
Nathan F. Leopold Jr., nicknamed Babe by family and friends, may have led a privileged life, but it was by no means easy. He grew up wealthy and adored by his family, but he was alienated by his peers and spent his first fifteen years lonely and disassociated from the world surrounding him. Constantly taunted by others for his short stature, his shy nature, evasive eyes, and odd appearance, Nathan was shut out by his schoolmates and neighbors. He was above average intelligence and this often left him the youngest in his courses in school. By the time he was 15, he was already attending his first year of college at the University of Chicago. When the popular and alluring Richard Loeb (nicknamed Dickie) entered Nathan’s life, something had changed. Nathan immediately found what felt like true happiness in the presence of Richard. This feeling was something Nathan would fight to the death for, so Nathan decided he would do anything…. anything at all his new friend asked of him. The unfortunate thing to thrill Richard Loeb was committing crimes, cheating at cards, and involving himself in any kind of illegal activity. To please Richard, Nathan became a willing accomplice in each crime. The more damage they could do the more affection Nathan could acquire from Richard.
When in 1923, Richard outlined a kidnapping and murder, Nathan didn’t hesitate to help devise the plan. For six months, the two 18 and 19 year old boys plotted an elaborate kidnapping of a young boy living in a rich neighborhood. They would abduct the child, murder him, and send out a ransom letter to the parents. The money would be retrieved easily, and the two killers would never be caught. The reason for kidnapping a young boy could be the fact that Richard Loeb knew he could overpower a child. Both Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were advantaged boys who for all intense and purposes did not know how to fight. Abducting a girl was out of the question, because girls were watched more closely than boys were. Sexual assault was never discussed. Richard Loeb was not willing to take the chance that he would be found kidnapping and sexually assaulting a girl on the off chance they were caught. In fact, Loeb was admittedly impotent and could not rape a victim if given the opportunity, so sex was the last thing on Loeb’s mind.
Perhaps the reason the crime was so sinister in nature had to do with the fact that no victim was in mind until the moment Leopold and Loeb saw 14-year-old Bobby Franks leaving school on May 21, 1924. Bobby was Richard’s second cousin and was easily lured by Richard into Nathan’s rented car. Moments later, on a deserted street, Bobby Franks was bludgeoned with a chisel and suffocated to death in the backseat. His body was stuffed into a drainage culvert near the Indiana State Line and was found by a passerby the very next day. The killers had already composed a ransom note, dictated by Richard Loeb, and typed by Nathan Leopold. Nathan had never learned how to type, so his finger typing left the note uneven and odd looking. When inspectors went over the ransom letter, they found that the abysmal typing was done by either a complete amateur or total psychopath. Some of the letters were typed so tentatively, they could barely be seen. Other letters were near typed through the page.
Bobby Franks’ body was quickly identified and Nathan and Richard lost all hope in receiving the ransom money. They had one week to delight in the fact that they had committed what they thought was the perfect crime.
Nathan’s glasses were found near the body and he was immediately brought in for police questioning. The glasses had a special hinge mechanism and only three had been purchased in the recent year. Nathan was the only person in Chicago who could not attest to having his glasses in his possession. The typewriter used in the ransom note was found mangled in a river not far from the site of the Bobby Franks’ body. The typewriter had belonged to Richard Loeb’s fraternity, at which point Richard was sent in for questioning. The two killers planned a detailed alibi in case they were apprehended by police, and both stuck to it for as long as they could. When Richard became caught in a lie, he confessed to being involved in the crime, but blamed Nathan for the actual murder of the child. Upon being told his friend had confessed everything, Nathan admitted that he was involved in the crime, but blamed Richard for the actual murder. His initial confession was said to be cold and calm in telling the authorities of the crime. He gave unemotional and precise details while casually chain smoking cigarettes and sat comfortably without a wavering word. Richard Loeb was the one who showed true emotions; he was apprehensive, worried, afraid, and tearful. The stenographer noted in both confessions that they were almost exact except for who was driving and who committed the killing in the backseat of the car.
The mistake that would damn Richard Loeb for the proceeding hearing and for the rest of his life was his statement made to the police during his confession, “I was in the backseat, I mean Babe was, I was driving. I was driving the car… see, you’ve just got me excited is all.” This incrimination led the public to forever believe Richard was the attacker, while Nathan was called the mastermind of the crime.
When the news broke that two teenage boys had kidnapped and murdered a young child, it became a story that led from one city to another, snowballing as each detail of the crime was revealed. What seemed to shock the public the most was that the two killers were attractive, well-spoken, and highly educated Jewish teens that came from millionaire families in “the nice side of town.” What could possibly have motivated them to commit murder? When they callously admitted that killing Bobby Franks was purely for the thrill, the media was stunned. The forbidden act of purposefully killing a child was unheard of in 1924, and the unfeeling and cruel demeanor of Leopold and Loeb was simply astonishing. The fact that the two adored the attention from the public only further disgusted the readers of the daily newspapers.
By the time both boys were in jail in Chicago awaiting a hearing, they were friends again. While alone in a cell one afternoon after being analyzed by a psychiatrist, Nathan asked Richard why he had blamed the murder on him, and Richard merely said, “As you say, it makes no legal difference anyhow. And I figure it will be much easier on each of our families if they believe the other fellow is the actual murderer.” In Nathan’s autobiography, he states that Richard told a psychiatrist, one of the many that visited the two in the time they spent in jail that Richard had admitted he was the one that struck the final blow that killed Bobby Franks. Nathan does not detail whether this was admissible into court. Journalists and photographers were allowed into the jail because their attorney believed any kind of publicity was good publicity. It showed the boys had nothing to hide. The two seemed to take pleasure in the press they received, posing for each photographer.
Leopold reveled in the tests that were given by the psychiatrists, enjoying the many hours of questioning and probing that went on daily. He scored high in his tests, finishing them often before the time was up. Leopold was very egotistical with an IQ of 210 and appeared to have been pleased in showing the psychiatrists his ability to test well in any setting, even in jail. Loeb, on the other hand, showed his testing scores as normal for a sophomore in high school, despite the fact he was enrolled at the University of Michigan as a sophomore in college.
The Leopold and Loeb case was the very first case in which to use forensic psychiatry in the courtroom. The psychiatrists for the defense endlessly tested the two boys day after day. Richard Loeb was found to suffer from a glandular dysfunction, as was Nathan Leopold, with his pineal gland prematurely calcified suggesting his enormous need for sexual gratification. Physically, the boys were normal individuals for their height and weight. But, upon prying into their psyches, it was found that neither boy could decipher their fantasies sufficiently from reality. Nathan imagined himself a powerful slave to the masterful and handsome Richard. The fantasies were fantastic embellishments on both boys’ accounts, for they seemed to feed off of each other’s image of who they thought they were. The defense clung to the fact that they could prove the two were insane, and could possibly have them sent to a state hospital. Nathan, however, was adamant in declaring to the press that he was not insane, a misunderstood genius, of course, but definitely not insane. Clarence Darrow, their attorney, tried to hush him from making such absolute announcements, but Nathan would not hear of it. He would rather go to prison or the gallows with the public knowing he was sane rather than being labeled an extremely unbalanced person for the rest of his life.
The two boys had planned on pleading not guilty, knowing that a jury trial would surely send them to the gallows. Leopold and Loeb respected their family and friends so much, that they were unwilling to embarrass them any further by spending life sentences in prison, which both assumed they would not receive anyway. Death seemed the only way to end their legacy and Leopold and Loeb were certain of this. Clarence Darrow was very much against the death penalty, and waited until the day before the initial hearing to tell the boys they would be pleading guilty for their crime, affording them one judge to decide their fate. At 18 and 19, Nathan and Richard were impressionable, especially by the learned and sophisticated Clarence Darrow. The death penalty was still an option for the boys, but life in prison was now on the table. The boys agreed to plead guilty for the crime of kidnapping and murder.
In the months Leopold and Loeb spent in court, they were reported to sit side by side, smirking, posing for photographs, exchanging hushed comments, and outright laughing at portions of the testimonies. Leopold tells his own story of the courtroom in an entirely different manner despite the eyewitnesses and photographs. He states in his autobiography that he was enthralled with the hearing, paying the utmost attention, hanging on every detail of testimony, and often discussing important facts with Darrow during rests.
What would turn the Leopold and Loeb case into a “sex crime” was when a psychiatrist, in a hushed comment to the judge, spoke of the homosexual relationship that existed between the two young men. Apparently, the two had devised a “compact” that would assure each would get what they wanted out of the friendship. For every crime Nathan was willing to commit with Richard, a sexual liaison was to take place. Richard needed an audience to commit his crimes, and Nathan was that audience. To satisfy Nathan’s desires, Richard would allow the sexual relationship to continue as long as Nathan was at his side for every crime. The fantasies Nathan and Richard had assumed spilled into their sex life. The roles of slave and master were still in place, but Nathan played the aggressor as far as sex went. Richard would feign drunkenness, and Nathan would undress him and perform sex acts. This went on from 1920 to 1924. The court transcripts were available to the press and they happily snatched the story and made public the sexual perversions of Leopold and Loeb. The fact that both Nathan and Richard each admitted the homosexual affair was true somehow led the public to believe Bobby Franks had been a victim of assault despite the coroner’s report that the body had not been sexually violated in any way.
It had been Richard Loeb’s idea to kidnap and murder the young child, according to Nathan Leopold. Nathan’s plan was to go to Europe for the summer, and on his return, he was to attend Harvard University to study law, eventually marry, and have children. But, Richard Loeb had wanted one last thing to tie himself to Nathan, which would be a crime that they would both commit and neither would forget. But was the crime entirely sentimental? Both boys claimed that it was wholly for the excitement and joy of getting away with the killing scot-free. The motive of the murder was certainly not money. The boys received enormous allowances from their fathers. Loeb had an insatiable dream to commit the perfect crime, something that would cement the fact that he was the direct superior to everyone he came in contact with. Leopold, head held high with conviction, could only admit he was influenced by the brilliant charisma of Loeb, ”I just liked the guy so much so darn much, admired him so darn much, that my mind closed automatically to anything unpleasant about him. ” Clearly, Leopold was still under the magnetism that he felt emitted from Loeb. That or he was still very much in love with Richard Loeb, who until the very end pointed the murderous finger at Nathan.
The State’s Attorney, Robert Crowe, worked earnestly on his case, having 100 witnesses called in the three month span of the trial. The point was not whether Leopold and Loeb committed the crime; that was admitted on the first day of the interrogation. The point was whether or not Leopold and Loeb should hang. In the state of Illinois in 1924, kidnapping and murdering were the two crimes one could get the death penalty for, and Leopold and Loeb had committed both crimes, to a child nonetheless.
In Clarence Darrow’s final summation, he spoke of Leopold and Loeb for 12 hours, which at the end had not only Leopold crying, but Judge John R. Caverly in tears. Darrow spoke clearly and openly of the physical toll a hanging would entail which visibly shook Loeb and left Leopold hysterical in the courtroom. Darrow knew well that he could plead with the judge by merely using the word “boys” instead of “young men” to describe the assailants in the case. It made them seem less like cold blooded murderers, and more like the children they still were at the time of the crime. By the end of the hearing, Judge Caverly was very aware of the immaturity of the two killers and took that into consideration when reading his final decision. Sending two adolescents to the gallows was something the judge did not want on his head. Leopold and Loeb each received life sentences for the crime of murder and ninety-nine years for kidnapping. The boys were not happy with the sentences, but had decided that being hanged was not any better.
In the mind of an accused child killer
“If I’m going to tell at all of those horrible events, I must try to recall how they appeared to me then. I must recapture for the moment the viewpoint of the insufferable creature I once was, a creature I hope I have long since ceased to be.”- Nathan Leopold, ‘Life Plus 99 Years’
Nathan Leopold’s autobiography “Life Plus 99 Years” was written in 1951 at the insistence of a rabbi who visited him in his cell shortly after one of Leopold’s parole requests was denied. Nathan begins the telling of his life story by explaining that the murder was an utter horror in which he will not recall. The ghosts of his past seem to still haunt him, and he is unwilling to describe the crime in any detail. Publishers for years would not touch Nathan’s book for this reason. It left out the “juicy” facts the public wanted to hear in Leopold’s own words. Nathan also shies away from talking about his childhood for fear that it may sully the reputations of his family and friends. The book is written quite eloquently considering it was merely a first draft when Leopold submitted it for publishing. “Life Plus 99 Years” beautifully portrays the life of a sad, bitter, and introverted boy becoming an accomplished and thoughtful middle-aged man in prison. This is the story of Nathan Leopold, not the “mastermind” of the Bobby Franks murder, not the shameless teen depicted in newspapers, but the human being that many never took the opportunity to get to know.
Nathan Leopold’s life in prison seemed to agree with him quite well. Nathan was an interesting fellow, in that he seemed to have strived for order, for someone to tell him what he needed to accomplish, what he needed to do with the many years left in his life. Nathan may have been a genius, but was completely immature and unworldly in nearly every other sense. He didn’t know how to make lasting friendships, had no knowledge of how to act in social situations, and certainly had never earned a penny in his life. Prison gave him a chance to learn all of these things while he continued to study a great many things he probably wouldn’t have had he been a free man.
Pause for a moment to think of Nathan Leopold’s life as a free man. He probably would have finished law school by his early twenties, and then what? The path Nathan could have taken in his life could have led anywhere, although by all accounts, it seems he wouldn’t have flourished as an adult as well as he did while in prison. If he had gotten away with the murder, who’s to say that he wouldn’t have connected with Richard Loeb again to resume their spree of crimes and sex? After getting away with the first murder, they may have decided to try and outdo themselves by committing a more heinous and terrible crime and then try again and again until they were soon labeled as serial killers.
For one thing, Nathan Leopold learned punishment in prison. Nathan had been an ornithologist before being jailed and he was unable to bid farewell to the birds he had loved for so many years. To keep himself occupied and to feel less alone, he kept a number of birds in his cell as pets. When he was caught with pigeons, he and his current cellmate were sent to “The Hole”. This was a place in which inmates were put in solitary confinement and handcuffed to their cell bars, incapable of sitting down for hours. Nathan spent two days in “The Hole” before familiar faces began to rap on the door leading to his cell. They were inmates Nathan worked with, and each asked if he would like to escape. When Nathan noticed blood on the hands of a fellow prisoner, he merely asked to be unhandcuffed from the bars so he could sit down. This would be Nathan’s first real taste of fear in prison. An escape had taken place and the Deputy of “The Hole” had been bludgeoned to death in his office. Each prisoner in “The Hole” had no idea when help would come and if they would be in trouble with the warden for the murderous convicts that had passed through “The Hole”. Nathan and the rest of the cons were released early due to the Deputy’s death and put back in their respective cells.
Nathan also learned how to make friends. Every convict that shared a cell with Nathan was lovingly remembered. Each one had a name, a place they came from, how old they might have been, and what they had done to enrich Nathan’s life. Every inmate Nathan worked with was also cherished, whether they once gave him a cigarette, taught him a bit of Polish, or helped him with his work one afternoon. Throughout his book, not one convict was labeled as difficult or hard to get along with.
Acclimating to Joliet Prison was hard on Nathan. He was separated from Richard Loeb by opposite wards, so they were never allowed to speak to each other except during Jewish holidays, which both boys attended regularly despite their atheism and agnostic beliefs. The cells were small, the jobs afforded not much lee way as far as moving up, and there was no plumbing. Nathan recalls in glowing words how his visits from his father and his aunt were the highlight of his months in prison. They brought him food, news from his family, and the love that he undoubtedly missed while serving a life sentence beginning at the age of 19.
Nathan categorizes each inmate as he saw them and learned of their crimes in prison. “Rape-o’s”, thieves, murderers, embezzlers, and good cons were all terms used in Joliet Prison in 1924. Inmates regularly read the newspapers and knew very well who Leopold and Loeb were. One would assume with such popular notoriety, that Nathan and Richard would be placed in a very negative light, pestered by other prisoners and possibly harmed. At the very least, either would be branded as child killers, and that was, and still is quite a taboo to this day. Nathan claims that none of the prisoners paid any heed to him for his crime done to such a small and innocent child. Nathan defines himself as a “violent criminal”, and thus was socially accepted by his peers.
Nathan’s cell was only eight by four foot, and during the time period of Saturday afternoons to Monday mornings, he was alone with nothing to do but pace in his cell and think. Nathan, for perhaps one of the first and only times, shows an inkling of regret towards the killing of Bobby Franks. He speaks more of his life being bitterly taken away rather than taking away the life of a young child. He explains that the crime was “unbelievably stupid”, but does not lament the passing of his victim. It is interesting to see Nathan’s psychopathic attempt at regret, how his mind tries to believe he is sorry, how he admits his involvement in the murder, but is truly unable to show real emotions toward his actions. One speculates how very sorry Nathan wants to be, but just isn’t. His nature in 1924, was one that allowed him to think only of himself and no one else, unless it was, of course, Richard Loeb.
Nathan read a great deal while in prison, asking his family to bring him large quantities of books, some fiction, and some on languages Nathan had yet to learn. With over ten languages under his belt, Nathan was popular with other inmates trying to learn English or other languages that might benefit them, such as French or Spanish. In exchange, Nathan would learn their native languages as best he could in confined work spaces or lunch tables. By 1957, Nathan had mastered 27 languages in all.
Because Nathan had completed high school and was by any standard, a clinical genius, he was sought after to become a teacher in the prison elementary school. Though more privileges were taken away than given, Nathan was happy to oblige his contemporaries by teaching them how to spell their names and learn the alphabet. Nathan wanted to teach his pupils French, but the warden would not allow it on the grounds that the inmates could learn to read and write a little, but nothing more. His reasoning was that the cons had not much to look forward to in their immediate future, much less learn a foreign language. Five weeks after Nathan’s teaching career began, he was taken off the job because the warden received a myriad of letters from concerned citizens that Nathan Leopold was unfit to teach because he was “immoral”.
In late 1924, merely months after Nathan entered Joliet Prison, he had a rather serious attack of appendicitis. He was transferred to Stateville Prison Hospital where his appendix was immediately removed. After spending his time convalescing, Nathan had a chance to view his new surroundings. He describes the new prison as an unimaginably brighter and larger prison that held more responsibilities and opportunities for the convicts, which was just what Nathan yearned for. Nathan spoke to his father, who at the time, was Nathan’s legal caretaker, and asked if he would petition the warden at Stateville to have him permanently transferred to the new prison.
In the Joliet Prison infirmary, Dick (Richard) Loeb was sick with the measles. Nathan recalls Dick being so ill in fact, that he was delirious during a fever and assaulted two officers. Nathan was frantic over his friend’s state, but couldn’t be more jubilant about leaving the old prison behind. He even planned to have Dick transferred as soon as he had recovered from his illness. This was a pipe dream, a psychiatrist told Nathan, for the warden would never allow the two boys housed in the same prison. The only reason they were both at Joliet was because they could be in different wards without ever passing a word to each other. The same would go for Stateville, and the warden at the time was dead set on separating the boys in different prisons. Nathan was told to paint a grey picture of Stateville for Dick, something in which Dick would not ache for. Nathan’s mind was already made up, though. He could not lie to Dick, and had never kept a single secret from him. He told Dick everything about the new prison and how much better it was, only leaving out several details such as the commissary and the large cells for the sake of Dick’s sanity at Joliet Prison.
At Stateville Prison, Nathan was thought to be a very rich boy indeed. His father was a millionaire and had paid handsomely for Clarence Darrow’s defense. Clarence Darrow was after all, a famous man and attaining him had come at a cost. Nathan claims that the only money he ever saw in his free life came from a weekly allowance from his father. Nathan doesn’t, however, concede to the amount of money his father gave him, which was said to be any amount Nathan wanted. The only money Nathan says he knew of was from his mother’s will and a private bank account that Nathan could not touch since he was still technically a minor. Nathan admits that the sum of money he had at the time of his incarceration was thirty-two thousand dollars, which he signed over to his father. Nathan was allotted five dollars a week to spend at the commissary, which went to cigarettes and toiletries. Nathan’s first year at Stateville Prison was spent trying to explain to the guards and his fellow inmates that he was not rich. They all wanted to play the stock market, and Nathan was sought after for stock tips. Nathan finally invented a tip to sate the growing number of people after him for money. Luckily for Nathan, the stock he chose was semi-lucrative for the other prisoners and guards.
At the age of twenty-one, Nathan began his first attempt at writing. He describes his prose as the dreadful ranting of a desperate convict fledgling from behind the bars of a prison he never thought he would escape from. The reader of his autobiography is treated with a short poem written about a little baby bird who found his way into Nathan’s bare cell. He takes care of the bird lovingly, feeding it, and cuddling its tiny furry body while he slept. Only until the bird slightly matures does Nathan find his little friend dead on the pillow of his bed. Although far from Keats or Yeats, Nathan could have done a lot worse in his morose poetry. The description of the love he felt for his bird might have been a direct analogy for the love Nathan longed to share with another human while alone and disheartened in his cell.
In Nathan’s autobiography, he details the rule and order for all prisoners at Joliet and Stateville of no “squawking”, which meant that everyone understood and abided by the law of the prison yard. If one person was found stealing cigarettes, no one knew how it came to be. If one person was found hiding whiskey in their cell, no one knew where it came from. Nathan found this rule extremely helpful in keeping himself out of trouble. In his book, he keeps everyone anonymous to each crime committed and often refused to tell his various wardens information on anybody or anything. So bound to this rule was Nathan, that he even incriminated himself about the pigeons in his cell to keep his cellmate out of trouble. When the escapees from “The Hole” were in court, Nathan was subpoenaed as one of the witnesses. He would only state his name and age and refused further questioning.
When Nathan was sent to “The Hole” for a trivial matter while working in the assistant warden’s office, he spent seven days handcuffed to a cell before being told that Dick Loeb would be transferring to Stateville Prison. This was bittersweet news, for it meant that Nathan would be sent back to Joliet Prison. After the transfer to the old prison, Nathan’s thoughts quickly turned to suicide. He planned to jump from one of the tall galleries which held the cells, and was sure he would be instantly killed. Before making the final decision, he met with his brother to tell him the plan, presumably to spare him from reading about it in the newspapers. His older brother, Mike, who had decided to care for Nathan since his father’s death in 1929, was able to talk Nathan out of it on the grounds that if suicide was what Nathan wanted, he should have done it after the death of Bobby Franks. Now that Nathan had vested plans on the Stateville Prison Library, he might as well wait until he could be transferred back to the new prison someday.
Nathan, disparaged, sulked back to his tiny cell. The next day, he was called to the Deputy’s office. Dick was supposed to be transferred to Stateville Prison in one week so he could have several chances to talk to Nathan, but the plan had changed. Dick was being sent to Stateville that very day, and the one thing the warden would allow was one final meeting of the two for a quick conversation. Nathan gave Dick some advice about Stateville, while Dick told Nathan of a good job he could get while he was stuck at Joliet. The two parted and it seemed they would forever be separated by each warden merely because of their names.
Later, the warden called Nathan to his office to have a discussion. He told Nathan that of course he and Dick could never be in the same prison together. The newspapers would have a frenzy! Nathan thought of all the things he had going for him at Joliet Prison, which was not much of anything. He took a breath, and told the warden that he was under the impression the warden was handling the prison, not the newspapers. Although angered by the remark Nathan had brazenly uttered, the warden decided to move Nathan back to Stateville Prison with Dick after a three to six month time period. In all probability, the warden intended to keep Leopold at Joliet for that time period solely because of his out of line remark to an authority figure. It made no difference to Nathan, who had made his point clear and would be seeing Dick Loeb as soon as he could. Nathan pained for his job back at Stateville Prison, missed the large cells and the indoor plumbing and the few friends he was able to make. More than anything, he wanted to see the familiar face of Dick again, who was still an idol in Nathan’s eyes.