Little Bits of History

Not the Race

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 2, 2014
Christine and Léa Papin

Christine and Léa Papin

February 2, 1933: Madame Lancelin and her adult daughter are brutally murdered in Le Mans, France. Christine Papin was born March 8, 1905 and was considered to be of normal intelligence. Her younger sister, Léa, was born September 15, 1911 and was considered to be of lower intelligence and was completely dominated by her older sister. The girls had one older sister, Emilia, who became a nun. The family was from a village south of Le Mans. The marriage of the parents was violent (there was a report of the father raping his eldest daughter) and when it fell apart, the two younger children were sent to institutions to live.

Christine and Léa began working as maids and preferred when they could work together. They started working for Monsieur René Lancelin in 1926. He was a retired solicitor and the household included his wife and adult daughter. The Papin sisters were quiet and mostly kept to themselves. On this day, the parents were to have dinner and when his wife didn’t show up at the restaurant, Lancelin went home to find out what was wrong. The doors were locked from the inside but a candle was burning in the maid’s room. He went to the police for help and they were able to get into the house. They found a horrific tableau.

Both Madame Lancelin and the daughter had been beaten to death. One of the daughter’s eyes was lying on the floor next to her body while both of her mother’s eyes had been gouged out and were nestled in the folds of a scarf around her neck. They had been beaten with a hammer and a pewter pot and most of the blows were to the face and head, making them unrecognizable. Also used was a kitchen knife. The sisters were found in their room, together in bed and both naked. They confessed to the killings.

Christine had a fit while incarcerated and said that on the day of the murders, she had a similar spell. The sisters were separated in jail and the longer Christine was separated from her sister, the worse she became. When they were permitted to be together, Christine threw herself at Léa and spoke in ways that suggested a sexual relationship. Christine was sentenced to death and seen as the instigator of the crime. Eventually this was commuted to life in prison. However, while in prison, her mental illness became more acute and she was sent to an asylum where she died in 1937. Léa was sentenced to ten years in prison and released after eight years for good behavior. She worked as a hotel maid under an alias and was thought to have died in 1982 but may have survived until 2001. A researched found a woman in a hospice whom he said was Léa, but she had had a stroke and was unable to speak.

Killing is not so easy as the innocent believe. – J.K. Rowling

The dumber people think you are, the most surprised they’re going to be when you kill them. – William Clayton

The joy of killing! the joy of seeing killing done – these are traits of the human race at large. – Mark Twain

By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me. – William Shakespeare

Also on this day: Punxsutawney Phil – In 1887, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania celebrates their first Groundhog’s Day.
Iditarod Beginnings – In 1925, diphtheria serum arrived in Nome, Alaska.
Castaway – In 1709, Alexander Selkirk was rescued from the deserted island.
Ulysses – In 1922, Ulysses by James Joyce was published.


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