1 comment January 19th, 2012 Headsman
From a Paris Dispatch report via the New York Times. (Additional paragraph breaks have been added for readability.)
It is just 10 years ago, day for day, that the notorious Troppman, the murderer of the Kink family, was executed on the Place de la Roquette. This morning another convict of the same stamp underwent the penalty of death on the same spot.
Prevost, the policeman who murdered the woman Blondin and the jewelry-dealer, Lenoble, and afterward cut their bodies up and threw the pieces into the sewers, was guillotined there at daybreak.
Thwack: Prevost clobbers Lenoble.
It having become known last night that his appeal for mercy had been rejected by the President of the Republic, a large crowd began to assemble as early as 9 o’clock round the place of execution. To prevent a recurrence of the scenes of disorder which took place there when the young criminals Lebiez and Barre, the assassins of the woman Gilles, were put to death, a strong force of infantry and cavalry guarded the square and kept the people at a distance.
The crowd, in spite of the bitter cold and piercing north-east wind, grew more numerous toward midnight, and by the hour of execution all the thoroughfares leading to the spot were crammed with people.
The executioner arrived at 4 o’clock, and, aided by his assistants, erected the guillotine about 20 paces from the central door of the prison. The guillotine once in order, the headsman and his assistants entered the prison to arrange what is called the toilet of the culprit previous to his death.
The Abbe Crozes, the Chaplain of the jail, was the first to enter the prisoner’s cell. Prevost started up, gazed wildly at the reverend gentleman, and then buried his head in his hands, trembling and groaning.
“Alas!” said the Chaplain, “there is no hope now but in the mercy of God.”
Prevost had lured the jewel-trader Lenoble on the pretext of arranging a transaction, then for no reason save crass acquisition of his wares bludgeoned him to death with the iron rod-and-ball device used to link railroad cars.
It was a premeditated and gruesomely executed crime.
Using butchers’ knives he had pre-obtained for the purpose, Prevost spent the next several hours skinning Lenoble, dismembering Lenoble, and ultimately dicing Lenoble up into cutlets so that he could heap Lenoble in a basket and dispose of Lenoble’s bits in less-suspicious fragments in a variety of sewer grates and refuse heaps.
Such as was recovered was heaped together at the morgue, “a mass of quivering flesh, stripped of skin … bones covered with their tendons, sternum, ribs with fragments of the chest, bones of the shoulder blades and arms … the liver, heart and guts, and the fragments of skin torn off one by one from each severed part.”*
After his capture for this shocking crime, he admitted that he’d also been the author of the unsolved murder several years before of his lover, Adele Blondin — likewise for pecuniary gain, and likewise disposed of in pieces after Pevost’s ghoulish close work with corpse and saw.
The condemned man then left his bed, but he was too much overcome to dress himself. That task was done by the executioner and his assistants. He was then left alone with the Abbe Crozes to prepare his soul. He embraced the Chaplain several times and wept bitterly.
“Take courage, take courage,” said the reverend gentleman.
“Yes, yes,” replied Prevost, “I will take courage and try to meet my fate. I ask pardon of the Police administration, to which I belonged seven years.”
“If this … pawnbroker has been murdered by some one of a higher class in society,” Dostoyevsky had mused in Crime and Punishment in 1866, “how are we to explain this demoralisation of the civilised part of our society?”
Prevost’s demoralization afflicted his cognition as well as his conscience, because he had actually made previous chit-chat with fellow-officers to the effect that were he to commit the perfect crime he would surely go and butcher the body for no-fuss disposal.
The condemned man, after kissing the crucifix three or four times, marched out to the guillotine wit a firm step, and in an instant he was on the fatal bascule.
The spring was touched, a dull thud was heard, and the next second his head fell into the basket.
After the execution the body and head of the murderer were taken to the School of Medicine, and, having been sown together, electrical experiments were made on them, and in the opinion of all the doctors present death must have been instantaneous.
* This quote, and the other interspersed crime details, and the nice bashing illustration, are all via this French crime pamphlet.
Part of the Daily Triple: 1880 and Death.
Also on this date
- 1476: Israel, the last execution of the Trent blood libel trial
- 1891: James Eubanks
- 1894: Albert F. Bomberger, for the Kreider family murders
- 1866: Martha Grinder, the Pittsburgh Borgia
- 1661: Thomas Venner and the Fifth Monarchy Men
- 1870: Jean-Baptiste Troppmann, mass murderer
- 532: Hypatius and Pompeius, for Byzantine sports riots