On this date in 1934, Georges-Alexandre Sarrejani (alias Sarret) became the last person guillotined at Aix-en-Provence
This charmer — most of the links today are in French — ticked one off the bucket list by seducing a pair of sisters, Catherine and Philomene Schmidt.
These he used as partners in a simple insurance scam way back in 1920: get them to marry a couple of men at death’s door, produce bogus medical exams declaring them to be in robust health, and pocket the proceeds when they kick the bucket. Sarrejani got the lion’s share because he threatened to denounce the Bavarian sisters as World War I spies. Insurers had their suspicions but couldn’t prove anything.
In 1925, a defrocked priest and said priest’s mistress threatened to turn in the scam artists.
Sarrejani, again with the full complicity of his women, horrifyingly disposed of the threat.
After shooting both dead, he ducked off to Marseilles to pick up a bathtub and 100 liters of vitriol (aka sulfuric acid). With this, Sarrejani and his mistresses marinated their victims until they had dissolved into a foul brackish puddle, which was nonchalantly poured out into the garden.
It’s this stomach-turning crime that Sarrejani is most famous for, and got the “trio infernale” immortalized on the silver screen in a gruesome 1974 film.
However, this murder was unknown for six years and might have gone permanently undetected had not the infernales attempted an even more primitive insurance scam in 1931. How many victims, one wonders, have been successfully acid-bathed by murderers restrained enough to get away with it.
At any rate, in 1931 Catherine Schmidt insured herself and faked her own death, substituting a tuberculotic corpse. She had the carelessness to show herself in Marseilles where someone recognized her as a “dead” woman … and in the ensuing interrogation, she turned the denunciation game right around on Serrejani. I’ll show you a Bavarian spy, mister.
The result was France’s most headline-grabbing trial since the bluebeard Henri Landru, pictures of which can be gawked at this French forum thread. Sarrejani had some legal training, enabling him to drag out the melodrama even further to the great delight of the nation’s editors.
When all was said and done, Sarrejani was set to lose his head; the Schmidts got just 10 years in prison. Call it the dividend on that insurance-fraud money he’d muscled out of them.
The whole ghastly affair had one last horror when Sarrejani met the blade this morning just outside the prison walls: the blade stuck halfway down, leaving embarrassed executioners to do 10 minutes of live troubleshooting while their patient below (justifiably) fulminated against their incompetence.