Henri Désiré Landru (April 12, 1869 – February 25, 1922) was a French multiple killer and real-life “Bluebeard”.
During World War I, Landru started to contact Parisian women through newspaper ads published in the lonely hearts sections. They usually read: “Widower with two children, aged 43, with comfortable income, serious and moving in good society, desires to meet widow with a view to matrimony.”
Landru seduced women who were among the most vulnerable members of society, brought them to his Parisian villa and, after receiving access to their assets, he killed them and burned their dissected bodies in his oven. Between 1914 and 1919, he murdered ten women, and the teenage son of one of them.
The killer took great pains to separate his preys from their families, and after their deaths, he took measures to assure the relatives that their loved ones were still alive and in good condition. He slew them for money or to rid himself of a tiresome or inconvenient lover. With no bodies, the murderees were simply listed as missing
In 1919, the sister of one of them attempted to track down her missing sibling. and she eventually convinced the police to talk to him. Knowing that he could not be convicted of murder without a body, he refused to speak to the police. For two years, authorities investigated the disappearances of his victims and dug up his garden with no results until they found pieces of paper listing the missing women. Furthermore, they were told by the killer’s neighbours of the toxic fumes that often emanated from his kitchen. The stove was inspected and, in the ashes, small human bones, as well as burned fasteners for women’s clothes were found. Two years after his arrest, Landru was charged with 11 counts of murder and set for trial. This began in November 1921 and lasted nearly a month. It took the jury just two hours to decide Landru had killed the 11 victims . The penalty for such a crime was death.
On 25 February 1922, Landru was brought before the guillotine in Versailles
Landru bade farewell to his attorney and presented him with a picture he had drawn while in prison. It represented his kitchen, including the stove in which he was accused of burning his victims. On the back he had written in pencil “Ce n’est pas le mur derrière lequel il se passe quelque chose, mais bien la cuisinière dans laquelle on a brûlé quelque chose (It is not the wall behind which a thing takes place, but indeed the stove in which a thing has been burned).”