L'Empoisonneuse Hélène JéGADO, Accusée d'avoir attenté à la vie de 37 personnes, dont 25 ont succombé.

Title

L'Empoisonneuse Hélène JéGADO, Accusée d'avoir attenté à la vie de 37 personnes, dont 25 ont succombé.

Synopsis

Hélne Jégado (1803äóñ1852) was a French domestic servant and serial killer. She is believed to have murdered as many as 36 people with arsenic over a period of 18 years. After an initial period of activity, between 1833 and 1841, she seems to have stopped for nearly ten years before a final spree in 1851.
Hélne Jégado was born on a small farm in Plouhinec (Morbihan), near Lorient in Brittany. She lost her mother at the age of seven and was sent to work with two aunts who were servants at the rectory of Bubry. After 17 years, she accompanied an aunt to the town of Séglien. She became a cook for the curé where an incident arose where she was accused of adding hemp from his grain house to his soup.

Her first suspected poisoning occurred in 1833 when she was employed by another priest, Fr. Franois Le Drogo, in the nearby village of Guern. In the three months, between June 28 and October 3, seven members of the household died suddenly, including the priest himself, his aging mother and father, and her own visiting sister, Anne Jégado. Her apparent sorrow and pious behaviour was so convincing she was not suspected. Coming shortly after the cholera epidemic of 1832 the deaths may have been put down to natural causes.

Jégado returned to Bubry to replace her sister where three people died in the course of three months, including her other aunt, all of whom she cared for at their bedside. She continued to Locminé, where she boarded with a needleworker, Marie-Jeanne Leboucheräóîboth Leboucher and her daughter died and a son fell ill. It is possible that the son survived because he did not accept Jégado's ministrations. When in the same town, the widow Lorey offered Jégado a room, she died after eating a soup her new boarder had prepared. In May 1835, she was hired by Madame Toussaint and four more deaths followed. By this point in time, she had already put seventeen people in their graves.

Later in 1835, Jégado was employed as a servant in a convent in Auray, but rapidly dismissed after several incidents of vandalism and sacrilege.

Jégado worked as a cook in other households in Auray, then Pontivy, Lorient, and Port-Louis where she was employed only briefly in each one. Often, someone fell ill or died. Among her most infamous murders is of a child, little Marie Bréger, who died at the Château de Soye (Ploemeur) in May 1841, ten years and one month before her final arrest. Most victims died showing symptoms corresponding to arsenic poisoning, though she was never caught with arsenic in her possession. There is no record of suspected deaths from late 1841 to 1849, but a number of her employers later reported thefts; she was apparently a kleptomaniac and was caught stealing several times.

Her career took a new turn in 1849 when she moved to Rennes, the capital city of the region.
Arrest

In 1850, Jégado joined the household staff of Théophile Bidard, a law professor at the University of Rennes. One of his servants, Rose Tessier, fell ill and died when Jégado tended her. In 1851, one of the other maids, Rosalie Sarrazin, fell ill as well and died. Two doctors had tried to save Sarrazin and because the symptoms were similar to those of Tessier, they convinced the relatives to permit an autopsy. Jégado aroused suspicion when she announced her innocence before she was even asked anything, and she was arrested July 1, 1851.

Later inquiries linked her to 23 suspected deaths by poisoning between 1833äóñ1841, but none of these was thoroughly investigated since they were outside the ten-year limit for prosecution and there was no scientific evidence. Local folklore has attributed to her many unexplained deaths - some of which were almost certainly due to natural causes. The most reliable estimate is that she probably committed about 36 murders.
Trial

Jégado's trial began December 6, 1851 but, due to French laws of permissible evidence and statute of limitations, she was accused only of three murders, three attempted murders and 11 thefts. At least one later case appears to have been dropped since it involved a child and police were reluctant to upset the parents by an exhumation. Jégado's behaviour in court was erratic, changing from humble mutterings to loud pious shouting and occasional violent outbursts against her accusers. She consistently denied she even knew what arsenic was, despite evidence to the contrary. Doctors who had examined her victims had not usually noticed anything suspicious, but when the most recent victims were exhumed, they showed overwhelming evidence of arsenic and possibly antimony.

The defence lawyer, Magloire Dorange, made a remarkable closing speech - arguing that she needed more time than most to repent and could be spared the death penalty since she was dying of cancer anyway.

The case attracted little attention at the time, pushed off the front pages by the coup d'état in Paris.

Jégado was sentenced to death by guillotine and executed in front of a large crowd of onlookers on the Champ-de-Mars in Rennes on February 26, 1852.

Set to tune of...

Fualdès

Transcription

Qui pourrait, chrétiens fidles,
Ecouter, sans en frémir,
Un récit qui fait pâlir
Mille actions criminelles?
Pour des forfaits aussi grands
Est-il assez de tourments?

Chez un bon prtre de Guerne,
Nommé Monsieur Le Drogo,
La fille Hélne Jégado,
Qu'un mauvais esprit gouverne,
Vient demander humblement
De server pour de l'argent.

A l'église du village
On la voit soir et matin,
Cachant, sous un air benin,
Ses goùts de libertinage;
Pour un ange on la prendrait,
C'est un démon fieffé.

La mort, dans chaque demeure,
Va la suivre maintenant;
Le poison, souple instrument,
Pour elle tue à toute heure,
Aujourd'hui toi, lui demain;
Hélne assouvit sa faim.

Sept personnes innocentes
Meurent à ce premier coup;
Cela suffit pour un coup.
Hélne a les mains sanglantes;
Elle a pris un laid chemin,
Et le suit jusqu'à la fin.

Bubry verra trois victimes
Succomber au noir poison;
C'est dans la mme maison
Qu'elle accomplit tant de crimes.
Où donc est-il le vengeur,
Pour arrter sa fureur?

Déjà les gens la souponnent,
On la regarde passer,
On craindrait de l'aborder.
Des bruits à l'entour bourdonnent:
C'est un tre malfaisant;
Gardez-vous, son foie est blanc.

Dans un couvent elle cache
Ses traits qui causent l'horreur,
Mais où perce sa noirceur.
Le démon vient, qui l'arrache
Au remords, au repentir:
Les innocents vont souffrir.

Elle engage ses services
Dans Pontivy, dans Auray,
Dans Locminé, Plumeret,
Et reprent ses maléfices.
Partout le mortel poison
La suit dans chaque maison.

On la voit aux lits funbres,
Comme un gardien vigilant;
Elle veille à tout instant,
Comme un ange de ténbres.
Elle sent un doux plaisir
A voir les autres souffrir.

Le monstre sur eux se penche
Et jouit de leur douleur;
Elle y trouve son bonheur.
L'enfer prendra sa revanche.
Il y a un vengeur au ciel:
C'est le Dieu juste, éternel.

Le crime entraîne le crime,
Le faux pas suit le faux pas;
Ds lors on n'arrte pas
Qu'on n'ait roulé dans l'abîme,
Où les vices confondus
Rongent ceux qu'ils ont perdus.

Du meurtre Hélne lassée
Songe à voler son prochain;
Ce qui tombe sous sa main,
Elle le prend, empressée;
Pour embellir ses amours
Il lui faut de beaux atours.

A Rennes enfin elle arrive
Méditant d'autres forfaits:
Car dans ses desseins mauvais
Elle était fort inventive;
Mais la justice de Dieu
Devait la prendre en ce lieu.

Rose Tessier, domestique,
Bientôt succombe à la mort,
Et peut-tre un mme sort,
S'il faut en croire la chronique,
Frappait Franoise Huriaux
Qui fuit, échappe à ses maux.

Rosalie, ô pauvre fille,
La dernire tu péris;
Ta douceur, ton frais souris
Et ta figure gentille,
Non, rien ne peut adoucir
Le monstre; il faut mourir.

Mais la justice sévre
A la fin rend un arrt,
Hélne est prise au filet:
La loi la tient dans sa serre.
Misérable! il faut payer
La peine de tes forfaits.

On la saisit, on l'arrte,
On la traîne au tribunal:
Hélne, le jour fatal
Va faire tomber ta tte.
Tu voudrais bien nier,
Cent témoins t'ont accusé.

La coupable repentante,
Avant l'exécution,
A fait sa confession.
Mieux valait tre innocente.
Les juges doivent frapper;
C'est Dieu qui doit pardonner.

MORALITé

Si l'esprit du mal vous tente,
Chrétiens, sachez résister;
Car Dieu sait où retrouver
Le serviteur, la servante,
Qui se croyaient assurés
De voir leurs crimes cachés.

Method of Punishment

guillotine

Crime(s)

murder

Gender

Date

Execution Location

Rennes, Champ de Mars

URL

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%A9l%C3%A8neéJ%C3%A9gado
http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Accused/00000016.htm

Notes

Meazey, Peter (1999), La Jégado: Histoire de la célbre empoisonneuse, Guingamp (22)and paperback (2006).

see Vincent Morel, p. 50 of thesis, and p. 56 of catalogue for two complaintes, one like this, the other to an unidentified tune.

Files

L'empoisonneuse Helene Jegado.jpg

Citation

“L'Empoisonneuse Hélène JéGADO, Accusée d'avoir attenté à la vie de 37 personnes, dont 25 ont succombé. ,” Execution Ballads, accessed May 25, 2020, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/1024.