Henri Desiré Landru
aka The French BluebeardIn 1914, veteran conman Henri Landru hatched his all-time greatest "get rich quick" scheme. He placed a singles ad in the Paris newspapers:
Widower with two children, aged 43, with comfortable income, serious and moving in good society, desires to meet widow with a view to matrimony.
He planned to seduce a wealthy respondent, con her out of her fortune, and kill her. It worked like a charm, and proved to be extremely lucrative. Over five years, Landru received more than 300 inquiries from interested women, out of which he pursued ten.
All told, the enterprise necessitated the deaths of 10 women, a young boy, and two dogs. He used poison to kill them. Then he cut up the bodies with a handsaw, incinerated the pieces in his stove, and dumped the ashes in his garden.
Eventually, of course, the gendarmes caught up with him. Landru had always assumed that without either a body or a confession, the courts were incapable of convicting someone of murder. But things didn't turn out that way.
At trial, the prosecution admitted charred bone fragments taken from Landru's garden. They also hauled his large, cast-iron stove into court. Even more damning was the notebook Landru kept, which contained his activities going back several years. The names of missing women appeared again and again in his calendar.
He was finally convicted of 11 murders in November 1921, and executed by guillotine on February 25, 1922.
Before the sentence was carried out, Landru gave his lawyers some artwork he had created in prison. 46 years later, someone cracked open the frame and found an inscription Landru had left on the back of the drawing:
I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen oven.
Landru's story later became the basis for a number of films, including Charlie Chaplin's 1947 dark comedy Monsieur Verdoux.