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Henri Désiré Landru (1869 February 1922) was a notorious French serial killer and real-life Bluebeard.

Born in Paris, his childhood and early years are thought to have been fairly uneventful. After leaving school he spent four years in the army, after which he seduced his cousin. She bore him a daughter, although Landru did not marry her but instead married another woman two years later and had four children. He was shortly swindled out of money by a fraudulent employer, which apparently both infuriated and inspired him at the same time. He turned to fraud himself, operating scams that usually involved swindling elderly widows. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1900 after being arrested and found guilty of fraud, the first of several such convictions.

By 1914, Landru was estranged from his wife and working as a second-hand furniture dealer. He also began to put adverts in the lonely hearts sections in Paris newspapers, usually along the lines of "Widower with two children, aged 43, with comfortable income, serious and moving in good society, desires to meet widow with a view to matrimony." With World War One underway, many men were being cut down in the trenches, leaving plenty of widows for Landru to prey upon.

Landru would seduce the women who came to his Parisian villa and, after he been given access to their assets, he would kill them - probably by strangulation - and burn their dismembered bodies in his oven.

Between 1914 and 1918, Landru claimed 11 victims: 10 women plus the teenaged son of one of his victims. With no bodies, the victims were just listed as missing, and it was virtually impossible for the police to know what had happened to them as Landru used a wide variety of aliases, so many, in fact, that he had to keep a ledger listing all the women with whom he corresponded and which particular identity he used for each woman.

In 1919, the sister of one of Landru's victims, Madame Buisson, attempted to track down her missing sibling. She did not know Landru's real name but she knew his appearance and where he lived, and she eventually got the police to arrest him.

Originally, Landru was just charged with embezzlement. He refused to talk to police, and with no bodies (police dug up his garden, but with no results), there was seemingly not enough evidence to charge him with murder. However, they did eventually find various paperwork that listed the missing women, including Madame Buisson, and combined with other documents they finally built up enough evidence to charge him with murder.

Henri Landru stood trial on 11 counts of murder in November 1921. He was convicted on all counts, sentenced to death, and executed by guillotine three months later. Forty years later, there was a rumor that the daughter of Landru's lawyer found a picture Landru had drawn whilst awaiting execution, and on the back of it he had apparently written, "I did it. I burned their bodies in my kitchen stove".

Landru inspired the character of Monsieur Verdoux to Orson Welles, who originally wanted Charlie Chaplin to play the title role. However, since Chaplin did not like to be directed by anyone but himself, he wrote, directed, and starred in the 1947 movie "Monsieur Verdoux," inspired by Orson Welles.fr:Henri Landru it:Henri Landru

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