Unfortunately, not all of the above was true, as was discovered along with the dismembered remains of dozens of people.
Not Even Close to Being a Hero
He was doing so well for himself, with over 3,000 patients (most were not poor) that he was able to buy a grand house at 21 Rue Le Sueur, a rather affluent part of Paris. There he worked and created his laboratory but little did people realise the horrors that were going on within.
On Saturday, March 11, 1944, a neighbour finally complained about the foul stench that was coming from Petiots home and the large amounts of smoke coming from the chimney. It had been noted before but many were trying to go about there own lives as best as they could with an enemy occupying their city and country.
However on this day the smoke and stench was particularly noxious. One neighbour went to the house to complain and there they found a note saying that Petiot would be away for a month, so the police were summoned.
The firemen entered the house and tracked the source of the smoke to the basement where a coal stove was burning hot and thick, a human arm sticking out of its open door. Mixed in with the coal heap were more human remains, bones, limbs and other parts too small to be identified then and there.
When Petiot arrived he explained they were the remains of Germans, Nazi collaborators and traitors, that he was the head of a resistance group and that the Germans would have his head for this. This seemed good enough for the sergeant who let Petiot go.
Extend of the Atrocities Uncovered
Back in the house the basement sinks were discovered to be where the corpses had been drained of blood. Various bins were located about the property containing charred bones, fleshy pieces, scalps and hair.
A sound proof hexagonal chamber was also located, complete with shackles and a peep-hole. Here Petiot could chain up a victim and watch their anguish as they languished within the chamber.
The sergeant soon began to regret his decision to let Petiot go, as a telegram was received, saying to apprehend Petiot immediately – he was a dangerous lunatic!
It took about seven months to finally track down the killer. He hid with family and friends, stating that the Gestapo would kill him if he was captured. He adopted several aliases, allowed his hair and beard to grow and enjoyed a sort of freedom, even if he was constantly looking over his shoulder.
He was imprisoned while awaiting trial and all the while he claimed the bodies were of traitors to the French. Then he changed the story claiming he found the bodies, but yes they were Germans. However the trial would find him guilty and that the murders were for profit.
People would learn of Dr Eugene, Petiots alias when 'helping the underground', and through several accomplices would find their way to him. Once in his laboratory he would tell the escapees that Argentine officials required them to be inoculated against various illnesses. However, rather than an inoculation, 'Dr Eugene' would inject them with cyanide (or something to knock them out if he wanted to play with them a little).
It was at this time people knew there was a murderer on the loose as one of the drivers of these trucks found the grisly contents of one bag – two severed heads, two feet, the skin from two legs (like a pair of stockings) and three scalps.
Later, after he purchased the house on Rue Le Sueur, he also had the option to dismember and incinerate them.
As part of the evidence against him, was forty seven suitcases belonging to those who had paid him to escape the Germans, only to be killed. In the end he was found guilty of twenty four murders (some sources say twenty six) but it is believed he killed as many as 160 men, women and children.
On May 25th May, 1946, Marcel Petiot went to the guillotine. He accepted a cigarette but refused the traditional glass of rum. He approached the device of his death as if he were comfortable with his destiny. His final words were “Gentlemen, I ask you not to look. This will not be very pretty.”
Witnesses say his face still carried a smile as his head dropped into the awaiting basket.