Number of victims: 6+
Date of murders: 1855 - 1861
Method of murder: Strangulation
One of the earliest documented serial killers in the modern record, Martin Dumollard’s murderous activities preceded those of Jack the Ripper by three decades. But Dumollard was the polar opposite of ‘Saucy Jack,’ a lumbering country bumpkin who lured French servant girls to Montluel, a small town about twelve miles from Lyon. There he strangled them and robbed them of their meager possession, reportedly also drinking their blood.
Dumollard’s murderous activities first came to the attention of the authorities in February 1855, when hunters discovered the naked corpse of a young woman in the woods near Montaverne in northeastern France. She was later identified as Marie Baday, a local servant girl. An inquiry was launched but the effort was cursory at best. The death of a peasant did not warrant much attention in those days.
Over the next six years, the police recorded the disappearances of several young women from the same area. However, there was no clue as to the identity of the killer until the night of May 26, 1861, when an intended victim escaped Dumollard’s clutches. The woman, named Marie Pichon, reported the incident the next day and police inquiries led to the door of Martin and Marie Dumollard.
Under interrogation, Dumollard provided incoherent answers and denied any wrongdoing. His wife, however, was more forthcoming, leading the police to several makeshift gravesites in the woods. A search of the Dumollard homestead also turned up a wealth of incriminating evidence, including bloodstained items of clothing.
Martin Dumollard went on trial at the assizes of Ain, on January 29, 1862, charged with six counts of murder. Found guilty, he was sentenced to death, that sentence carried out by guillotine before a crowd of thousands on March 8, 1862. His wife Marie was convicted as an accomplice and sentenced to 20 years at hard labor.