Troppmann, a french serial killer of the 19th century
Just before the war of 1870, the Troppmann case
shakes France. the Kinck family, decimated by a greedy murderer, gets
national funeral. Jean-Baptiste Troppmann, an Alsatian aged 21, is
sentenced to death and executed.
Everything begins on semtember 1869 20th, in the
morning. A farmer discovers per chance in an area of alfalfa, between
the fort of Auberviliers and the station of Pantin (2 km away from
Paris), the corpse of a child. Shattered, he goes alert the authorities.
After digging, the atrociouly mutilated corpses of
three children, aged 2, 6 and 10 years, are discovered. then it's the
one of a forty year old woman who appears to be pregnant of a 6 months
foetus, an eight year old kid and an other one aged 13. All had been
stabbed with a knife or a pick, or even strangled.
The justice quickly discovers through some cross
checkings the identity of the corpses. They are Alfred, Henri, Marie,
Achille and Emile Kinck and their mother, Hortense Kinck born Rouselle.
They had arrived on the eve at Pantin with the train of Roubaix and had
reserved two rooms in an hotel of the town. After having inquired at the
hotel manager about some Jean Kinck, the family will disappear...forever.
According to the inquiry led in Roubaix, it appears
that Jean Kinck, born at Guebwiller in 1826, had married Hortense
Rouselle in 1852 and that from this marriage six children were born. The
family was well off and the position of Jean Kinck was enviable. From a
simple mechanic he had managed to start his own business in Roubaix and
was owning there three houses; moreover he was owning an estate in Buhl
where he was planning to retire in his old days.
It was known that on August 25th, Jean Kinck had gone
to Alsace for business, followed on the begin of september by his eldest
son Gustave, aged 22. Having no news of them since them, the inquirers
start to suspect the two men.
On september 22nd, the case bounces in Le Havre, with
the strange arrest of a young man first arrested for the lack of papers.
When a policeman, quite per chance, speaks about the tragedy of Pantin,
the arrested tries to commit suicide by throwing himself into the water.
He is saved in time. On him are found the papers of Gustave Kinck.
It's only the next day that he gives his true
identity: Jean-Baptiste Troppmann, born of october 5th 1849 at Cernay.
Mechanic, he had become the friend of his fellow Jean Kinck, Alsatian
and mechanic like him.
Troppmann confesses to have indirectly participated
to the sextuple murder but accuses Gustave and Jean to have made the
killings. The three men should then have left for America... Jean-Baptiste
Troppmann had come to know the family Kinck in Roubaix, where he was in
charge of assembling the machine to make nozzles for spinning that his
father had invented. The latter was the partner of Jean Gaspard Kambly,
son of a chemical matches maker of Cernay. Sooner, he has been an
associate if the Hattererand&Co enterprise, maker of nozzles for
Jean-Baptiste Troppmann seems to have been an
introverted and ambitious young man, saddened by the economical problems
of his family. He had two brothers and a sister who changed their names
after the case. From Le Havre, Troppman is moved to a parisian jail.
On september 26th, new events of the case. 30 meters
away from the place of the slaughter, the corpse of Gustave Kinck is
discovered, a knife stabbed in his neck. Troppmann Imputes that new
murder to Jean Kinck, still not found. On the start of October, at
Tourcoing, happens the almost national funeral of the Kinck, before tens
of thousands of people. Meanwhile the inquiry goes on, notably in Alsace,
in order to find Jean Kinck.
It appears that Troppmann also went to Alsace to meet
him on August 25th as he was getting off the train at Bollwiller. They
then took the omnibus to Soultz and headed for Wattwiller. That's where
the track of Kinck is lost, but not the one of Troppmann. Jean Kinck
will be looked for, without success, all the month of october long.
On November 12th, new turn of events. Troppmann makes
a confession and confirms he went on August 25th with Jean Kinck to the
Herrenfluh (ruin above Uffholtz) to show him a workshop of forged money
(imaginary) hidden in one of the undergrounds of the castle. "I had in
my pocket a flask of prussic acid (cyanide)...Using a moment that Jean
Kinck was not seeing me, I emptied the contents of the flask into a
bottle of wine, and arrived at the top of the hill, I invited Jean Kinck
to drink; what he did and he immediately dropped dead".
Troppmann also confesses to have taken the papers of
Kinck of which two checks and his money, then to have buried him. He
relates how he asked Mrs Kinck to send him money to Guebwiller's post
office. Three times he'll try to retrieve the money, but the employee,
distrustful, will refuse.
He relates, as he returned to Paris, how Gustave he
attracted will join him on september 17th after a missed attempt in
Guebwiller (the forged procuration redacted by Troppmann having no legal
signature, the money was not given to him). Troppmann carries on his
confession: "I led Gustave to the Hotel where from he wrote to his
mother to tell her to go to Paris with her children. I then told him I
was going to lead him to his father...When we were in an isolated place,
in the middle of the fields, I stabbed my companion in the back. Whether
I stabbed him again, I don't remember... I put Gustave into a grave
after having robbed him...The kinck lady arrives in the evening of
september 19th. I came to join her at the station and I warned her that
I was going to lead her to her husband.."
He carries on his mortuary story by relating how,
after having taken a cab until the fields, he invites the woman and the
two youngest kids to follow him on foot, leaving the three other
children in the cab. She doesn't distrust Jean-Baptiste, he is a friend...the
relation of the murders is frightening.
the thumb of the executioner
"I killed Kinck to grab the money he said he had in
his bank. It was a necessity for me to kill the other members of the
family so to suppress all the witnesses" does explain Troppmann to the
On november 29th, Troppmann cancels his confession
and tries to exonerate himself by inventing three accomplices whose he
will never give the identity. He declares to have buried in the
neighborhood of Steinbach a mysterious wallet containing all the proofs
against his accomplices. It will never be found and the justice will
ignore this last confession of Troppmann, probably completely made up...
On december 9th, Troppmann is moved to the prison of "La conciergerie" (where
Marie-Antoinette was jailed) at Paris.
On December 31st, after five days of trial in the
court of assizes, he will be found guilty and sentenced to death. The
emperor will refuse to the murderer his pardon. The execution happens on
January 19th 1870 before a huge crowd, place de la Roquette, in front of
the prison. at 7am exactly, Jean-Baptiste Troppmann is swivelled on the
guillotine's board. At the moment that the blade falls down, that
curious personage bites the thumb of the executioner. The body of
murderer, one of the most atrocious criminels of the 19th century, will
be buried in the cemetery of Ivry.