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Chauffeurs de la Drome

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Chauffeurs de la Drome

The Chauffeurs de la Drome (The Heaters of Drome) was a gang of four French criminals who were responsible for a wave of theft, torture and murder in the department of Drôme in south-west France during the early years of the twentieth century.

Contents

Three were executed in September 1909; the fourth died at the penal colony at Devil's Island, where he had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Criminal career

The four men were Octave-Louis David (b.1873), Pierre-Augustin-Louis Berruyer (b.1873), both shoemakers; Urban-Célestin Liottard (b.1863), a labourer and Jean Lamarque.

David had a long criminal career and was claimed to be the ringleader. He had met Lamarque in prison, and through him met Berruyer. Beurruyer's house in Romans-sur-Isère was where Lamarque and the fourth man, Liottard, lived as boarders.

They typically carried out Home invasions on remote, rural dwellings. They tortured householders into revealing the locations of hidden valuables by burning their feet. This form of banditry was not unknown in France; criminals who did this were widely known as Chauffers (heaters).

The Chauffeurs de la Drome were responsible for as many as 18 murders between 1905 and 1908. There were able to avoid suspicion by maintaining their legitimate occupations during the day, carrying out attacks at night.

Arrest, trial and execution

Berruyer was arrested on 22 October 1908 at his house; a search of the house revealed a large cache of stolen items. Liottard and David were arrested soon after but the fourth man, Lamarque, escaped. Their eight-day trial began at Valence, Drôme on 2 July 1909. All four men were convicted and sentenced to death. Armand Fallières the President of France, was personally opposed to the death penalty, but the strength of public opinion made it impossible for him to accept their pleas for clemency.

The executions of David, Berruyer and Liottard took place at Valence, Drôme, on 22 September 1909 at 6am, within the space of a few minutes and to cheers of a crowd. A number of photographs were taken despite this being against the law; postcards widely sold and there were newspaper advertisements for public showings of motion pictures of the executions.

Lamarque was captured in 1910. He had been had been sentenced to death in absentia, but after his capture his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour on the penal colony at Devil's Island.

References

Chauffeurs de la Drome Wikipedia


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