Our 9th Murderess, Hélène Jégado

Hélène Jégado was born on a small farm in France. Her mother died when Helene was only seven, and she was then sent to work with two aunts. Her first poisonings occurred when she was 24, when seven members of the household she worked in died suddenly, including her own visiting sister. Because the deaths happened so soon after the cholera epidemic of 1832 their deaths were attributed to natural causes.

Helene returned to Bubry to replace her dead sister as cook. Three people died in the course of three months, all of whom she cared for as they died. She moved to Locminé, where she boarded with a needleworker and her daughter, bot of whom died.nThe son fell ill, but likely survived because he did not accept Hélène's care. She was then offered a room by a widow named Lorey, who died after eating a soup that Hélène had prepared. In May 1835, she was hired by Madame Toussaint and four more deaths followed. By this point, it is thought that she had put at least seventeen people in their graves.

Hélène worked in a number of households as a cook. Often, someone fell ill or died. Most victims died showing symptoms of arsenic poisoning, though Hélène was never caught with arsenic in her possession. There is no record of any suspected deaths from late 1841 to 1849.

In 1850, Hélène joined the household staff of a law professor. One of his servants fell ill and died when Hélène tended her. In 1851, one of the other maids also fell ill and died. Because their symptoms were so similar, the Dr. convinced the relatives to allow autopsies. Hélène aroused suspicion when she announced her innocence before anyone even raised a question, and she was arrested July 1, 1851.

She was linked to 23 suspected deaths by poisoning between 1833–1841, but none of these was investigated as they were outside the ten-year limit for prosecution and there was no clear evidence.The most reliable estimate is that she probably committed about 36 murders.

Hélène's trial began December 6, 1851 but, due to French law she was only accused of three murders, three attempted murders and 11 thefts. Hélène's behavior in court was erratic, changing from humble mutterings to loud pious shouting and occasional violent outbursts against her accusers. She consistently denied she even knew what arsenic was, despite evidence to the contrary. When the most recent victims were exhumed, they showed overwhelming evidence of arsenic poisoning.

Hélène was sentenced to death by guillotine and executed in front of a crowd on the Champ-de-Mars in Rennes on February 26, 1852.

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