The Papin sisters: the wild maid crime that shocked France (11 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
13 June 2024

Lovely girls Christine and Lea committed such atrocities that not every maniac would think of.

In northwestern France there is the city of Le Mans, which is famous for the famous car race that takes place once a year. But not only: in the modest list of celebrities among aristocrats, priests and musicians you can see the names of Christine and Lea Papin. These sisters are known for the fact that in 1933 they killed their mistress and her daughter in the most terrible way.

Papin family

The famous Le Mans race

The Papin sisters came from a not very prosperous family from Le Mans. Their mother was Clémence Derre and their father was Gustave Papin. Clemence showed no affection for either her children or her husband and was an unbalanced person. Gustav drank a lot and for a long time. The eldest daughter Emilia was raised in a Catholic orphanage, and then went to a monastery and took monastic vows. But the couple had two more daughters, whom the couple sent away from home at an early age.

Papin sisters

Papin sisters

Christine was the hardest. She was born in 1905 and was the middle child in the family. Soon after her birth, Christine's parents gave the girl to her father's sister, who was glad to see her. Christine lived with her aunt for seven years, after which she entered a Catholic orphanage. Although she wanted to go to a monastery, her mother did not allow her to do this, and later got her daughter a job. The girl was a stronger and more open person than Lea. Her employers have reported that she can be brash at times. But she was hardworking and knew how to cook well.

Leah was shy. She was born in 1911 and was the youngest child. According to experts, Lea had a slightly lower intelligence than her sister and was an introvert, quiet and obedient. From infancy, Lea grew up with her mother's brother until his death, and then was placed in a religious orphanage until she was 15 years old.

In 1926, they were lucky enough to find hired work in Le Mans in the home of the Lancelin family: a retired lawyer, his wife Leonia and their adult daughter Genevieve. Christine cooked and Leah cleaned the house.

The Papin sisters were good girls and exemplary maids. Every Sunday they dressed up and attended church. Known to be unsociable, Christine and Lea preferred each other's company to all others.

By 1933, the Papin sisters had worked for the Lancelins for 6 years. Christine was 27 years old and Leah was 21 years old. On February 2 of that year, Madame Lancelin and her daughter returned home around 5:30 to a nearly dark house. For the second time in a week, an iron malfunction caused the fuse to blow while Christine was ironing. Strangely, that day the iron had just been returned from the repairman, who said that he could not find anything faulty with it. When Christine told Madame Lancelin that the iron had broken again, she became furious and an argument broke out between them.

Of course, there were other challenges in the past: Lanceline was a real stickler for a job well done. She even wore white gloves to check for dust, regularly gave her opinion on Christine's cooking, and made Leah come back and clean up if she missed a spot. But this time everything was different.

Crime of the century

Crime scene

Christine lost her temper. On the landing of the second floor, she pounced on Genevieve and tore out her eyes with her fingers. Lea quickly joined the fight and grabbed Madame Lanceline. Christine ordered her to gouge out the owner's eyes, and then ran downstairs to the kitchen to get a knife and a hammer. She returned upstairs, where both girls beat and mutilated the poor guys. According to experts, the battle lasted about 30 minutes. But in the end, the maids brutally dealt with both women.

Mr Lancelin and his brother-in-law arrived at the house between 18:30 and 19:00. The door was locked from the inside, and the men could not enter, although they knew that there was someone at home. The house was completely dark except for a faint glow coming from the top floor. This seemed extremely suspicious to them, and they turned to the police for help.



Entering the house, the police climbed the stairs and discovered a terrible picture. Both women were beaten and cut beyond recognition. Blood flooded the entire room and even splattered the walls two meters above the bodies.

After the police discovered the bodies, they searched the entire house. The thought flashed through everyone's minds whether the killer had done the same to the servants. But when investigators went to the top floor, where the servants' room was located, the door was locked. A locksmith arrived on the scene to unlock the door, and when officers opened it, they found the girls inside. There was a bloody hammer on a chair next to the bed with pieces of hair stuck to it. The police asked them what happened, and the sisters immediately confessed to the crime.

Arrest and trial

After arrest

The police arrested the women and took them into custody. Christine became upset and became violent when police separated the girls. Eventually, the authorities allowed them to meet.

The court appointed three doctors to conduct a psychological examination of the sisters to determine whether they are sane. Christine showed indifference to the world around her and stated that she had no attachments other than Lea.

Lea looked at Christine like an older sister or mother. The examination showed that the sisters had no pathological mental disorders or family history. The doctors found the girls absolutely sane and indicated that their unusually close union was the reason for their joint actions, and both were equally responsible for the murder. The jury took just 40 minutes to complete the trial. Of course, they found Christine and Lea Papin guilty. Lea was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Christine was supposed to go to the guillotine, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Why did the sisters kill their employers?

Sisters at trial

The brutal double murder shook the city and shocked all of France. Many began to wonder why two girls, who by all accounts were decent and treated their employers well, could feel such deep hatred as to commit such an unspeakable crime. The murder itself was monstrous, but gouging out the eyes with fingers was an act of animal savagery.

Psychotherapists, philosophers, writers and others began to express their theories. Some intellectuals sympathized with the girls. They saw the crime as a reflection of oppressive class divisions, poor working conditions and prejudice. Others believed that since the girls worked decent jobs in a kind family, ate the same food as the rest of the family, and received a generous monthly salary, there was no logical motive for such a crime.

Was this something deeply ingrained in the sisters' childhood?

Some sources suggest that the girls lacked love and affection. But is it? They spent their formative years away from unstable parents with family members who loved them.

Third personality

A fourth doctor testified at the trial. He suggested that the relationship between Christine and Leah represented a complete merging of personalities, and that Leah had lost her individuality due to Christine's dominant personality. Essentially, there was no "Christine" or "Lea". The killer was actually a combined personality of both - a third personality. Psychotherapists all over the world began to fuss in search of a diagnosis.

What happened to the sisters?

Still from the 2000 film "Killer Maids"

It wasn't easy for Christine in prison without her sister. She began to have bouts of madness, fell into severe depression and despondency, and eventually refused to eat at all. Prison authorities transferred her to a mental hospital, but she continued to starve herself until she died in May 1937.

Lea Papin, on the contrary, demonstrated exemplary behavior and served only 8 years of a 10-year sentence. In 1941 she became a free woman. She lived with her mother in Nantes under a false name and worked in a hotel. According to some reports, she died in 1982.

However, in 2000, during the filming of the film In Search of the Papin Sisters, Claude Ventura claimed that he found Lea in a hospice in France. The woman suffered a stroke, was partially paralyzed and could not speak. She passed away in 2001.

Inspiration in Murder

Still from the 2000 film "Killer Maids"

The Papin case at one time caused a lot of emotions and became the reason for the creation of a number of literary and cinematic works. And also a reason to think about whether we know about the demons of people who have been next to us for years and can burst out at any second.

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