Lea and Christine

Lea (L) and Christine (R) Papin

In the early 1900’s Gustave and Clemence Papin were unhappily married. Rumors of infidelity abounded. Clemence was rumored to be dating her employer before and after she married Gustave. In fact they only married as she became pregnant and in 1902 Emilia was born.

In 1905, Gustave and Clemence had a second daughter, Christine. Since Clemence was not maternal, nor was she nurturing, Christine was given to her paternal aunt and uncle soon after birth. She lived happily with them for seven years. A third daughter, Lea, was born in 1911, and given to her maternal uncle with whom she stayed with until his death.

In 1912, Emilia stated that Gustave had raped her, Clemence believed that Emilia had seduced her father and sent her to the Bon Pasteur Catholic Orphanage. It was known for it’s brutality and discipline. Shortly after Emilia was sent to the orphanage, she was joined by Christine and Lea. It was Clemence’s intention that Christine and Lea would stay at the orphanage until they were fifteen and could begin to work.

In 1918, Emilia entered the convent and ended any relations with her family. It is believed she lived there for the remainder of her life. When Christine felt the calling to become a nun as well, Clemence forbade this, and found her a job as a maid. Both Christine and Lea worked as household maids for families around Le Mans, France.

Both girls were good workers and preferred to work together when possible. Christine was a good cook but could be insubordinate at times. Lea, was more obedient, and quiet; she was considered less intelligent than Christine.

Christine (L) and Lea (R) Papin

In 1926, Christine and Lea were working for the Lancelin family as live-in maids. The Lancelin family consisted of Monsieur Rene Lancelin, a retired solicitor, his wife Leonie, and his youngest daughter Genevieve. Their eldest daughter was married.

After several years working for the family and doing an excellent job, Madame Lancelin, developed depression and often targeted Christine and Lea. She began to be critical of their work, physically assault the girls and at times slam their heads against the wall. Finally it became too much for the sisters.

February 2, 1933: Preparing for a night out at a friend’s dinner party, both Leoni and Genevieve had been out shopping. Rene had also been out of the house, planning to meet at the dinner party later.

When Leoni and Genevieve returned home, no lights were on. Due to this incident, Leoni became enraged and attacked the sisters. Christine lunged at Genevieve and gouged out her eyes. Lea joined in the fight and attacked Leoni, gouging out her eyes as directed by Christine. Christine ran to the kitchen returning with a knife and hammer. The sisters continued their attack. Experts estimate this confrontation lasted about two hours.

Lancelin Crime Scene

After not finding his wife and daughter at the dinner party, Monsieur Lancelin when to the house. The house was completely dark, except for a light in the Papin sisters’ room. Rene, and his son-in-law, found the house locked from inside and couldn’t enter it. They went to the police station to get help. The police gained entrance to the home, and found the bodies of Leoni and Genevieve. They had both been bludgeoned and stabbed to the point of not being recognized.

Thinking that the sisters had met the same fate, they went up to their room, finding the door locked, and no answer from inside. They summoned a locksmith who opened the door to find the sisters naked, and in bed together. A bloody hammer with hair clinging to it was sitting nearby. They immediately confessed to the murders.

Christine and Lea claimed self defense for the crimes. During the trial they were both taking sole responsibility for the murders, trying to protect the other one. Being in prison, the sisters were separated from each other, and this distressed Christine. When they were allowed to see each other, Christine threw herself at her sister, unbuttoning her blouse, and begging “Please, say yes!”. To the authorities this suggested an incestuous sexual relationship.

Their lawyer pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on their behalf. However they were deemed sane and fit to stand trial. The jury took 40 minutes to determine that the Papin sisters were guilty and to determine their fate.

Lea and Christine at their trial.

Being separated from Lea, Christine deteriorated rapidly, she died at a hospital from starving herself in May, 1937. Lea fared better, she served eight of the ten years in prison, and was released in 1941. She moved to the town of Nantes, and was later joined by her mother. She assumed a false identity and worked as a hotel maid.

Lea was sentenced to 10 years in prison as she was thought to be under the influence of her older sister. Christine was sentenced to death by guillotine. This was later commuted to life in prison.

Lea passed away in 2001, and the sisters are buried together in Nantes.

It’s very unusual. Two sisters, with a less than standard childhood, grew up outside of their parents realm, and became very close. Some say they were incestuous lesbians, but that is unknown. They then take their anger and aggression out on their employers. The acts they committed were heinous in their brutality. Do you think they were sane?

Be careful, make good choices, stay safe

Nantes Cemetery

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