DOUGLAS STARR    Book Number: 81792    Product format: Hardback

"The Killer of Little Shepherds" was a French serial killer whose homicidal spree came a little after our own Jack the Ripper and he actually took more lives than the Whitechapel murderer - but the Frenchman was caught. Joseph Vacher, a vagrant and onetime soldier was a ticking timebomb. Military ex-colleagues attested to his temper and predilection for extreme violence, and in 1893 whilst on leave, he stalked, and then tried to kill a 19-year-old housemaid when she refused his advances. After thinking he had killed her, he turned the revolver on himself but the bullets he was sold had only a half charge of powder so both survived - lucky for her but less so for the 11 plus people he would go on to kill. The French justice system at the time went easy on "crimes of passion", so although his military career was ended, after just 10 months in an asylum he was pronounced cured and released. Most, but by no means all of his victims were young female farmworkers, often there was a sexual aspect, but not always. The spree captured the public imagination like no other and the "penny press" had a field day. The two men charged with bringing this monster to book were prosecutor Emile Fourquet and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, the era's most brilliant criminologist. In dramatic and vivid detail Douglas Starr recounts Vacher's appalling crimes and interweaves the fascinating story of his capture and in so doing shows how Lacassagne and his colleagues developed forensic science as we know it, pioneering techniques that would form the proof of Vacher's guilt. Vacher was arrested for an attempted rape in autumn 1897 and the local magistrate, having remembered the Fourquet's bulletin on the nature of the killer (arguably the first example of suspect "profiling"), had him held under maximum security. The trial began on 26 October 1898 and Vacher went to the guillotine on 31 December, a public execution that attracted over 3,500 spectators. A brilliant combination of true crime and detection. 312pp, photos and woodcuts.
Published price: £16.99
Bibliophile price: £4.50

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ISBN 9780857201669
Browse these categories as well: Crime, Historical Biography

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