Reign of terror: 1940 - 1944
Motive: Financial gain
Crimes: He was charged with the murder of 27 people, including Joachim Guschinow, M. and Mme Kneller, their son Rene Kneller, and Paul Braunberger between 1941 and 1944. However, other sources suggest he killed 63 people, or even 150, and that the 86 dissected bodies pulled out of the Seine between 1941 and 1943 were also his handiwork.
Method: Lured to his premises under the promise of a route out of German occupied France, his mostly Jewish victims would then be given a lethal injection, which he told them was to ward off foreign diseases on their travels. They would then be put into a small triangular room with extra thick walls, where Dr Petiot would watch them die through a small hole in the wall. Their bodies were then stored in a quick lime pit and later burned in a furnace.
Sentence: Petiot was guillotined on 26th may 1946 in the Paris Sante Prison.
Interesting facts: Dr Petiot was a respected doctor in Paris during the Second World War. However, before Paris, his life was rather chequered. When he was at school, he stole from classmates and also from mailboxes. During his military service he stole drugs from an army dispensary and sold them to addicts.In 1928 he was elected mayor of Villeneuve, but in 1930 was convicted of theft. There were also rumours that he had murdered at least one woman and encouraged another's drug addiction. He then moved to Paris where he was first convicted of shoplifting and then of drug trafficking.
The crimes of Dr Petiot came to light when he discovered that burying the bodies in a pit of quicklime was not dissolving the bodies as he had expected it to. So he started to burn the bodies in the building's furnace, then left the building. The burning produced a lot of greasy black foul-smelling smoke, which on 11th March 1944 the neighbours complained about it. When the police arrived they discovered the chimney was on fire. It was the fire brigade therefore who discovered the source of the fire.
Dr Petiot was first apprehended soon after the discovery of the bodies. However he told the police that the bodies were those of Nazis who had been executed by the French resistance and so they set him free. Petiot then disappeared for several months. In October 1944 he wrote a letter to the newspaper Resistance responding to an article they had written which denounced him as a Nazi collaborator. Through this letter he was finally retraced and arrested.
Petiot pleaded guilty to 19 out of the 27 murders he was charged with, claiming that they were all Germans or traitors and that he was simply being patriotic. He also claimed that he was a member of the Resistance but refused to name other members that could have been able to testify in his favour.