Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

GILLES DE RAIS

The Conspirators

As noted previously, the trial of Gilles de Rais revealed that de Rais was not alone in his perversity. In the beginning, he kept the number of conspirators at a minimum, but as time went on and the tally of victims rose, more people both men and women were brought into the butchery.

The first accomplices were de Rais cousins, Gilles de Sille and Roger de Briqueville. Gilles de Sille seems to have been the earliest procurer, bringing both the first and second victims to Machecoul. There is no record in the trial documents of de Sille participating in the sexual aspects of the crimes, but he clearly was a willing partner in their planning and clean up.

The first five disappearances happened rather close together, in about the span of a few weeks, the transcripts show, although the recorded dates are not very reliable. In both the first and second kidnappings, de Sille played a prominent role, including being observed wearing a long mantle and veil over his face talking to second victim, a child of 9.

The vanishing children caused a stir in the village of Machecoul, with concern for a supernatural presence at work. Testimony of one parent, Andre Barbe, revealed that de Rais and his cohorts were at once suspected of participating in the foul play. He adds that nobody dared speak for fear of the men in Lord de Rais chapel, or others of his men; those who complained risked imprisonment, or ill-treatment, should anyone report their complaints. Barbes testimony also revealed that Machecoul has begun to develop a sinister reputation in the area. When he met a man from Saint-Jean-dAngely and tells him he comes from Machecoul, the man recoiled and says they ate little children there.

Benedetti reports that soon children were supplied to Gilles de Rais by a woman known as La Meffraye (the Terror), Perrine Martin, although her role appears more fairy tale than truth: She roamed the countryside, enticing any children she came across wandering or tending animals. An old woman, nicknamed the Terror, kidnapping children sounds like a tale parents tell naughty youngsters. Martin, although not named in the trial transcript, apparently features in the testimony of Guillaume Fouraige: (Madame) Fouraige declared that for a year she had sometimes run into an old woman whom she did not know, wearing a paltry gray dress and black hood: this woman was small; once she had a young boy with her and said that she was going to MachecoulTwo or three days later, the witness saw her returning without the child; she said she had placed him with a good master.

For her role in the crimes, Martin was confined to prison in Nantes, Brittany, where she confessed her sins before she died.

The disappearances caused a commotion in the village and de Sille was forced to concoct a story to placate grieving parents. The children were kidnapped, he admitted, but they were given by order of the king to the English, where they would be trained as pages. Whether this relieved the parents is not recorded, but the disappearances continued.

In addition to the Terror, de Sille and de Briqueville, Poitou and Henriet are later brought into the inner circle of debauchery. Poitou, who was brought to the castle as a victim but spared because of his beauty, confessed to abetting de Rais in the procurement, killing and disposal of the victims.

 

 

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