Hélène Jégado – The Pious Poisoner
Hélène Jégado was born in 1803 on a small farm in Brittany just after the end of the French revolution, which you might remember had a lot of peasants revolting and killing rich society types for suggesting they eat cake. But by twenty-four years of age, Hélène began staging her own little coup in the households where she was employed as a domestic, by slipping unsavory things into people’s food (and possibly their cake).
First, while working as a cook at the rectory in Bubry, she was reprimanded for spiking the priest’s soup with hemp. While it would not have enough THC to give the Father the munchies, it certainly may have contained enough fibre to give him the runs. Despite that, by 1833 she was employed by another man of the cloth, Fr. François Le Drogo. The hemp laxative gag must have been getting old for Hélène, because over three months seven people died in that house, including the priest and his parents. Even Hélène’s own sister, who was visiting at the time, died. Posthumously, giving the excursion a very low rating on trip advisor. This was just after the cholera epidemic, when whole families dropping dead was common, but regrettable, much like binge watching Netflix. So, no one suspected Hélène of poisoning, particularly because she was acting all sorrowful and pious, and probably hid the empty arsenic bottle down her pantaloons.
Hélène returned to Bubry to take over her sister’s job, and once again people fell ill in droves. Compassionately, she tended to them at their bedsides, and thus hurried their final deaths. The only member of the household to escape the grave was the young master, who apparently must have smelled a rat, and told her to get bent when she knocked at his bedroom door to assist him.
Hélène continued to knock people off wherever she boarded or worked until 1841 when she took a break for almost a decade, sharpening her kleptomania skills. She was dismissed from several households for stealing, and from a convent in Auray in the northwest of France for vandalism and sacrilege, where I envision her etching her tagline into the Communion wafer or some such.
But by 1851 she was back to her old tricks, killing off servants in the lawyer’s home where she was working. Hélène vehemently protested her innocence of arsenic poisoning when doctors were called in, which struck people as strange since they thought they’d died of cholera. (Note to serial killers everywhere, don’t claim your innocent of murder before anyone realizes someone has actually been killed). Autopsies were performed, and Hélène was off to trial where she became known as the Pious Poisoner, which must have stymied the nuns at the Auray convent who were still trying to erase the “Corinthians sucks” she had spray painted in the chapel vestibule (okay, I may have made that part up, but you catch my drift).
In the end, Hélène Jégado killed at least 23 people, perhaps as many as 36 between 1833 and 1841, although statute of limitations and lack of physical evidence allowed her to be charged with only 3. She still ended up on the wrong side of a guillotine in 1852, there never really being any right side.