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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, May 11, 1930, Image 106

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TA Grave at Verneuil
)
4 By Frederick Lees.
.■■.- - . • r
I The Bookkeeper's Son IVho Became a
“Grand Seigneur" and Who Was Buried
’ Alive to Aid Sale of Memoirs.
■■■ ■■ ■ ■■■■ -- ■ ■ ■ —■ ■■ ■■■ - -■■■ ■ ■ ■■ ■ - ----- - - -
EDITOR’S NOTE: This nar
rative proves once again that “truth
is stranger than fiction,” for the
unvarnished facts of the culminating
* adventure of Clement Passal—alias
■ “The Marquis de Champaubcrt” —
equal almost anything ever imagined
by the■ most sensational novelist.
The “Marquis” was a well known
crook who had sxvindled the French
public to the tune of many millions
of francs. According to documents,
the “Marquis dc
abducted by the ~ “Kflights of
Themis,” a secret society. Soon the
bulletins grew so sinister that the
authorities became alarmed. Evi
dently something serious was afoot
—but what, and xvhcreT Then events
moved to a denouement when the
“Marquis” teas found buried alive
in the Wood of Verneuil near
Versailles.
• EFOUE we go any further, let us
; m 1 take a glance at the police records—
- the “Who’s Who?” of French
J B crime—and see what manner of
man Passal was. The records show
8* that Joseph Eugene Clement Passal was bom
of honest, middle-class parents on November
29, 1892, at St. Denis, his father being a book
keeper. When his son was of an age to be put
to work the father decided to make him a
working engineer.
Trained in the Diderot Professional School
for Engineering, Clement Passal got a good
start in life, married at the age of 20 a charm
ing brunette of 18, and for some years went
straight. Then came the day when, tiring of
Paris and his job, he changed both his place of
residence and his trade.
We find him next in Nantes, that beautiful
city on the Loire through which so many of
the American troops passed during the war.
Passal here exercised the callings, one after the
other, of engineer, chemist and veterinary
surgeon. He had never had any training
whatsoever for two of these vocations, but he
had discovered that he was very adaptable and
could easily impose on people—thanks to an
open countenance, a plausible manner and a
ready tongue.
His was the life of the petty swindler of the
provinces, and he once confessed, during a po
lice interrogation, that he would probably
have remained a crook in a small way had he
qot chanced to meet a woman who put him on
the path that led to the real “big business” of
the criminal world.
pARLY in May, 1917, Passal made the ac
quaintance of Marie Louise Noirait at a
Montmartre dancing hall. They joined forces,
and Marie Louise changed her name to “Car
men Deslys.” A little later she became
“Gisele de Gisors.” Two other crooks had
been taken into partnership, and a big swindle
connected with the building of motor vans and
other transport material was set on foot.
Large sums of money were advanced by
would-be purchasers on the strength of certain
certificates which Passal had obtained from
one of the railway companies, through an em
ploye who was an accomplice, and by the end
of the year he had amassed 500,000 francs
without delivery of a single van! The center
of this swindle was Bordeaux, and once the
money had been obtained one need hardly say
that the southern port saw Passal no more.
Paris and a fine flat on the Boulevard
Pereire was his next residence, still in company
with Gisele de Gisors, whose fertile brain was
of considerable value in suggesting further
swindles. She it was who conceived the idea
of a big perfume fraud in the South of France
during the Winter season of 1920.
Clement Passal had now become Heri de
Vaudrey, with all his papers in order. At the
_ Villa Margueritte, at Hyeres, he lived the life
of a grand seigneur who was at the same time
a scent manufacturer. In the Avenue du
Casino he had a fine laboratory where an ac
complice named Caillat was supposed to be
working out formulae for the most ravishing
new scents. Two —‘Demon d’Amour” and
“Coeur pame”—were actually launched from a
small factory. All the most modern methods
* of advertising were adopted, miniature samples
were sent out by hundreds of thousands, and
orders and money—the money always in ad
vance—began to roll in.
Then Passal once more disappeared, to turn
up again at Nantes under the name of Gou
raud, “nephew of the famous general of that
name.” He took a smart little flat in the Rue
Deshoulines and hired a garage in the Rue
Babonneau for the sale of American motor
i cars, a consignment of which was stated to be
an route.
mu: . SUNDAY STAR, WASHINGTON, D. C., MAY 11, 1930.
There was a staff of smart typists, hundreds
of thousands of well printed prospectuses were
distributed and advertisements appeared in the
local press offering brand-new cars of the very
latest models on most advantageous terms.
Within one month 400,0000 francs came in in
reply to these advertisements!
One day, however, an irate gentleman who
had paid his first installment without getting
his car, and suspected that everything was not
quite square, turned up at the garage and de
clared in the presence of the staff that Passal,
alias Gabriel Gouraud, was nothing but a
swindler, and that he intended to lay a com
plaint with the police. Passal tried to pass
the matter off with a laugh, but he realized
that the game was up once more. It was time
to be on the move, and he went.
r THE very next day he was at Lille, under
the name of Louis Patte, establishing a
new business for the sale of a wireless set
(wholly imaginary) which was said to give
most marvelous results. On the strength of
mere drawings and his “gift of gab” he ob
tained another 400.000 francs from rich
tradespeople of the district for the establish
ment of a factory for the manufacture of
radio equipment. Having gained his ends,
the resourceful rogue vanished again.
We come now to the time when Passal,
growing more and more ambitious, launched
his biggest swindle. This was toward the
end of the Summer of 1924.
By this time he bad become the “Marquis
Elie de Champaubert,” Knight of the Legion
of Honor, administrateur delegue des Mines
de Phuong-Do, and administrateur general of
two other important mines hi Indo-China. An
important and wealthy man, he had os
tensibly Just arrived from Tonkin to spend
the Summer at a charming country residence
at La Viconte, near Dinard.
Gisele de Gisors was now madame la
marquise, an extremely smart little woman
with a fine motor car, costly furs and splendid
jewels. Everybody extended them a hearty
welcome, in view of the money which it was
evident the rich and happy couple intended
to scatter right and left.
The Marquis de Champaubert's latest bril
liant idea was to lure a number of wealthy
jewelers to the Castle du Pieure, chloroform
them and rob them of the diamonds and
pearls which they had brought to be sub
mitted to the “marquise,” whose thirty-fifth
birthday anniversary was on the point of being
celebrated I«. He made his plans with great
care, using his skill as a former engineer to
fit up an elaborate apparatus in the room
where the jewelers were to be received, which
would impregnate the air with deadly fumes.
Pumps in an adjoining billiard room were to
be set working at the right moment to drive
in the chloroform vapor.
This plot was discovered and at the sub
sequent trial Clement Passal was found guilty
and condemned to five years’ imprisonment.
There were four previous sentences by default
against him—two years pronounced at Saint-
MSlo, four years at Nantes, two years at
Havre and five years at Lille. These sen
tences were lumped together and counted as
five years, which he spent in the prisons of
Lille and Rennes until July 29, 1929. Mean
while Gisele de Gisors had also been “gath
ered in” by Inspector Royere and. as Passal's
accomplice In many swindles, was imprisoned
elsewhere.
On leaving prison Passal went to liVe with
his mother at Elbeuf and, urged by that
worthy woman to turn over a new leaf and
seek honest work, made a sort of living by
buying and selling second-hand furniture and
household oddments. But he did not stick
to this humdrum life for long. As already
related, there came a day when he disap
peared. Then the mysterious communica
tions from the “Knights of Themis” began to
arrive at a newspaper office, followed by his
own tragic letter to his mother and finally
the discovery of his dead body in the wood
of Verneuil.
What was the key to this mystery?
'PHE clever detectives of the famous Paris
Prefecture and Surete undertook to find it,
and they began their work by a series of arrests,
interrogations and seizures of documents.
Many surprises were still in store as, little by
little, the whole strange story was unfolded.
When the body of the pseuda Marquis de
Champaubert—whom I shall henceforth desig
nate by his real name of Clement Passal —had
been transported to the nearest town, Ver
sailles, the first thing the authorities sought to
discover was the length of time he had been
in the coffin before death ensued. Dr. Detis,
attached to the criminal investigation depart
ment, proceeded to make the autopsy and found
that death, which had taken place at 48 hours
before disinterment, was due to asphyxiation.
It was proven, therefore, that the unfortunate
man had been burled alive, but how long he
had been in the coffin before death put an
end to his sufferings it was extremely difficult,
if not Impossible, to tell. Had he, perhaps,
been rendered insensible by a narcotic before
being nailed down? That was a question which
The pair were taken to the scene of the tragedy and there closely interrogated .
Mystery of the
cc Marquis de
Champaubert
and the Amazing
Ca reer of a Notori
ous French Swin
dler.
M. Kohn-Abrest, director of the Laboratory of
Toxicology in Paris, was asked to answer after
a most careful examination.
“It is clear from the presence of the pipe
leading from the coffin to the surface of the
earth," said Dr. Detis, “that the person or
persons who interred Passal intended he should
survive for a certairf time, dying by slow de
grees. I do not think he could have lived there
more than five or six hours, if that, because the
air would soon have become exhausted and
vitiated. You must remember that without two
pipes, one at his feet and the other at his head,
there could be no circulation of the air. And
without such circulation death must inevitably
ensue, but with terrible slowness.”
And now we will proceed with the results of
the police inquiry into this most puzzling affair.
As the process of examining the “Knights
of Themis" and other documents went for
ward, the theory—already suggested by several
newspapers—that this alleged secret society ex
isted only in the fertile imagination of Clement
Passal himself b»gan to be seriously considered
by the authorities.
It was, indeed, quite within the bounds of
possibility that, in order to draw public atten
tion to himself, he had deliberately invented
the whole thing—his capture by the “Knights,"
the tortures to which he had been subjected,
the letters from the mysterious “Mme. d’Orge
val" and all the rest of it. Proof of this con
tention, however, was not yet forthcoming.
But even supposing that this was all inven
tion, there was nothing fictitious about his
burial and death; they were zeal enough, in
all conscience! Moreover, the man could not
have buried himself. Some one must have
nailed him in his coffin and subsequently filled
in the grave—and that person or persons the
police set about finding.
They began by laying their hands on the
two men, Felix Bachelet and Pierre Durot, who
had received information regarding the exact
place of burial. The pair were taken to the
scene of the tragedy and there closely interro
gated. Something one of the men said threw
a new light on the affair; he revealed the
identity of yet another friend of the deceased
man.
'T'HIS was a certain Henri Boulogne, who, he
said, was probably in Passal's confidence
and might be able to tell the officers something
interesting about a certain villa which Passal
had rented at Villennes-sur-Seine, only a few
kilometers from the spot where he was found
buried.
In a very short time —just sufficient to look
up the records of old criminals—the police had
refreshed their memory concerning Henri
Boulogne, bom at the town of that name
(probably of unknown parentage) on June 20.
1902. He had been sentenced several times for
various offenses. Liberated from the prison of
Loos, where he got to know Passal, a short
time after the latter, Boulogne had taken up
his residence at Dunkerque, where he worked
at the docks. Two inspectors immediately
ment to that town and arrested him.
Boulogne, it was soon discovered, held the *
key to the mystery.
On reaching Paris and the offices of the
CJ.D., he made a full and frank confession,
which I will give in his own picturesque lan
guage.
“Oui, messieur; you’re right. I made the
acquaintance of Passal in jail at Loos, where
I was in ‘quod’ at the same time as himself.
We struck up a close friendship, and Passal
promised that if he could ever be of use to
me when he came out he would bear me in
mind. Just to jog his memory I wrote to him
at Saint Aubin this year from Dunkerque; and
quite recently I found that he had not for
gotten his old pal.
“A telegram came for me, saying: ‘Come to
Hotel X , such-and-such a number. Fau
bourg St. Denis. Ask for Georges Leleu.—Al
phonse.’ I reached Paris on September 12.
and who should I find on the platform, waiting
for me, but Passal. He thought it better to
come to the Gare du Nord, he said, rather
than run the risk of me missing him at the
hotel, where he had put up under a false name.
“The funny thing was that Clement decided
there and then not to return to the Hotel
X , but to go straight off to Saint-Ger
main, where we stayed for two days at a place
near the barracks. Passal appeared to be flush
of money. Anyway, we had a Jolly good time,
drinking in the cases and talking over old
times.
“On the 14th we returned to Paris, where
we were to meet Du rot, and all three of us
went to Villennss. Whilst Passal and I stop
ped in a case, Durot went off to a house agency
and rented a little house for a month —the
Villa des Pavots, in the Avenue du Marechal-
Foch; he took it in the name of Fournier and
paid the rent on the nail.
“On the 17th all of us returned to our
country residence and slept there. By that
time I had got a sort of an idea as to what
was up.
“On the 18th Passal went to Paris and re
turned with a typewriter. Then he made
everything clear to us. The crime business,
he declared, w'as a mug’s game. However high
you might rise in the crook’s profession, you
simply couldn’t win in the end. He had tried
it, and, like many others, had come to the
conclusion that the game was not worth the
candle. Henceforth he wished to do some
thing honest; and the only thing he felt he
could do was to write his memoirs. Hosts of
other reformed crooks had done it, he said —or
got somebody else to do it for them—so why
shouldn't he buy a typewriter and tell the
story of his life?
“Durot tried to make fun out of the idea
of Passal as an author, but Clement very soon
shut him up, and the next day Durot went
back to Elbeuf, leaving me to act as my old
pal’s cook and messenger boy.
, “ALL day long, while I was cleaning the
vegetables and doing a bit of cooking,
Clement tapped away at his machine, writing
a long yam about some 'Knights of Themis'
who had got him in their power. This, he
explained, was only the opening Installment; a
sort of preliminary tid-blt to whet the appetite
of tlje public for his real memoirs.
“He was going to bury the chapter headings
in a wood, he said, so that they could be dug ‘
up and published in the papers; the memoirs
themselves would be written later when he
'came back from the dead.’ He was going to
end, he told me, by being buried alive. He
reckoned that a dramatic rescue from the
Continued on Twenty-second Page

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