Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler

A dreadful murder in France in 1818 by a peddler had everyone talking not only in France but also in England. It also had newspapers everywhere reporting on the horrid event that occurred in Brie. It was bad enough that if Madame Tussaud‘s Chamber of Horrors had existed at the time, it could have qualified.

Dreadful Murder in France in 1818 by a Peddler: French Rabbit Pelt Peddler

French rabbit pelt peddler, 1737. Courtesy of Met Museum.

It all began when a peddler and his wife presented themselves at a farmer’s door named Monsieur Pinaud around nightfall in June of 1818. They asked if they could spend the night and Monsieur Pinaud agreed giving the couple a small room. The next day was Sunday and so Monsieur Pinaud, the peddler, and his servants went to Mass in a neighboring village. However, because Madame Pinaud had just had a baby, she was still confined to her bed and recovering. For this reason, she had her 6-year-old son stay home to help take care of her. The peddler’s wife also claimed to be ill, so she stayed behind too.

Shortly after everyone left, the peddler’s wife appeared at the bedside of Madame Pinaud with a knife. She demanded money and threatened to kill the new mother if she didn’t produce the money. As Madame Pinaud was sick and weak, she did not oppose the woman, gave her the keys, and instructed her little boy to conduct the peddler’s wife to the chests where the money was stored. When they left, the Madame Pinaud rose and with great difficulty followed quietly behind. As the peddler’s wife was busy opening the chests, Madame Pinaud signaled for her child to come out of the room and then locked the peddler’s wife in the room.

French knife peddler, 1742. Courtesy of Met Museum.

Madame Pinaud then sent her little boy to get his father. The little boy ran off, but as he ran, he came across the peddler who was no doubt returning to the farm to help his wife rob the Pinauds. When the peddler inquired as to where the boy was going in such a rush, the child told him that his mother had instructed to get his father as someone had attempted to rob them. The peddler took the child by the hand and told him that it was not necessary to get his father as he would go and help the boy’s mother.

When they returned to the farmer’s house, the wife had the house locked up and so the peddler knocked at the door. Madame Pinaud knew the voice did not belong to her husband and refused to open the door. The peddler tried all sorts of tricks to get her to open the door and finally told her he would kill her child. She did not believe him as she thought her child would return at any moment with her husband. Thus, when the peddler realized she would not let him in, according to the Bury and Norwich Post:

“Furious at not being able to prevail upon her, he executed his horrible threat, and killed the child, almost under the eyes of its mother, who heard, without being able to give succor, the cries and last sighs of her son.”[1]

French laces peddler. 1738. Courtesy of Met Museum.

The peddler again tried to enter the house but still could not get inside. He then climbed onto the roof and down into the chimney and was about to enter the room, when the farmer’s wife set fire to her bed. Smoke rose, enveloped the peddler, and he “fell into the fire half suffocated.”[2] Madame Pinaud then struck him several times with the fire poker and knocked him out.

Exhausted from all her energies to protect herself and her new child, Madame Pinaud fell senseless to the floor and remained that way until her husband and servants returned from church. At that time, Monsieur Pinaud found the dead body of his child near the farmhouse door and when he went inside, he discovered his wife collapsed on the floor. He roused her and heard all the horrid details. Monsieur Pinaud then seized the two culprits and they were delivered to justice.

The Bury and Norwich Post reported the following:

“It is believed that the pedlar will survive his wounds, and be able to receive the punishment due to his crimes. They will be immediately brought before the Court of Assize of the department, where this affairs in preparation for trial, which excites the greatest interest through the whole country.”[3]


  • [1] “Miscellanies,” in Bury and Norwich Post, 12 August 1818, p. 4.
  • [2] “Dreadful Murder” in Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, 14 August 1818, p. 4.
  • [3] “Miscellanies,” p. 4.

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