British Executions

Louis Marie Joseph Voisin

Age: 50

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 2 Mar 1918

Crime Location: 101 Charlotte Street, London

Execution Place: Pentonville

Method: hanging

Executioner: John Ellis


Louis Marie Joseph Voisin was convicted of the murder of Emilienne Gerard 31 and sentenced to death.

He was said to have battered her to death at 101 Charlotte Street, London on 31 October 1917. However, it was thought possible that it might have actually been his lover who killed her.

Louis Voisin had been seeing two women at the same time, but neither of the women knew of the other. They had lived a few streets apart, Louis Voisin at 101 Charlotte Street and Emilienne Gerard at 50 Munster Square. It was thought that Emilienne Gerard had gone to visit Louis Voisin on the night of 31 October 1917 during a German air raid over London and that the two women had then met for the first time and that Louis Voisin's lover had beaten Emilienne Gerard over the head. It was noted that Emilienne Gerard’s skull, whilst severely injured, had not been fractured and that she had died from blood loss. However, at the trial the prosecution charged Louis Voisin with the murder and he was convicted.

A police report later stated that whilst it was thought that it was Louis Voisin's lover that had beaten Emilienne Gerard about the head, that there was no evidence at all against her.

Louis Voisin was a Frenchman and had come to England in 1913 and had carried on a business as a butcher and general dealer, and had lived at 101 Charlotte Street where he had a cart and horses and attended Smithfield and supplied Soho restaurants.

Emilienne Gerard had been the wife of a French soldier serving in France and had met Louis Voisin at a restaurant where she had been working and agreed to be his 'house-keeper'. The arrangement lasted for twelve months after which Emilienne Gerard went back to France to see her husband.

In her absence, Louis Voisin met another woman and she moved in with him at 101 Charlotte Street and when his other lover returned in June or July 1917, she lived by herself at 50 Munster Square.

It was said that Louis Voisin had kept in touch with Emilienne Gerard after her return, but continued to live with his new lover.

On Friday 2 November 1917, at about 8.30am, the body of a woman was found wrapped in butcher's meat cloth over the railings in Regent's Square. The head and hands were missing and the legs, which were severed at the knees, were in a separate parcel close by.

In the larger parcel was a piece of paper bag paper that had the words, 'Blodie Belgiam', written on it as well as a garment that had a laundry mark.

The garment with the laundry mark allowed the police to quickly identify the body as that of Emilienne Gerard.

She had been last seen alive on the night of Wednesday 31 October 1917 at about 11.15pm when she left Munster Square following the warning of a German air raid.

Police enquiries soon after led them to interrogate Louis Voisin and his lover on the Saturday evening and when his premises were searched Emilienne Gerard's head and hands were found in a tub covered with alum in the cellar.

It was further noted, that before the discovery of Emilienne Gerard's head and hands that the police had asked Louis Voisin whether he had any objection to writing the words, 'Bloody Belgian', on a piece of paper, and he agreed to do so and readily wrote, 'Blodie Belgiam', in characters that were identical to those found on the piece of paper found with Emilienne Gerard's corpse.

Two brown paper bags similar to the piece of paper found were also found at 101 Charlotte Street.

When 101 Charlotte Street was further searched, large quantities of human blood stains were found splashed in places high up on the walls, as if from spurting wounds or from a weapon as it was flung up for another blow.

Emilienne Gerard's head and face had been battered with a blunt instrument, but her skull was not fractured, and none of the blows seemed to have been powerful or fatal.

The pathologist said that he thought that Emilienne Gerard had been long unconscious and that she had bled to death.

It was said that she had been dead for at least 24 hours before her body was found, which was therefore before 8.30am on the Thursday morning, and thought probable that Emilienne Gerard, after leaving 50 Munster Square, had gone to a shelter, and on her way seen a light burning in Louis Voisin's place and then later, on her way back from the shelter after the raid, had looked in at 101 Charlotte Street and been killed.

The police report stated that whether she was attacked by Louis Voisin or his lover, was impossible to say. It stated that the nature of the blows could indicate that they had been the work of a woman rather than a powerful man like Louis Voisin. It was further stated that if the murder was the result of a jealous quarrel between Emilienne Gerard and Louis Voisin's lover, that Louis Voisin's lover might have taken part in the actual killing.

However, the police report noted that there was, however, so little direct evidence against Louis Voisin's lover, that the judge withdrew her case from the jury, although it was noted that she was to still be tried as an accessory after the fact. It was heard that among other evidence, that she had been seen astir unusually early on he Thursday morning washing Louis Voisin's clothes etc, which she said had got stained with the blood of a calf that he had just killed.

It was also stated that Louis Voisin had a mercenary motive for the murder, as amongst Emilienne Gerard's correspondence, the police found an IOU by Louis Voisin for £50, payable on 17 November 1917. It was also determined that he had taken Emilienne Gerard's Post Office Bank Book that had a balance of £96 and her husband’s bank book that had a balance of £101 back to 101 Charlotte Street where they were found.

They also found a quantity of Emilienne Gerard's jewellery at 101 Charlotte Street hidden in a secret recess in the mantlepiece of Louis Voisin's bed sitting room.

It was thought that Louis Voisin had dismembered Emilienne Gerard's body, because it had been done with a butcher's skill. The police report further stated that it was thought that it had been done at 50 Munster Square.

It was noted that a curious feature in the case was that at Emilienne Gerard's rooms at Munster Square, a few human blood stains were found and that about four tablespoonfuls of blood or blood and water, were found in a pail. It was also noted that a rug that had been taken from Munster Square was found bloodstained at 101 Charlotte Street.

At the trial, Louis Voisin said that he had nothing to do with the murder, and that he went to Munster Square on the Thursday, and there, to his horror, found the head and hands of Emilienne Gerard on the table, and that he then wrapped them up in the rug and carried them off to 101 Charlotte Street. He said that he was too ignorant of the language to go to the police, or did not like to.

He didn't give evidence on oath, but made a statement.

It was noted that during his summing up that the judge suggested that the blood stains at Munster Square had been placed there by Louis Voisin by way of camouflage, to make the police think that she had been murdered there. However, the police report stated that that hardly covered the facts, submitting that Louis Voisin would hardly have taken the body there in order to paint the walls with blood and noted that the rug wanted explaining.

Instead the police report stated that they thought that Emilienne Gerard was undoubtedly killed at 101 Charlotte Street between 11.30pm on the Wednesday and 8.30am on the Thursday. The report further added that they thought that Louis Voisin probably took the body to Munster Square on the Thursday evening, meaning to leave it there. It was noted that the stairs were very narrow and awkward, and thought that he might have had difficulty in getting it up. It was thought then, that it might have occurred to him that suspicion was bound to fall on him, because he was known to the people there, and thought that he would be safer to dispose of the corpse in such a way to prevent identification. It was suggested that he then cut up the body so as to make it portable and unidentifiable and then threw the trunk and legs over the railings at Regents Square where they were found the following morning, and took the head and hands, which were wrapped up in the rug, back to 101 Charlotte Street.

The police report stated that that would explain:

  1. The bloodstains at Munster Square that seemed to prove that the body or parts of it had been there, it being said that it was otherwise difficult to account for Louis Voisin having taken it or them there in the first place.
  2. The finding of the Munster Square rug blood-stained at 101 Charlotte Street.
  3. The placing of the words, 'Bloodie Belgiam' on the body, which was thought to have been done to mislead the police as to the woman's identity.
  4. The pail of blood and water seemed to point to the body having been dismembered at Munster Square.

It was noted that Louis Voisin gave varying accounts of his movements on the days before his arrest, with it being noteworthy that on the Friday, a time when he had by his own later admission had the head and hands in his tub since the day before, told the daughter of a woman that lived at 50 Munster Square, that Emilienne Gerard had gone to the country for a fortnight.

Louis Voisin later appealed his conviction, on two grounds, first that a series of opinions expressed by the judge, in total, amounted to misdirection, and also that the evidence of the writing by Louis Voisin of the words, 'Blodie Belgiam' at the request of the police, had been done without warning or before he had been cautioned. However, his appeal was dismissed.

It was further noted that whilst little was known of Louis Voisin, that it did appear that he had been charged in 1903, along with others, of robbery and the murder of a farmer in Angers, however, the result of those proceedings was not known.

The police report to the Home Secretary concluded that the murder was a peculiarly atrocious one and that there could be no question of interference with the sentence.

Louis Voisin was convicted at the Old Bailey on 18 January 1918. Because he could not well understand spoken English the judge pronounced the death sentence in French. He appealed but was executed on 2 March 1918 at Pentonville Prison.

His lover was later convicted of being an accessory after the fact on Saturday 9 March 1918 and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. However, she went mad in prison and was released on licence in September 1919 but died on 22 December 1919 at St Joseph's Hospital in Highgate.

In 1923 it was suggested that Louis Voisin might have been innocent by a former chief of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard in a leading American magazine, 'Cosmopolitan'.

The article noted that at the trial that Louis Voisin had declared that his lover was 'absolutely innocent' and when the judge directed the jury to acquit her on the murder charge, he had said, 'It is a case of strong suspicion against her, but I do not think there is any direct and positive evidence'.

It was further noted that Louis Voisin didn't go into the witness-box, even when the case was going against him, and further, that after his lover was acquitted, that she was not called to clear up any conflicting statements.

The article stated that what was thought to have happened was that Emilienne Gerard had left her home when the air-raid was sounded and run out towards the tube station near Charlotte Street, and in doing so would have passed 101 Charlotte Street and that similarly the other inhabitant in the building had also left and that she had opened the door and gone in to find Louis Voisin with his lover and that there had then been a fight during which his lover killed Louis Voisin. It was noted that the pathologist had said that Emilienne Gerard had been struck repeatedly with a blunt instrument in the hands of a person of no great physical strength.

It was claimed then, that seeing that the two women had fought over him, that he promised his lover immunity, and set about to protect her by concocting an elaborate scheme to make it appear that she had been murdered at her own rooms and that he had first disposed of the sack with the torso in Regents Park, along with the legs, and had then intended to take the head and hands to 50 Munster Square, but was unable because her remains were found too soon. It was further stated that Louis Voisin had then, in a perverted sense of chivalry, gone to his death, rather than break his promise to his lover.

see National Archives - DPP 4/53, DPP 1/49, CRIM 1/171/3, HO 144/2183

see The People - Sunday 18 November 1917

see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 15 November 1917

see Berks and Oxon Advertiser - Friday 25 January 1918

see Cannock Chase Courier - Saturday 09 March 1918