Mercier, Euphrasie (1823–?)

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Mercier, Euphrasie (1823–?)

French murderer. Born in 1823 in the French province of Nord; died in a French prison after 1886.

Euphrasie Mercier and her four siblings grew up in Nord, a province in the northeast region of France, with a devoutly religious father. In addition to Euphrasie, there were Zacharie, Camille, Honorine, and Sidonie—all Biblical given names—and only she and Zacharie were considered unaffected by the insanity suffered by the rest of the children, who attracted unwanted attention to themselves with acts such as writing to the pope and claiming to be guilty of the most monstrous of sins. Her brother Camille claimed that a steam engine had devoured his brain.

After her father died, Euphrasie Mercier inherited a large sum of money, but it was squandered on her siblings (who were likely unable to support themselves), and after it was gone she worked in low-wage jobs in various parts of Europe, probably with them in tow. Yet Mercier was doubtless an intelligent woman, and by the time she neared 60 had managed to open her own boot shop on Paris' Boulevard Haussmann. There she met Elodie Ménétret , a well-to-do woman of 42, who felt sorry for Mercier after befriending her and learning about the Mercier family and its dementia. Ménétret invited Mercier to move into her home in Villemomble, out-side Paris, and to live with her as a paid companion. Mercier accepted the offer, and moved to Villemomble in March 1883. Soon she gave Ménétret cause to worry, however: Ménétret had led a less-than-chaste life and had profited somewhat by her connections. When Mercier began making reference to this past and to Ménétret's vulnerability to jewel thieves, Ménétret dismissed her within a few weeks. Mercier refused to leave the house.

By the end of April 1883, Mercier was informing callers to the house that Ménétret had entered a convent. The police arrived to look into the matter, and Mercier produced a note in Ménétret's handwriting that left everything to "Mlle Mercier." Authorities seemed satisfied by the note, perhaps because of Ménétret's past, and left Mercier alone. Soon, her unbalanced siblings moved in with her and were seen wearing Ménétret's clothes. Mercier pawned her benefactor's jewels, fraudulently obtained her power of attorney, and regularly, and successfully, blackmailed her former lovers. In 1885, Mercier and her siblings were joined by her niece and nephew. The latter, Alphonse Chateauneuf, noticed that his aunt performed strange quasireligious rituals and seemed preoccupied with a dahlia bed in the garden; once she almost killed a dog that began digging there. After she rebuffed his attempt to blackmail her, he went to the police and told them of his suspicions about Ménétret's fate. This time they investigated further, and Mercier was arrested after charred bones were found buried under the dahlias. Dental records confirmed that the remains were indeed Ménétret's. A search of the house uncovered an 1881 newspaper clipping from Le Figaro secreted behind a mirror; the story detailed a murder in Italy and the manner in which the corpse had been buried in the garden. At her trial in April 1886, Mercier's niece and nephew testified against her, and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The exact date on which she died there is not known.


Nash, Jay Robert. Look for the Woman. NY: M. Evans, 1981.

Carol Brennan , Grosse Pointe, Michigan