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Joseph Vacher: A Murderer In France

1140 words - 5 pages

The case of Joseph Vacher was as well-known, more deadly, and even compared to, the murders committed by “Jack the Ripper” so much so that Vacher even screamed that he was “Joseph the Ripper”. This murder, whose identity was unknown at the time, left a trail of terror where ever he went, his capture became a career making opportunity for the investigating magistrates. After Vacher was captured a new branch of criminal interrogation was used to try to incriminate him in the murders that it was believed he had done. The major breakthrough in criminology came in the form of the methods that lead to his capture and identification.
The magistrates all over France were searching for “Jack the ...view middle of the document...

He, who the papers called “a new Jack the Ripper”, was described as a menacing man with dark hair, thick eyebrows, and a scar across his cheek.
The capture of Vacher was important, not just for the sake of the people’s protection, but for the recognition and fame bring to his capture and prosecutor. Perhaps I’m being a bit too cynical, but the fact that the person responsible for his capture in Tournon became a symbol of excellence in criminology. No, I’m not referring to the judge who sentenced him to three months or even the magistrate who read a bulletin describing the killer as someone similar to Vacher but to the man who sent the bulletin, Émile Fourquet. He sent out the bulletin, called a rogatory letter, in response to the key elements and after re-questioning the witnesses from several of the crimes. As he sent out the letter, to some 250 magistrates, he didn’t expect a great amount of concern he was surprised when several people came forward matching Vacher’s description, none being him, yet. When the magistrate who was holding Vacher wrote to Fourquet, the reply was simply “Transport the Prisoner to Belley at once”.
The methods that have led to his capture need to be stated with greater detail, them being the use of identification of both the living killer and the dead victim. The use of bones to identify a living person was a practice that was invented by Alphonse Bertillon. He used the common statistic that any two adults having the same measurement of a specific bone, the forearm for example, was a one-four chance. Using this knowledge he realized that if someone measured two different bones the odds would increase to one-sixteen. This grew into the measurement of eleven bones to increase the odds of any two adults having these same measurements being one-four million. This proved useful when it came time to identify repeat criminals, in France the police were easy on first offenders, who tried to hide their identity, through the use of hair dye and lying on information on their identity. They went so far as to create a “speaking portrait” which consisted of a photo and information about the criminal.
A witness’s testimony may not have always been correct, as was the case when mob justice was...

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