Christine and Lea Papin, murderers allegedly involved in an incestuous relationship with each other. Christine was born in March, 1905, her sister Lea in September, 1911. The two spent their early lives in a town near Le Mans, France. They became maids, working together whenever possible. The sisters were known to be quiet and kept to themselves.
In 1926 Christine and Lea started working for Monsieur Rene Lancelin, a retired lawyer, his wife and adult daughter in Rue Bruyere, Le Mans. There was also a second married daughter.
On the evening of February 2, 1933, Lancelin made plans to meet his wife and daughter for dinner at a friend’s home. As the women were late in arriving, he went home to check on them. When he reached his home only candle light could be seen from the maid’s bedroom. The front door was locked from the inside. Baffled, Lancelin went to the police, who gained access to the home where the badly beaten, mutilated bodies of Madame Lancelin and her daughter were found.
The two victims were unrecognizable because of the blows they suffered. Madame Lancelin’s eyes had been removed and placed in a scarf tied around her own neck. Christine and Lea were discovered naked in their bedroom. The two girls, 28 and 22, admitted to the killings.
The offenders were separated and taken to the police station. This estrangement extremely distressed the two girls. When the police allowed them to see each other briefly, Christine took her sister into her arms and spoke to her as a lover.
In July, Christine tried to harm herself and was placed in a straight jacket. She later told the police she had had a similar outburst the day of the murders, thinking it would explain her actions.
The sisters’ trial began in September, 1933. Weapons were identified as a kitchen knife, a hammer and a pewter pot. As a motive for the heinous crime the girls said that an argument had taken place among Christine, Madame Lancelin, and her daughter, which Lea joined to help her sister. Christine admitted to shouting “Tear her eyes out” Both women, indeed, had injuries to their eyes.
It was ascertained by a professional that Christine was the controlling personality in the girls’ relationship. Not being a well-educated woman, Lea wastotally and completely dependant on her sister. Research revealed that their family had a history of mental illness.
Christine was found guilty and sentenced to death. Lea was found guilty but only given ten years as it was thought that once she was separated from her sister’s control, she would no longer be influenced by her. Christine was not executed but imprisoned for life. While in prison and desperately missing her sister, Christine grew exceedingly depressed. The prison moved the ill woman to a mental institute where on May 18, 1937, Christine died from Cachexia, a bodily wasting away often associated with a debilitating disease like cancer or tuberculosis.
Lea spent eight years in prison, then went to live with her mother in Nantes. She again worked as a maid using a false name. There is confusion about her death, with some asserting that she died in 1982.
Claud Ventura, director of the film En Quete des Soeors Papin: In Search of the Papin Sisters, stated that he had discovered Lea in a hospice. She was alive but paralyzed by a stroke and unable to speak. Although the woman appeared as Lea Papin in his film, Lea’s true identity was never made certain.