Sinister Siblings: The Papin Sisters

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In early 20th century France, two young sisters capture the attention of the entire country after participating in a heinous double murder.  Did the women suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses or were they simply sick and tired of being sick and tired?  We’ll find out what the French courts decided but, if you’re like me, you may come to a different conclusion. 

The Papin Sisters and the murder case that still haunts France ...
Lea & Christine Papin

Christine and Lea Papin were sisters- born to Clemence Derre and Gustave Papin.  There was an older sister, Emilia, who was thought to have been conceived by way of an affair Clemence had with her employer.  When she got pregnant, Gustave and Clemence married.  Five months later, in March of 1902, Emilia was born.  Gustave became convinced the child wasn’t his.  The marriage went to hell, but Clemence sent Emilia away to a Catholic orphanage.  While there, Emilia found her calling and became a nun.

Christine was born in March of 1905.  Clemence sent her to live with her father’s sister and her husband, where she thrived for seven years.  From there, she was also sent to the Catholic orphanage.  When she decided to follow in her older sister’s footsteps her mother was having none of that.  See, in those days, a parent could place their children in employment and would receive the child’s pay leaving the kid with a small allowance.  This is what Clemence did with Christine and her next daughter, Lea who was born in September of 1911.  Lea was raised by her mother’s brother until his death.  Then she went- you guessed it- to the Catholic orphanage.

It seems like a horrible thing to do to your child, but there are reasons a parent would send their children away.  For instance, in the cases of the Papin children, Clemence may have been trying to protect them from their father.  Once the marriage between them began to breakdown, Gustave became a raging alcoholic.  It was also proven that he had molested Emilia.  So maybe Clemence was just a horrible parent, but it’s also possible she sent them away for noble reasons.

Christine and Lea had very different personalities, but both were hard workers.  Christine could be a bit mouthy while Lea was quiet and obedient.  Christine’s work ethic gave her a little sway with her employers and she would petition for her sister to come work with her.  In 1926, they found employment as live-in maids at the home of the Lancelin family: Rene, Leonie, and Genevieve.  

Leonie, the wife of Rene, was the woman of the house.  She was quite particular about the way she wanted her home to be cared for and she could be cruel when things weren’t up to her expectations.  Christine and Lea sometimes were abused if Leonie wasn’t satisfied with their performance.  This abuse got worse over the years because of Leonie’s deteriorating mental health.  

In 1933, shit finally hit the fan.  

On February 2, 1933, the Lancelin’s were planning to attend a dinner party.  Leonie and Genevieve went shopping to prepare for the evening.  Rene Lancelin would pick them up from home and they would travel to the friend’s home together.

When he returned as expected, he noticed that the house was completely dark.  He assumed that his wife and daughter had gone ahead to their friend’s house.  When he arrived to the party, he quickly noticed that they weren’t there.  Along with his son-in-law, Rene went back to the family home, which was still bathed in darkness except for the light in the maid’s quarters.  

The door was bolted from the inside- which was just as odd as the total darkness of the house.  The men galloped off to summon the police.  The officer who returned with them gained entry to the home via climbing a wall in the garden.  What he found was the stuff of nightmares.  I will attempt to describe the scene in detail without being gory.

The Lancelin women, Leonie and Genevieve, lay on the floor, pools of blood around them.  They had been victims of a gruesome bludgeoning and their eyes had been gouged from their heads.   The elder woman’s eyes were found in a scarf she had worn around her neck. She had also been stabbed a number of times, leaving her nearly unrecognizable.

Genevieve’s eyes were found in separate locations- one underneath her body and the other on the staircase.  Upon seeing the state of his family, Rene’s thoughts then turned to his maids.  The men were certain that another grisly scene awaited them, and they went throughout the home looking for the girls.

The policeman approached the door to their quarters and found it locked.  He knocked several times to no avail. Instead of just kicking the door in, he called a locksmith who arrived and opened the door.  There, the group was horrified to find the Papin sisters, naked and huddled together in bed.  On a chair in the room was a hammer- streaked in blood and the hair of the victims.  When asked if they had killed the Lancelin women, the sisters readily admitted they did.  And thus began what can only be described as the O.J. case of early 20th century France.

The murders- not only the HOW but also the WHY- captivated the entire country.  The Lancelin family employed these young women for 7 years.  What could have caused them to snap?  It turns out, the young ladies had just about had it with Mrs. Lancelin’s abuse.  

When Leonie and Genevieve were out shopping, Lea and Christine were doing their chores.  Christine went to plug in the iron and it knocked the power out.  The iron had a short in its plug.  Shortly afterward, the Lancelin women returned home to a dark house.  When the sisters explained what happened with the iron, it pissed Leonie off.  She attacked Christine, as she had done many times before, but this time was different.  Christine. Fought. Back.  

When it appeared Genevieve intended to step in, Lea attacked her.  They, for all intents and purposes, whipped the crap out of the mother and daughter.  And, this may have been a case of defending themselves had they just stopped at whipping their asses.  Unfortunately, this turned into a literal bloodbath.  With what I can only assume was years of pent up frustration, the girls unleashed their fury long after the Lancelin’s were dead.  It is presumed that the attack continued for at least two hours, with the sisters finding a multitude of weapons in the course of the murders.

The revelations of the events leading up to the killings split the community right down the class lines.  Some people believed the young ladies had lost their minds after years of abuse by Leonie Lancelin, others thought of the attack as cold-blooded murder.  Then there was the business of the Papin’s being found nude in bed together.  Was this some type of incestuous relationship?  Many of the citizens of LeMans couldn’t fathom why these girls would be naked- in bed- together.

Christine and Léa Papin - Wikipedia
The Papin Sisters

The rumors of an incestuous affair ramped up even more when Christine begged to see her sister.  When finally allowed to see her, Christine ran to Lea and ripped at her blouse screaming, “Please say yes!”  After being separated again, Christine had to be placed in a straight jacket after attempting to gouge her own eyes out.

Lea didn’t seem as disturbed about the separation as Christine, but she was the more timid of the two.  It was also thought that she was not as intelligent as her sister so Christine was extremely protective of her.

After being found guilty, the shy and naïve nature of Lea may have played in her favor during sentencing.  She received a ten-year sentence in prison.  On the other hand, Christine- who many believed to be the ringleader- received the death penalty.  Her sentence was later commuted to life in prison.  Life wouldn’t turn out to be long for Christine- being separated from her sister drove her insane.  She stopped eating, then was transferred to a mental institution.  She died May 18, 1937.

Lea served eight of her 10 years.  She was released from prison and reunited with her mother, Clemence.  They moved to a town called Nantes, where Lea took on an assumed name.  She supported herself by working as a maid in a hotel.

She lived a long life on the straight and narrow after serving her time.  She passed away in either 1982 or 2001- a filmmaker is certain he visited her in a nursing home in 2000.  The sisters had not been insane at the time of the murders according to their psychological exams, but modern psychologists believe they suffered from “Shared Paranoid Disorder”.  Also known as Folie a deux, shared paranoid disorder is an unusual mental disorder characterized by sharing a delusion among two or more people who are in a close relationship. We may want to keep that definition in our pocket for next week’s crime.

This is a really old case, and I am struggling to find a nugget of wisdom to take away from it all.  I’m stretching here, because I have no way of knowing if things would have turned out different if Leonie had treated those girls better.  I know the Papin sisters worked in several other homes and never killed the families.  The sisters only ever had each other.  Their mother kind of sucked, their dad definitely sucked.  They worked 14-hour days with a half-day off per week, so I’m going to imagine they didn’t have many friends.  In my opinion, this is cruel.  Perhaps there’s something to the idea that being of a lower station and regularly abused contributed to their delusions.  The moral of this story is possibly to treat others as you would like to be treated.  

That’s it, that’s all.

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Can’t wait to meet you here next week for more Sinister Siblings but until then- wash your hands

And stay outta the shadows.

Peace.

Sources & Shit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_and_L%C3%A9a_Papin

https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/shared-psychotic-disorder

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/05/12/the-papin-sisters-and-the-murder-case-that-still-haunts-france-after-more-than-80-years/

Sinister Siblings: Robert & Anthony Rowlingson

Teacher imprisoned | Warwick Daily News

Cain and Abel.

Esau and Jacob.

There are several tales, both ancient and modern, which spoke of sibling rivalry that turned deadly. Today’s story details how one such situation shocked a family and community to their core.

The family at the center of our story lived in Pittsworth, a rural town in Queensland, Australia.  They were the Rowlingson’s- John and Wendell, with their three children-one daughter and two sons.  

Pittsworth had a very small and close-knit population in 2007- in fact, as far as I can gather, there were only three homicides reported in the entire Darling Downs district where the town is located.  

This will make what we learn occurred on July 15, 2007, even more unbelievable.

The Rowlingson family lived on a farm in Pittsworth.  Robert was the older of the two sons.  His many friends described him as popular and outgoing.  He was an outdoorsman who loved rugby. 

KILLER TEENS: No motive for brother's execution | Northern Star
Robert Rowlingson

As it sometimes is, Anthony was quite the opposite of his brother.  He was rather introverted and withdrawn.  He and his brother weren’t particularly close.  Robert had a robust social life, but Anthony was more of a homebody.  In fact, he wasn’t close to anyone except his favorite teacher and mentor, Graeme McNeil.  While a lot of alarm bells go off in retrospect- why does this kid spend so much time with his teacher?- I can almost understand why the parents didn’t put an end to this questionable relationship.  Their youngest son was lonely and misunderstood by his peers.  Mr. McNeil was a trusted educator and showed an interest in Anthony- what could possibly go wrong?

Inside Story: Anthony Rowlingson's brutal murder of older brother ...

It turns out, lots.  See, the harmless teacher had some pretty radical ideas.  He shared his ideologies with the young boy.  Was he recruiting him?  Anthony already entertained dark thoughts- it’s said that he fantasized about hurting people.  He had a rather morbid fascination with the Columbine massacre.  This led to him making a “hit list” that included students from his school.  He was entertaining killing them all- including his brother’s friends.

You’re probably wondering what kind of evil thoughts Mr. McNeil could have shared with Anthony.  I’m glad you asked!  Apparently, by day he was a teacher, but off the clock, he became one of the evilest motherfuckers in the world.  Mr. Graeme McNeil was a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan- which I had no idea was a thing in Australia.  

Inside Story: Anthony Rowlingson's brutal murder of older brother ...
Graeme McNeil- KKK teacher

Aside from the Ku Klux Klan in Canada, there have been various attempts to organize KKK chapters outside the United States.

In Australia in the late 1990s, former One Nation member Peter Coleman established branches throughout the country,[243][244] and circa 2012 the KKK has attempted to infiltrate other political parties such as Australia First.[245]

It has also reported recruitment activity in the United Kingdom.[246]

In Germany, a KKK-related group (“Knights of the Fiery Cross”), was established in the 1920s. After the Nazis took over Germany, the group disbanded and its members joined the Nazis.[247] Another German KKK-related group, the European White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, organized and gained notoriety in 2012 when the German media reported that two police officers who held membership in the organization could keep their jobs.[248][249]

A Ku Klux Klan group was even established in Fiji in the early 1870s by white American settlers, although its operations were quickly put to an end by the British who, although not officially yet established as the major authority of Fiji, had played a leading role in establishing a new constitutional monarchy that was being threatened by the activities of the Fijian Klan.[250]

In São Paulo, Brazil, the website of a group called Imperial Klans of Brazil was shut down in 2003, and the group’s leader was arrested.[251]

Growing up in the US and Indiana, I always knew the Klan was “too close for comfort”, but I was not aware of the reach this shitty group had.  You learn something new every day.  

After some time, this secret life of McNeil hit Robert’s radar.  Being an inclusive and upright young man, he made it clear to his brother that he would report what he knew to administrators.  This is presumably what set the events of July 15, 2007, into motion.

The Sunday began with the elder Rowlingson’s at church, Robert at a rugby match, and Anthony at home.  After his match, Robert returned home to work on his car.  As he looked under the hood, Anthony quietly crept up behind him.  He brought with him his father’s .243 rifle he had taken from a gun safe inside the house. He raised the weapon and pulled the trigger.  The shot knocked his older brother to the ground.  What happened next is heartbreaking to think about:  Anthony stood over his own brother and shot him in the head.  

The next thing on Anthony’s murderous agenda was disposing of the body- his brother’s body.  He got the family’s forklift, using it to place Robert in the trunk of the very car he was working on at his time of death. He then drove around thinking of a site to dump the body.  Upon realizing he might need help, he drove to the only person he could count on- Mr. McNeil.

No one else really knows how the conversation between them went, but it ended with the responsible Mr. McNeil packing Anthony in his car and taking him directly to the police.

Actually, he didn’t.  Remember? Grand Pooba of the KKK? This was his opportunity to prove he was about that life.  With that, Anthony and Mr. McNeil dumped Robert Rowlingson, aged 19, off a bridge near Clifton.  They left his vehicle and Mr. McNeil took the emotionless Anthony home.  

Thank goodness he had remembered to cover up evidence of the murder!  Before dumping his brother over the bridge, he covered the blood with dirt. His mom and dad beat him home and they’re looking for Robert.  He told them he didn’t know where he was.  The parents weren’t too worried at that moment because Robert was a social butterfly.  It wasn’t odd for him to be out- they just knew he was supposed to be working on his car.  Had he changed his mind and decided it could wait?  That is the assumption his parents probably went with at the time.  

Unfortunately, you and I know what happened to Robert.  Now, his parents got their first inkling that something sinister was afoot.  The police had just located Robert’s car.  There were signs of foul play found at the scene.  

KILLER TEENS: No motive for brother's execution | Chronicle

Sunday, July 15, had started, for this family, like any other Sunday.  Sadly, after this Sunday, nothing about life would ever be the same.  Every murder investigation usually starts the same- work from the inside out. Always begin with the closest person or people to the victim.  The police talked to the shocked and grieving parents first.  Mr. Rowlingson answered all of their questions and explained that he did not understand who would want to hurt their son.  Had his wife Wendell answered that question, the response would have been different.  She had an idea of who hurt Robert, but she hoped it wasn’t true.

The police next spoke to Anthony.  He claimed that he hadn’t seen his brother.  After continuing their investigation by speaking to Robert’s friends, they swung back around to Anthony.  He was the only known person who would want to get rid of his brother.  Maybe Robert reminded him of all the things he was not.  Maybe he was consumed by jealousy.  It’s also quite possible that he was just an evil mother fucker.  Everyone pointed back to him as the culprit.

When the police talked to him two days later, they came at him from the angle of knowing he was involved in his brother’s disappearance and death.  Anthony found it funny when they attempted to appeal to his love of his parents as a reason to disclose the location of the body.  He denied and denied until one time he didn’t.

That’s right- he eventually confessed to brutally murdering his brother.  He asked that the police destroy a laptop with evidence of Mr. McNeil’s KKK activities.  Once they agreed he told them where he threw Robert over the bridge.  

Anthony was arrested, leaving his parents reeling.  In three days, they had, in essence, lost two sons.  Sadly, they never got a motive for the murder.  It has been argued that Anthony was attempting to protect Graeme McNeil, but evidence existed that proved the plot to kill Robert began before he found out McNeil’s secret.  The Rowlingson’s  also found out about Anthony’s other murderous plans.  Anthony was sentenced to life in prison.  He is eligible for parole in 2022.  

In 2010, McNeil pleaded guilty to accessory to murder after the fact.  He received an eight-year sentence but was eligible for parole after three years.

Klan connection proves pure hype | Chronicle

In 2013, he was released from prison.  The town wasn’t happy about this, and many were afraid that because of his extreme beliefs, he was still a danger to their community.

I think the biggest threat to the community is still in prison.  If 2020 doesn’t kill us all, he can be out in two years.  

What can we learn from this story?

  • Teacher student relationships
  • Withdrawn kids may need help
  • Be nosy!!

Sources & Shit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

https://culteducation.com/group/1015-ku-klux-klan/12014-reverend-advised-at-risk-teens-and-hid-secret-life-as-kkk-chaplain.html

https://www.news.com.au/national/crime/the-disturbed-teen-who-killed-his-older-brother-to-protect-his-beloved-teacher-a-local-kkk-leader/news-story/499368331c7437e5cca5e9bcd746e579

https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-chronicle-8992/20190916/281539407660432