Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Aucamville Project 9.5: A resolution of sorts

The human forearm discovered two weeks ago in a wooded area near the chapel of Notre Dame de Boisville has been matched to its owner (see A gruesome discovery).

La Dépêche du Midi reports that the methodical search by gendarmes and military personnel yesterday has turned up a body.  The badly decomposed cadaver was found 500 meters away from the arm on a slope covered with dense underbrush.  A loaded pistol was at his side and a bullet was lodged in the skull.  The arm appeared to have been carried off by a wild animal, which the reporter adds parenthetically:  was "surely a fox."  How he knows that I'm not sure.

The identity of the man hasn't been released, but he is said to have been an 85 year-old who disappeared from Toulouse on the 28th of August, 2010.  He was known to have been depressed and  suicidal.  Before his disappearance he left a note:  "You will never find my body."  The only mystery left now is how he ended up in this relatively secluded spot.  Did he know the place?  How did he get here from Toulouse, 40 kilometers away?  Good questions.

This area has been inhabited since time immemorial, so it's no surprise this macabre story is not without precedent.

As I mentioned before, a religious hermit who had taken refuge in the chapel was murdered here by two brothers.  According to a monograph on the chapel in my possession, the chapel was guarded by a recluse by the name of Frère Paul, who lived from alms.  He had already been robbed of some money and two chickens when he was found murdered a few days before Easter, 1754, his body thrown into a ditch.

But there is a more recent and similar case.  In May, 1999, a group of schoolchildren and chaperons were doing Spring cleaning on the banks of the Garonne near this chapel and found....a human leg and part of its thigh.  And they were only looking for soda cans and other detritus.

It was never matched to a body.  The police speculated it had been washed down following the annual high waters of Spring resulting from the runoff caused by melting snow in the Pyrenees.  A week later all that could be said was that the person was between 1.69 and 1.76 meters tall, between 35 and 65 years old....and wore a size 44 shoe.  The leg was wearing a black one.

But it gets weirder.  Three months later, in Moissac, a spine, three ribs and strips of flesh were discovered near the river.  "WTF?" I ask.  The Dépêche noted at the time that "Nature regularly exhumes human remains.  Last May 29th a leg was discovered at Verdun.  The only certitude is that it was a man's leg.  Other than that, the coroner isn't able to give any more clues that might help investigators."  It furthermore noted that the leg had not been identified....I don't know about the Moissac remains.

That is definitely some weird shit.  I mean, a vertebral column?

And there is another story, this time in Aucamville proper.  Just across the road from where I live there is a handsome house which has been empty since I moved in, and is falling into disrepair.  It was a tavern named the "auberge de Tail."  The full story is a bit hazy, but apparently the owner Altobella Capelleri had "hired" a homeless guy by the name of Georges Haurdin.  Now, this guy was a bit slow and was subject to the worst abuse.  He was eventually beaten to death after having been kept like a slave for an unknown period of time.  During this period he was beaten regularly and also raped and filmed by a "family friend" on several occasions.  His body, however, was never found.  As the story goes he was beaten and left for dead by Capelleri herself.  She then had her husband and son bring the body to the pigs, then afterward to a well, where it lay rotting for 6 months.  Unhappy with the progress of decomposition, they retrieved the body, burnt it in the tavern's kitchen chimney and then disposed of the ashes in various trashcans in Toulouse.  (Full story here).

No wonder the house lays falling apart.  Cursed forever.

Although Capelleri concocted an elaborate tale of an "accident", a son from her first marriage testified to her sadism, which included burning his penis with a cigarette.  What horror for this poor boy and his siblings, revisited upon a hapless vagabond years later.  The exact date of the murder is unclear, however; sometime between October, 1993 and July, 2004.

People began thinking of this when the arm was discovered, despite the years separating the events.  In any event, Capolleri was sentenced to 20 years in prison last September.

So.  A dismembered forearm, a floating leg, flesh, ribs and spine....and then this horrifying tale.  Long-time readers of LoS will see many familiar themes here, but I'll leave that for you to ponder.


  1. Great article S., you'd make a great journalist in France for the states... Frantastic writing. How about you create an online enlgish paper in France, in Toulouse ? I'm sure it could work, such a large community of english speaking people.

  2. A paper already exists for France as a whole and there are some organizations in Toulouse for Anglophones, plus some Toulouse-based English-language blogs....might just be treading over well-trod ground. Plus, this is exactly where I want to be writing-wise. Putting out a paper, even online, is a full-time affair and would be difficult to live off. But no, basically I'm not interested in becoming more involved in the English-speaking community here. Aside from A, I have no American or English friends that I see regularly (outside of work that is). But thanks for the compliment though.

    On a note related to this post....you are aware of the Laëtitia Perrais case? Poor kid disappeared two weeks ago. As I was wrapping up this post the police had found parts of her dismembered body....in a pond. I'm not sure how well you know LoS, but the theme of disembodied limbs in water is long-running one, as is that of the association with gravesites and bodies with springs, rivers and ponds.

    Anyway, I thought of posting on it but the little historical/comparative mythology game seems a little crass at this point. I'm kind of making myself ill with all this horrible shit.

    Terrible business.

  3. In some twisted and diseased sense, I feel better about violence and American society.

  4. TD--Glad we're not the only country where sick bastards abound? I remember when I moved backed to Tampa at the tender age of 12 and was shocked not only by the frequncy of muders there but their gruesomeness: head floating in the Hillsborough River (Adam Walsh), body in a dumpster with the eyes gouged out, etc.

    Still, hearing about it here in France doesn't make me feel any better about anything sad to say.

    Saddest part of the story I mentioned in my last comment is that the killer's own family repeatedly warned the authorities that the guy was dangerous.

  5. Hey, sorry for the nearby horrors. Writing about current stuff can be troubling. LoS tends to use events as objects to toss about and consider from this framework and that ... which can feel inappropriate for events that are so recent and so horrible that public consensus holds the event in This One Exact Way. And probably rightly so; respect for living relatives and the recently deceased, for example, place a moral obligation on anyone commenting on such horrors.

    I don't say that as any sort of critique of your recent pieces, which I really enjoyed and which actually didn't do what I just described. More to say that this thought pops into my mind from time to time.

    About a day after I posted that pie piece, for example, I was suddenly horror-struck by this line: "Is it too much to suggest that as pie attacks and our culture have moved toward more extremes, it behooves our national leaders to duck quickly as the public's arsenal moves to ever less tasty tossings?"

    How could I not have seen this as a reference to the Arizona shooting? I surely didn't mean it that way; didn't have guns or Arizona in mind at all when I wrote that. But it sure does sound like I'm tap dancing around that event.

    I guess that when you get down to it, it's impossible not to be writing about the present when you're writing about the past. Recognizing and controlling for that is not easy.

  6. You know, for the pie thing, I actually did think you were referring to the Arizona shootings, and I didn't think it inappropriate at all. I guess it does address the issue with a bit of levity, but it somehow combines this with a serious comment on the state of affairs. The levity doesn't seem to take away from that, but makes it more readable by eliminating the annoying moralism one reads in other pieces about the event. (Moralism?)

    Humour and irony are valid forms of "serious" commentary I think. Of course it can easily be distasteful and even more easily be perceived as offensive, so you have to try and balance it I suppose.

    But occasionally I've written about stuff, like Ramoncito Gonzales or Georges Haurdin and mentioned Laëtitia Perrais and wonder why. It actually disturbs me quite a bit and I wonder wtf I'm doing. I guess to put things in perspective. Plus, these are powerful events and despite the very real "human" story, they resonate and call forth symbols and associations. I find it hard to resist the call!


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