« ForrigeFortsæt »
this deposition, this witness produced his billet-de-garde, dated the Sth. The workmen who were employed on the apartments Lesurques was about to occupy, deposed that they had seen him several times in the course of the 8th and 9th.
The jeweller Legrand, to corroborate his testimony, had stated that on the day, the 8th Floreal (27th April), he had before dinner made an exchange with Aldenof, or, at anyrate, that it was mentioned in his book on that day. He proposed that his book should be brought. It was examined in court, and discovered that the 9th had been clumsily scratched out, and the 8th substituted. This at once changed the favourable impression which had been produced in favour of the prisoner, and the witness was ordered into custody. He then lost all presence of mind, and owned that he was not certain of having seen Lesurques on that day, but that, feeling convinced of his innocence, he had altered his register to corroborate his own testimony This circumstance produced the most unfavourable effect on the judges ; but in spite of the dark complexion of his case, Lesurques continued to maintain his innocence.
The discussions and examinations were closed, and the jury had retired to deliberate. At this moment a woman, in a violent state of excitement, called aloud from the midst of the crowd in the court for leave to speak to the president. She was, she said, urged by the voice of conscience to save the tribunal from committing a dreadful crime. On being placed before the judge, she declared that Lesurques was innocent ; that the witnesses had mistaken him for a man of the name of Dubosq, to whom he bore an extraordinary resemblance. This woman was Madeleine Breban, the mistress of Couriol, and the confidante of his most secret thoughts; who now abandoned him, and avowed her own guilt to save Lesurques.
Madeleine Breban's evidence was rejected, and the jury brought in their verdict, by which Couriol, Lesurques, and Bernard were condemned to death. Richard was sentenced to twenty-four years' labour in irons ; Guesno and Bruer were acquitted.
No sooner had sentence been pronounced, than Lesurques, rising calmly, and addressing his judges, said: 'I am innocent of the crime imputed to me. Ah ! citizens, if murder on the highway be atrocious, to execute an innocent man is not less a crime.' Couriol then rose, and exclaimed: 'I am guilty ; I own my crime; but Lesurques is innocent; and Bernard did not participate in the assassination !! He repeated these words four times, and on returning to his prison, wrote a letter to his judges, full of anguish and repentance, in which was this passage : 'I never knew Lesurques. My accomplices were Vidal, Rossi, Durochat, and Dubosq. The resemblance of Dubosq has deceived the witnesses.'
Madeleine Breban presented herself, after sentence had been
* At that period the sentence was part of the jury's verdict.
pronounced, to renew her declaration. Two parties attested that, before the condemnation of the prisoners, Madeleine had said to them that Lesurques had never had any connection with the guilty parties-that he was the victim of his fatal likeness to Dubosq. The declaration of Couriol caused some doubt in the minds of the judges. They immediately applied to the Directory for a reprieve, who, alarmed at the probability of an innocent man being executed, applied to the legislative assemblies; for all judicial means had been exhausted. The message of the Directory to the 'Five Hundred' was urgent. It requested a reprieve, and instructions on the subsequent steps to be taken. It concluded in these words—'Ought Lesurques to die on the scaffold because he resembles a criminal?'
The legislative body passed to the order of the day, considering that, as all legal forms had been fulfilled, a single case ought not to cause an infraction of forms previously settled ; and that to annul on such grounds the sentence legally pronounced by a jury would subvert all ideas of justice and of equality before the law !
The right of pardon had been abolished. Lesurques was left without help or hope. He bore his fate with firmness and resignation. On the day of his death he wrote to his wife the following letter : “My dear friend, we cannot avoid our fate. I shall, at any rate, endure it with the courage which becomes a man. I send some locks of my hair ; when my children are older, divide it with them. It is the only thing that I can leave them.'
In a letter of adieu addressed to his friends, he merely observed : “Truth has not been heard; I shall die the victim of mistake.'
He published in the newspapers the following letter to Dubosq, whose name had been revealed by Couriol : ‘Man, in whose place I am to die, be satisfied with the sacrifice of my life : if you be ever brought to justice, think of my three children, covered with shame, and of their mother's despair, and do not prolong the misfortunes of so fatal a resemblance.'
On the roth of March 1797, Lesurques went to the place of execution dressed completely in white, as a symbol of his innocence, with his shirt turned over his shoulders. The day was Holy Thursday (old style). He expressed his regret at not having to die the next day, the anniversary of the Passion. On the way from prison to the place of execution, Couriol, who was seated in the car beside him, cried in a loud voice, addressing himself to the people : 'I am guilty, but Lesurques is innocent!'
When he reached the scaffold, already red with the blood of Bernard, Lesurques gave himself up to the executioners, saying : ‘I pardon my judges; the witnesses, whose mistake has murdered me; and Legrand, who has not a little contributed to this judicial assassination. I die protesting my innocence.'
Many of the jury afterwards expressed their regret at having given credit to the witnesses from Mongeron and Lieursaint; and Citizen
Daubenton, the Juge de Paix, who had arrested Lesurques, and conducted the first proceedings, resolved to investigate the truth, which could only be satisfactorily effected through the arrest and trial of the four persons denounced by Couriol as his accomplices.
Two years elapsed without the conscientious magistrate being able, in spite of all his inquiries, to discover the slightest trace of the fugitives. At length, in examining the numerous warrants and registers of persons daily brought to his bureau, he discovered that Durochat, the individual whom Couriol had denounced as the one who had taken his place by the side of the courier, under the name of Laborde, had just been arrested for a robbery he had lately effected, and lodged in St Pelagie. At the time of Lesurques's trial, it had come out in evidence that several persons, amongst others an inspector of the post-mails, had preserved a perfect recollection of the pretended Laborde, having seen him when waiting for the mail.
Citizen Daubenton, by great exertion, secured the presence of the inspector in the court on the day of Durochat's trial. He was condemned to fourteen years' labour in chains; and as the gens-d'armes were conducting him to prison, the inspector recognised the prisoner as the same person who had travelled in the mail towards Lyon, under the name of Laborde, on the day on which the courier was assassinated.
Durochat made but feeble denials, and was reconducted to the Conciergerie, where Citizen Daubenton had him immediately detained, under a charge arising out of the proceedings against Couriol. The next morning the magistrate, assisted by Citizen Masson, an officer of the criminal tribunal, took means for transferring the prisoner to the prisons of Melun, where he arrived the same evening. After being examined early the next morning, it was found necessary to transfer him to Versailles, where he was to be tried. The magistrate and officer set out, followed by two gens-d'armes, to convey the prisoner to Versailles. On arriving at a village near Grosbois, he asked for breakfast; for he had eaten nothing since the preceding evening. The escort therefore stopped at the first inn, and Durochat then asked to speak with the Juge de Paix alone. The Juge having sent away the two gens-d'armes and the officer Masson, although the latter made signs to him that it was dangerous to remain alone with such a consummate villain, ordered breakfast for himself and Durochat. A table was placed between them ; the servant, acting under the orders of Masson, brought only one knife. Citizen Daubenton took it to open an egg, when Durochat, looking hard at him said : "Monsieur le Juge, you are afraid !' 'Of whom?' said Daubenton. 'Of me,' replied Durochat; 'you have armed yourself with a knife.' The Juge de Paix presented the knife to him by the handle, saying: “There, cut me some bread, and tell me what you know about the assassination of the courier.'
Durochat rose up from his seat, and laying down the knife, which
he had at first grasped menacingly, exclaimed : 'You are a brave fellow, citizen. I am a lost man-my time's up-but you shall know all!' He then related every particular of the murder, which completely agreed with the statements made by Couriol. He stated that Vidal had projected the affair, and had communicated it to him at a restaurant's in the Champs Elysées. The criminals were Couriol, Rossi, alias Beroldy, Vidal, himself, and Dubosq. Dubosq had forged for him the passport in the name of Laborde, by means of which he easily procured another for Lyon, to enable him to take his place in the mail. He had also lent the party 3000 francs in assignats. Bernard had supplied four horses for Couriol, Rossi, Vidal, and Dubosq. They had attacked the carriage as the postilion was slackening his pace to ascend a little hill. It was he (Durochat) who had stabbed the courier at the instant that Rossi cut down the postilion with a sabre; he had then given up his horse to him (Durochat), and had returned to Paris on that of the postilion. As soon as they arrived there, they all met at Dubosq's, Rue Croix-desPetits-Champs, where they proceeded to divide the booty. Bernard, who had only procured the horses, was there, and claimed his share, and got it. I have heard,' he added, that there was a fellow named Lesurques condemned for this business; but to tell the truth, I never knew the fellow either at the planning of the business, or at its execution, or at the division of the spoil. After the crime, i lodged with Vidal, Rue des Fontaines. I left there soon afterwards, on hearing of the arrest of Couriol. The porter at that house was named Perrier.'
The confession of Durochat was taken down in writing, and signed by him. The party then resumed their journey to Versailles, and on the prisoner's arrival there, he renewed it before one of the judges of the tribunal. "The magistrate,' says Citizen Daubenton,
present at this examination observed to Durochat that Lesurques had been sworn to as one of the party of four,' and also 'that he had silver spurs on his boots, which he had been seen to repair with thread, and that this spur had been found on the place where the mail had been attacked.' Durochat replied: 'It was Dubosq who had the silver spurs. The morning we divided the plunder, I remember hearing that he had broken one of the chains of his spurs; that he had mended it where he dined, and lost it in the scuffle. I saw in his hand the other spur, which he said he was going to throw into the mixen.' Durochat then described Dubosq, and added that on the day of the murder he wore a blonde wig.
Some days after the arrest of Durochat, Vidal, one of the other authors of the crime, was also arrested. Although all the witnesses swore to him as one of the party who had dined and played at billiards, he denied everything. Special proceedings were instituted against him, and he remained in the prisons of La Seine.
Durochat was condemned to death, and executed. He underwent
his fate with perfect indifference. Vidal was shut up in the principal prison of Seine and Oise, where the prosecution commenced in Paris was carried on.
Towards the end of the year 8 (1799–1800), four years after the assassination of the courier, Dubosq, having been arrested for a robbery in the department of Allier, where he had retired under a false name, was recognised in the prisons, brought to Paris, and thence to Versailles, to be tried at the same time as Vidal before the criminal tribunal. It was discovered, on searching the registers, that while very young he had been condemned to the galleys for life for stealing plate at the archbishop's of Besançon. He had afterwards escaped at the time of the revolutionary disturbances. Arrested in Paris for a second robbery, he had been again condemned, and had again escaped. Retaken at Rouen, he had once more succeeded in breaking loose ; and, arrested at Lyon, he had a fourth time broken from prison. This last escape occurred a few weeks before the attack on the mail and double murder in the forest of Lenart. Like Vidal, however, he denied everything.
Dubosq and Vidal, being both confined in the prison of Versailles, planned an escape, which they soon executed. After having climbed over the two first walls, and reached the top of the outside one, they had only to jump down twenty-five feet into the street. Vidal tried first, and succeeded; Dubosą broke his leg in the attempt, and was retaken. The Citizen Daubenton spared no pains to discover Vidal's retreat. He learned soon afterwards that he had been arrested at Lyon for new crimes. He was brought back to Versailles ; but in the meantime Dubosq had recovered from his fracture, and found means to break out of prison. Vidal was tried alone, condemned, and executed.
At length, in the latter part of the year 9 (1800-1801), Dubosq was again arrested, and immediately brought before the criminal tribunal of Versailles. The president had ordered a blonde wig to be placed on his head before the witnesses were called in. "The Citizen Perault, a member of the legislative assembly, and one of those who had seen the four cavaliers who had dined at Mongeron on the day of the murder of the courier, and who had recognised Lesurques as one of them, stated that there was a striking resemblance between Dubosq and Lesurques. The woman Alfroy, who had before sworn to Lesurques as one of the four, declared that she was mistaken in her evidence before the Tribunal de la Seine, and that she was now firmly convinced that it was not Lesurques but Dubosq that she had seen. To this evidence Dubosq replied by stubborn denials. It was proved that he was intimate with the guilty parties; indeed he could not deny it; and the declarations of Couriol, Durochat, and Madeleine Breban had great weight against him.
He was unanimously condemned, and was executed the 3d