War in the West

Murder on the Métro

In the years leading up to the Second World War, France was riven by political division as extremes of left and right vied for power. Annette Finley-Croswhite and Gayle K. Brunelle tell the tragic and mysterious story of Laetitia Toureaux, a young woman swept up in the violent passions of the time.

At around 6pm on a Sunday afternoon in May 1937 an attractive young woman with newly coiffed blond hair, wearing a finely tailored green suit, white hat and gloves, left a bal musette, or dancehall, in a working-class suburb of Paris near the Charente River and the Bois de Vincennes. She told a friend, Pierrette Marnef, that she was late for an appointment and headed off briskly towards a bus stop. 

Approximately 24 minutes later she stepped off the bus and entered a métro station, the Porte de Charenton, where she boarded a first-class carriage bound for central Paris. Although the platform and the second-class carriages were full of holidaymakers, who had spent Pentecost Sunday at the Parc de Vincennes, Laetitia Nourrissat Toureaux sat alone; in Depression-era France few travellers could afford the cost of a first-class ticket. The train departed at 18:27 and about a minute later arrived at the Porte Dorée station where six passengers entered in two groups of three from doors at opposite ends of the first-class carriage. Inside they spied Toureaux sitting alone near a window. One of the passengers, a young French woman travelling with two English friends, approached Laetitia to ask whether she could open a window to let some air into the stuffy carriage. Rather than answering, Toureaux slumped forward and slid motionless to the floor, an eight-inch dagger in her neck. 

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