The Murder of Jean De Koven Part 1

About the murder of Jean De Koven which led to a series of a murders and a hunt for the true killer.


The Murder: All young women, in murder stories, are inevitably classified as beautiful. Jean De Koven was beautiful. She was a professional dancer. Chaperoned by her aunt, Miss Ida Sackheim, of Brooklyn, she came to Paris on a vacation. She visited the Louvre, the Folies, the Cafe de la Paix. At 5:20 in the afternoon, on July 23, 1937, she returned to Le Studio Hotel on the Left Bank, after a day of sight-seeing. She changed into a blue dress and patent leather shoes. Leaving, she told the elevator man to tell her aunt she'd be back by 8 o'clock that night. "I have no time to leave her a note," she called back. "Somebody is waiting for me." As it turned out--Death was waiting for her.

When she did not return, her aunt went to the police. They laughed. They said the girl was probably having a love affair. When the 1st ransom note came, demanding $500 and warning Miss Sackheim not to go to the police ("or we will stop all negotiations and she will be taken for a ride, you know how the gangsters of Chikago operate"), Miss Sackheim rushed to the police again. They called it a publicity stunt this time. But 15 days later--after $240 worth of Jean De Koven's American Express traveler's checks had been cashed, with her signature miserably forged on all of them--the police knew it was not a publicity stunt.

The Hunt: M. Primborgne, a young Surete wizard, was assigned to the case. By this time, Jean De Koven's brother Henry had arrived from New York, and he offered a 10,000-franc reward. Governor Lehman of New York had asked the FBI to enter into the affair. But the FBI was not necessary. Primborgne, of the Surete, pulled off one of the most brilliant hunts in recent decades.

Shortly after Jean De Koven's disappearance, a series of bodies began turning up, all showing evidence of brutal murder--a chauffeur named Josef Cauffy, a Strasbourg cook named Jeanine Keller, a press agent named Roger Leblond, a realtor named Raymond Lesobre, a student named Fritz Frommer. Evidence convinced Primborgne that one person had murdered all of these--and Jean De Koven. Primborgne spun his web. Clues were few, but he made each one tell. There were leaves on the shoes of one corpse. The leaves were traced to Saint Cloud forest, just outside Paris. A blood-stained visiting card was found near one of the bodies. This was traced to a traveling salesman who had a nephew who had spoken of lunching with an ex-convict from Saarbrucken.

In the end, the finger pointed at Eugen Weidman, who had served 16 years for theft; who was charming and handsome; who spoke German, French, English, Portuguese. The Surete went to his bungalow, located outside Paris, to arrest him. He submitted, tricked them, pulled a Mauser, fired 3 times. The Surete men wrestled him down, slugged him unconscious with a hammer. Later, it came out, he had fired as a signal so that someone else in the house could escape.

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