True Crime Leon Peltzer and the Great Alibi Part 1

About the brothers Leon and Armand Peltzer, their biography, history, the murder they undertook and their famous alibi.

THE PELTZER CASE (1882)

The Murder: Armand Peltzer was an engineer in Antwerp, Belgium, who would become renowned in the annals of true criminal escapades for having conceived the most ingenious scheme in modern history for getting away with murder.

The amorous Armand Peltzer had been smitten by the wife of another. He had fallen passionately in love with Julie Bernays, young wife of a gross and insensitive Belgian attorney named Guillaume Bernays. Peltzer determined to eliminate Bernays, thereby making Bernays's wife a widow who would be free to marry him. But in order to inherit Julie, Peltzer knew that his crime must be perfect. Thereafter, he devoted himself to inventing various means by which he might kill and survive, and eventually he became the architect of an alibi unequaled in criminal lore.

Armand Peltzer had a younger brother, Leon, who was deeply indebted to him. It was time, Armand decided, to call for repayment. Leon, after some financial indiscretions in Argentina, was living under an assumed name in New York where he worked as a linen goods salesman. Peltzer now contacted Leon, summoning him to come posthaste to a meeting in Paris. On November 1, 1881, the blond Leon boarded the passenger ship Arizona in New York and sailed for Europe.

The Peltzer brothers met in Paris on November 16, and Armand explained his scheme to Leon. If Leon carried out the scheme, Armand said, he would have redeemed himself and adequately paid back his long indebtedness. Leon listened closely and then readily agreed to cooperate. The basic ingredient of the plot was simple and foolproof. The crime would be committed by a person who did not exist. Therefore, after the murder, the police would have no one to look for.

Immediately, in Paris, the plot got under way. Leon changed his appearance, complexion, dress, and took on the guise of one Henry Vaughan, a millionaire preparing to establish a fleet of ships crossing from Amsterdam to Sydney. Having converted himself into the fictitious Henry Vaughan, tycoon, Leon visited Bremen, Amsterdam, Brussels, working out of the most expensive hotels, becoming known to the foremost navigation firms.

Finally, Leon wrote Guillaume Bernays--under the signature of the fictional Vaughan--explaining that British friends had recommended Bernays as an attorney who might represent the new steamship line in Brussels. Next, Leon summoned Bernays from Antwerp to Brussels to talk business, and with delight Bernays kept the appointment. Leon, now a bewhiskered and bespectacled dandy, admitted Bernays to his flat, and led him to a chair. Then, Leon drew out a noiseless pistol and shot Bernays dead through the back of the head. The murder had been neatly accomplished.

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