Murder by organoarsenicals is rare, but Dr. Pierre
Bougrat attained notoriety during the 1920s when he was convicted of
murdering a close friend Jacques Rumèbe by injections of salvarsan.
The doctor had already achieved fame in France
because he was awarded both the Military Cross and the Legion of Honour
After the war, Bougrat set up practice in Marseille,
where he showed great empathy for the down and out, the prostitutes,
pimps and drug traffickers, often providing his services without charge.
He was also a playboy who loed women and spent lavishly.
One of his patients was Jacques Rumèbe who was
afflicted with syphilis and was being treated with salvarsan. The
preparation of the drug prior to injection required that the doctor take
One day, Rumèbe, a few hours after having received
his treatment from Bougrat, returned in a panic from a drunken visit to
a brothel claiming to have lost his satchel, wich was full of money.
Feeling sick, he asked his friend to go back to where he had been and
try to find the money. Bougrat did as asked but when he returned empty-handed
he found his friend dead.
Bougrat declared at the time of the investigation,
that he panicked, thinking that he would be accused of stealing the
satchel and killing his friend to cover the crime. So he hid the body in
a cupboard in order to give himself time to think.
By coincidence, that same day the police arrived to
arrest Bougrat for passing rubber checks to cover his gamblings debts
and they discovered the body of Rumèbe.
The doctor was charged, found guilty of murder by a
vote of six to five, and condemned to death. The sentence was commuted
to 25 years of hard labour because of his war service and because no one
decorated with the Legion of Honour could go to the scaffold.
Bougrat arrived at the remote French penal colony in
the Bay of Cayenne at the end of 1926, and was immediately appreciated
for his medical skills.
After six months' incarceration he became one of the
few to escape the institution and live to tell about it. He eventually
arrived in Iripa, Venezuela, in the middle of an epidemic, where he
tended to the population with much skill and devotion. The authorities
turned a blid eye to his situation and he continued to practice there
until his death in 1936.
Is arsenic an aphrodisiac?:
the sociochemistry of an element, by William R. Cullen