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Lucien LEGER






A.K.A.: "The strangler"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Mutilation
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 26, 1964
Date of arrest: July 5, 1964
Date of birth: March 30, 1937
Victim profile: Jean-Luc Taron, aged 11
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Paris, France
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on May 7, 1966. Released on October 3, 2005. Died on July 16,  2008

photo gallery


Un Bonjour de L'Etrangleur

Friday, Jun. 19, 1964

A man and a boy stood deep within the Bois de Verrières just south of Paris. Above the boy's head, a giant oak reared away into the predawn darkness. "Tell me," he asked the man, "are there wolves here?" The man placed a reassuring hand on the nape of the boy's neck. "No, my little Luc, there are no wolves." Slowly the man's hand tightened . . .

The body of Jean-Luc Taron, aged 11, was found face down beneath the oak tree at 5:30 on the morning of May 27. The back of the neck was severely bruised, and the boy's nostrils were filled with loam, indicating that the murderer had used the soft forest floor for two purposes: to smother the cries of his victim, and to bring about death by suffocation.

To Chief Inspector Jean Samson of Paris' First Mobile Brigade, it appeared to be one of those senseless, psychotic murders committed by a madman who quickly gives himself away or else fades into the anonymity of the city and is never caught. But within a day of Jean-Luc Taron's murder, the case took a bizarre turn, and before the week was out Paris had been half-hypnotized with horror. For Jean-Luc's killer was a brazen publicity seeker, who taunted the cops and the newspapers with a barrage of telephone calls, special-delivery letters and threats of another child murder unless he was immediately paid $100,000 in advance ransom.

Developing Image.

To convince Chief Inspector Samson that he was indeed I'ètrangleur (the strangler), the criminal filled his various messages with details that only the murderer could have known. Jean-Luc had told him, the killer reported, how he had run away from home after lifting 15 francs from his mother's purse. He was tired of doing his homework (his last assignment: to conjugate the verb rire, to laugh), and when he left his parents' house on Paris' middle-class Rue de Naples, he was wearing a tan corduroy jacket and carrying a Bugs Bunny comic book. He had a spot of mercurochrome on one leg ("I can no longer remember which," the killer apologized in a phone call to Agence France-Presse). The boy's jacket, added the strangler, could be found along highway N306 "just before Chatillon going toward Paris." (It was.) The most convincing touch was the dialogue concerning Jean-Luc's fear of wolves. Said Jean-Luc's businessman father, "Each time my boy entered a wood, he asked that question."

Doling out "exclusives" to the Paris newspapers, the killer evidently took pleasure in watching his image develop. He modestly acknowledged the description that handwriting experts had built up from his messages: "I do come from a well-educated background (my father was a high civil servant), and I do not lack intelligence." To Paris-Presse he sent a sketch of the murder scene that showed the killer ("me") and the boy ("him") in the exact positions Inspector Samson had calculated. An accompanying note said: "Expect another dramatic development." It came when a grey-haired man in his 40s, dressed as a worker, handed Jean-Luc's Bugs Bunny comic book to a ticket puncher in the Porte de Clignancourt Metro station, then jumped on a train and disappeared.

Ransom or Death.

With every passing day, the strangler gave Inspector Samson a few more clues. Soon hundreds of cops were checking the route taken by the killer after he picked up Jean-Luc near his home, hoping to find eyewitnesses. Other investigators searched the 15th arrondissement, where the killer said he lived, and stopped drivers of Citroen DS 19s, which the killer said he drove. Meanwhile, Jean-Luc's father scanned photographs taken at the boy's funeral, which the killer said he had attended ("but I wasn't crazy enough to show myself"). By week's end—fully 18 days, 26 messages and 13 phone calls after the murder—the killer was still at large. The press blamed police for being unable to follow up the many clues, impatiently demanded an arrest.

And the messages continued to pour in: "It is because I need money that I killed without pity, and I will kill again. Now I am waiting for the opportunity to snatch my next little child and to receive the ransom money. Afterward, you will no longer hear about me. Remember: ransom or death. Un bonjour de I'ètrangleur [Good day from the strangler]."


The Killer of Little Luc

Friday, Jul. 17, 1964

Leaping from four police cars in a Versailles square last week, a wedge of cops hustled their handcuffed prisoner toward the doors of St. Pierre jail. Before they could make it, a screaming mob burst through police lines and pelted the prisoner with blows. "Give him to us!" they cried. "Kill the monster!" Their target was the confessed killer of little Jean-Luc Taron (TIME, June 19), and he seemed elated at the commotion. Turning to the flics, he yelled above the uproar: "They're right! 1 am a monster!"

In truth, Lucien Leger, 27, looked disappointingly unlike most Parisians' spine-tingling image of I'etrangleur, the Jekyll-and-Hyde strangler who had hogged the headlines and taunted the police for 40 days. "The Machiavelli of crime," as France-Soir had dubbed him, turned out to be a colorless, bespectacled little (5 ft. 4 in., 130 Ibs.) male student nurse from the shabby suburb of Villejuif. His hobby was writing banal verse, which he set to borrowed music; he even paid to have his songs recorded and issued in a jacket flatteringly decorated with his face and name.

Trapped by the last bizarre stunt in his succession of bragging phone calls and letters to the police and press, Le´ger sat chatting with detectives at police headquarters as a squad from the Suûr-eteÚ's First Mobile Brigade searched his apartment; in it they found the lined rose-tinted pad on which all 58 of the strangler's messages had been written. After 24 hours of grilling, LeÚger burst into tears and admitted: "Oui, je suis bien I'assassin du petit Luc." He was drawn to the little boy, he explained, because "he seemed as unhappy as I was when I was his age."


Principal facts

April 11, 2006

Lucien Léger is a 69-year-old French national who lives in Landas (France).

In July 1964 he was arrested and charged with the abduction and murder of Luc Taron, an 11-year-old boy. He made a confession while in police custody but retracted it several months later. He has protested his innocence ever since.

In a judgment of 7 May 1966, the Seine-et-Oise Assize Court found the applicant guilty of the offences charged and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He made unsuccessful applications in 1971 and 1974 for a retrial.

He became eligible for parole on 5 July 1979 after 15 years in prison. Between 1985 and 1998 Mr Léger made numerous applications for release, all of which were refused. In addition, he made several unsuccessful applications for a presidential pardon.

In 1999 he again requested his release on licence. Despite a favourable opinion by the Sentence Enforcement Board, his request was turned down by the Minister of Justice.

In January 2001 the applicant made a further application for release. He again submitted that friends had offered to accommodate him on his release in an outbuilding at their home and to give him work in their bakery. The Sentence Enforcement Board issued a unanimous opinion in favour of his release on licence and the applicant’s probation and rehabilitation officer also strongly recommended that he be released.

Despite that, the Douai Regional Parole Court rejected the request on 6 July 2001 on the grounds that the applicant continued to deny that he had committed the offence of which he had been convicted, that the experts could not exclude the possibility that he was still dangerous and might re-offend and would not be able to do so unless he underwent a course of psychiatric treatment, and that as the applicant had no intention of following such a programme it was not clear that he was making “serious efforts to ensure his social rehabilitation”. That decision was upheld on appeal on 23 November 2001 by the National Parole Court on the grounds that the applicant’s planned rehabilitation had been put in doubt by the intervening bankruptcy of the person who had offered to put him up and give him work and that he was unwilling to seek counselling even though he presented paranoid tendencies.

In January 2005 the applicant again submitted a request for his release on licence, which the prison authorities supported but which was opposed by the public prosecutor, who pleaded in particular the risk that he might re-offend. The court responsible for the execution of sentence ruled that his conduct no longer stood in the way of his release and that the risk of his re-offending had dwindled almost to nothing. It accordingly granted him release on licence. In addition to the classic requirements relating to his place of residence and his contacts with the judge responsible for the execution of sentence, the applicant had to accept specific conditions, such as the obligations to submit to medical examinations and treatment, not to distribute any publication or audiovisual work produced or co-produced by himself covering, in whole or in part, the offence committed, and to refrain from any public comment on the offence.

Consequently, Mr Léger was released on licence on 3 October 2005, after spending more than 41 years in prison.



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