“Death follows me wherever I go”
Born in 1803 at Morbihan, Brittany, Helene Jegado was orphaned at seven and began working as a servant, albeit not a very good one. She often stole from her employers and was a bad cook. Her employers often had a bad habit of dying. When one died, Jegado would go into a convent until the fuss died down.
On 16 September 1850 she went to work for Theophile Bidard, a professor of law at the University of Rennes. After a short while, Rose Tessier, another servant, fell ill and died. Jegado appeared grief stricken and thus escaped any suspicion. Then Rosalie Sarrazin was hired and she became a close friend of Jegado, although Professor Bidard warned her not to become too close to the older woman. The two women stayed friends until Rosalie was promoted to work on the accounts and Jegado became jealous. Rosalie soon fell ill and died at 7am on 1 July 1851. Later that day, two doctors, Pinault and Boudin, concerned at the death, went to the office of the Procureur-General in the City of Rennes. An official and the two medical men went to Professor Bidard’s home where Hélène Jegado greeted them and took them to the study where they were quickly joined by the professor. Jegado waited by the door.
The Procureur said, “We have come on a rather painful mission. One of your servants died recently — it is suspected of poisoning.” “I am innocent!” The exclamation came from the servant. “Innocent of what?” asked the Procureur. “No one has accused you of anything!” The remark led to her arrest and an investigation revealed the trail of deaths in the houses in which she had worked over the previous 18 years. From 28 June until 3 October 1833 she had worked in a priest’s house and seven people had died, including Jegado’s sister, the priest and his father and mother.
Between 1833 and 1841 Jegado’s presence had been accompanied by 23 deaths, six illnesses, and numerous thefts. She said, “I’m afraid that people will accuse me of all those deaths. Death follows me wherever I go.”
1833 — Tuesday 1 July 1851
Under examination by the Juge d’instruction at Rennes, Jegado denied all knowledge of the poison. “I don’t know anything about arsenic – don’t know what it is. No witness can say I ever had any.” Helene Jegado was charged with three murders, 11 thefts and three attempted murders. The trial began on 6 December 1851. After deliberating for 90 minutes the jury returned a guilty verdict. Jegado was guillotined in front of a large crowd on 26 February 1852.