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Jacques Mesrine: Wikis



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Mugshot of Jacques Mesrine, taken on 9 March 1973.

Jacques Mesrine (French pronunciation: [meʀin], or more commonly but mistakenly [mɛsʀin]; 28 December 1936 – 2 November 1979) was a French criminal who was also briefly active in the United States and Canada.


Early events

Born Jacques Rene Mesrine in Clichy-la-Garenne, near Paris, on 28 December 1936. He studied at the prestigious Catholic school Collège de Juilly, but was expelled for his aggressive behavior. He was married at 19 years old (1955) to Lydia De Zouza in Clichy, they divorced in 1956 and he served in the French Army in during the Algerian War. In 1959 he returned to France and was married to Maria De La Soledad in 1961 in Paris.

Mesrine was arrested for the first time in 1962 when, with three accomplices, he attempted to rob a bank in Neubourg. By that time he had been a professional criminal for years. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and was released in 1963. He got a job in an architectural design company but was let go following a downsizing in 1964, and he returned to a life of crime.

In December 1965, Mesrine was arrested in the villa of the military governor in Palma de Majorca. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and later claimed that Spanish authorities believed he was working for French intelligence services.

Canary Islands, Canada, Venezuela

In 1966, Mesrine opened a restaurant in the Canary Islands but in December of the same year he robbed a jewelery store in Geneva and a hotel in Chamonix, and a Fashion store in Paris the year after.

In February 1968, he fled to Canada with his mistress Jeanne Schneider and worked briefly as a cook and chauffeur for Georges Deslaurier. On 26 June 1969, after unsuccessfully attempting to kidnap their employer, they fled to the USA. On 30 June Evelyne Le Bouthillier, an elderly lady who may have given them refuge, was found strangled. A couple of weeks later, on 16 July, they were arrested in Arkansas and extradited back to Canada.

Mesrine was sentenced to ten years in prison for the bungled kidnapping but escaped a few weeks later, only to be reapprehended the next day. Mesrine and Jeanne Schneider were acquitted of the murder of Bouthillier in 1971. Mesrine escaped again on the 21st August 1972 with five others from the famous Saint-Vincent-de-Paul prison. With accomplice Jean-Paul Mercier, a wanted French-Canadian murderer, Mesrine robbed a series of banks in Montreal, sometimes two in the same day. On 3 September, they failed in an attempt to help three others escape from the same prison (Saint-Vincent-de-Paul) but remained at large. A week later they murdered two forest rangers. They continued robbing banks in Montreal, and even sneaked into the USA again for a brief stay at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. By the end of the year they moved to Caracas, Venezuela with two mistresses in tow.

France again: "Public Enemy No. 1"

At the end of 1972, Mesrine was back in France and back robbing banks. In March 1973 he was arrested but, taking a judge hostage, he fled during sentencing, using a revolver hidden in the courthouse by an accomplice. Four months later, he was arrested again in his new Paris apartment. On 18 May 1977, Mesrine received a 20 year sentence and was sent to La Santé maximum security jail, where he wrote L'Instinct de Mort ("The Death Instinct"), an incomplete but detailed autobiography of sorts. He had it smuggled out and published. Almost a year later, on 8 May 1978, he escaped with three other convicts, although the police shot one of them. The escape became a scandal in France.

Mesrine travelled to Sicily, Algeria, London and Brussels, and back to Paris in November 1978, where he attempted to kidnap a judge, but failed.

Mesrine committed burglaries, jewelery shop and bank robberies, kidnappings, and arms smuggling. He also killed many people; he boasted about 39 murders in total. He was very good at disguising himself, earning himself the moniker "The Man of a Hundred Faces". Some claim that the French right-wing terrorist group OAS supplied him with false ID papers.[citation needed]

On 21 June 1979, Mesrine kidnapped millionaire real estate mogul Henri Lelièvre and received a ransom of 6 million francs. Mesrine had become "French Public Enemy Number One" (L'Ennemi Public Numéro Un).

Some of the press seem to have regarded him as a romantic rogue at the time. He even gave press interviews where he tried to convince people that his kidnapping and robberies were politically motivated. He was very concerned about his own publicity - he almost killed French journalist Jacques Tillier because he did not like his articles about him. Tillier was a former Directorate of Territorial Security policeman who wrote articles for the far-right newspaper 'Minute'.

In August 1979 The French Minister of the Interior had had enough and forced police departments to unify their efforts to track Mesrine down. They found out where he lived on 31 October, and waited for him to come out. Three days later on 2 November, he left his apartment with his girlfriend. At Porte de Clignancourt, on the outskirts of Paris, a truck loaded with armed policemen veered in front of his BMW and police sharpshooters shot 19 rounds through the windshield, killing Mesrine and seriously injuring his girlfriend.7 The ultimate fate of their small fluffy poodle has to this day never been ascertained.

French police announced the operation as a success and received congratulations from president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Afterwards there were complaints that Mesrine was not given any warning, that the police did not act in self-defense, and thus that Mesrine was assassinated by the police. His girlfriend who was injured in the attack, was also presumed innocent of any crime. This thesis was asserted in a book, La chasse à l'homme, written by the police chief of OCRB, Lucien Aimé-Blanc and the French journalist Jean-Michel Caradec'h.[1]

Mesrine never claimed to be a crime novelist but he did seek royalties for his book (L'instinct de Mort, originally published by Lattes editions in 1978. The book was republished in 1984 by Champ Libre Editions, and on 5 March that year the founder of Champ Libre, Gerard Lebovici, was shot in the head at the wheel of his car parked in an underground garage in Paris. Lebovici had adopted Sabrina Mesrine, Jacques' daughter, after he was shot. Curiously, in the '60s Gerard Lebovici had a talent agency which represented Jean-Pierre Cassel, father of Vincent Cassel, who plays the role of Mesrine in the 2008 movie "Public Enemy Number One". "L'instinct de Mort" was republished many times, translated into German (Der Todestrieb) and English (Killer Instinct). The story and life of Jacques Mesrine is in many ways similar to that of John Dillinger, the infamous American gangster from the early 1930's who robbed banks, escaped from prisons and was shot dead in public by police when leaving a Chicago theatre on 22 July 1934. John Dillinger's life story was also made into a movie with a similar name, Public Enemies, in 2009.

A book, "Ennemi Public Numero 1", published by Editions France-Europe and written by Jacques Nain, a French policeman who was part of the antigang group who caught and killed Mesrine, recounts the story from an eyewitness' perspective.

Pop culture references

Hard Rock-Punk ensemble Trust dedicated two tracks (Le Mitard and Instinct de Mort) to Mesrine on their 1980 album Repression. Punk Rock band The Blood also dedicated a track "Mesrine" off their 1983 Megalomania EP. A Quebec grindcore band is named Mesrine. [2]

Film depictions

A film about Mesrine, 'Mesrine', was released in 1984. It featured Nicolas Silberg in the title role and was written and directed by André Génovès.

A pair of movies, L'instinct de mort (English title: Killer Instinct) and L'ennemi public No. 1 (English title: Public Enemy No. 1), recounting Mesrine's career and starring Vincent Cassel as the lead character, was released in France in 2008 and in the U.K. in August 2009; the director was Jean-François Richet and the writer was Abdel Raouf Dafri. L'instinct de mort was based on the autobiography of the same name by Jacques Mesrine.


  1. ^ La chasse à l'homme. Lucien Aimé-Blanc, Jean-Michel Caradec'h. Plon Editor. 2006
  2. ^

3. L'Instinct de Mort, Editions Lattes, 1977(French)(First publishing) 4. Champ Libre Editions, 1984. (French) 5. Mesrine, Peguin Books, 1980.(English) 6. La traque de Jaques Mesrine, L'Enemi Public Numero 1, France-Europe Editions. (French) 7. L'instinct de Mort, Flammarion Quebec, 2008.(French)

External links

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 16, 2010

Unfortunately, we could not find any sentences from other sites similar to those above.

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