As the Paris Metro train passed through a tunnel between stations, a brutal stabbing took place and a beautiful woman lay dead...
Her newly-coiffed hair was cut into a bob, styled into the neat finger curls that were all the rage at the time, and partially hidden under a white hat.
She wore a tailored green suit with pleated sleeves – similar to those worn by glamorous Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Vivien Leigh…
Her hands were covered by long white gloves. A handbag was tucked under her arm.
It was Sunday, 16 May 1937.
Laetitia Toureaux was every bit as elegant and as beautiful as the stars of the silver screen.
She’d spent the afternoon at the bal-musette, a type of cabaret and dance hall in a working-class Paris suburb.
Now, Laetitia was heading for the Metro and home.
Laetitia was 29. She’d been born in Italy, but had married a French man, Jules, and moved to Paris a few years earlier.
Soon afterwards, Jules had died and Laetitia had found herself on her own in a foreign country, far from her friends and family.
Worse, Jules had left her penniless.
It was up to Laetitia to get by as she could.
She took a job at a glue factory. During her time off, she started visiting the bal-musette.
There, she told people her name was Yolanda.
Sometimes, the men she met there would take her to hotels for sex. Sometimes, they’d do it in a nearby park.
But that Sunday evening, Laetitia was heading home via the Metro, or Paris underground. Line 8.
She boarded the train at a a station called Porte de Charenton.
The time was 6.27pm.
It took only 45 seconds, passing through a tunnel, to reach the next stop, Porte Dorée.
Laetitia was the only person to sit in the first-class carriage. The second-class ones were all full.
When the train pulled into Porte Dorée, six more passengers boarded the first class carriage and immediately jumped out again, screaming.
The woman in the green suit was slumped forward in her seat, a nine-inch dagger driven into her neck.
Laetitia Toureaux had been murdered.
The Parisian police were baffled: a women had been killed and no one could understand why – or how.
From the angle of entry of the blade it seemed impossible she’d killed herself.
And when officers interviewed the passengers in the second-class carriage, and the people who’d been waiting at the Dorée platform, they confirmed that no-one but Laetitia had entered or left the first-class carriage.
The killer had somehow boarded a train while it was travelling through a tunnel, stabbed Laetitia to death, and left the train again before it arrived at the next station.
All within 45 seconds.
It just didn’t make sense.
Desperate for answers, police interviewed everyone and anyone they could – everyone who’d been at the bal-musette that afternoon, Laetitia’s colleagues at the factory.
Before long, it was clear Laetitia Toureaux had led a life of secrets and deception.
Behind the gloss and glamour, Laetitia had been playing a dangerous game.
Aside from her work in the factory, she’d been employed by a firm of private detectives called the Agence Rouff.
It’d been her job to watch people, report back on their comings and goings, and to pass on messages.
Her work there had soon led onto bigger things.
Somehow, she’d attracted the attention of the French secret services. Maybe it was her beauty, her glamour, the charming way she had with men, that made her such a desirable asset…
They’d employed her as a spy.
Her mission was to infiltrate France’s most secretive, most deadly and most mysterious organization, La Cagoule.
This was a group made up of some of France’s most powerful men and families. They’d meet in secret, their identities hidden from each other by hoods with openings only for their eyes.
What they wanted was simple.
They were planning to stir up a revolution, throw out the country’s socialist government and clear the way for the French monarchy to seize power again.
They were dangerous, believed to have killed at least three times in previous years.
Undercover agent Laetitia had tried to infiltrate the group, earn their trust…and stop them in their tracks.
Could La Cagole have found out what she was up to?
Did they assassinate her to silence her?
The police hit a brick wall.
There was no evidence, just theories.
Even if La Cagoule had assassinated Laetitia, it was impossible to say how they’d done it.
The case was shelved.
Over the next decades, Laetitia Toureaux was forgotten about, and La Cagoule disbanded .
Then, one afternoon in June 1962, 25 years after the brutal killing, a letter landed on the desk of Paris’s Chief Police Commissioner.
Its contents were chilling:
I don’t know if you’ll get this letter. Perhaps it’ll be taken for the writings of a mad man and thrown into the bin, which might be for the best. No doubt you’ll remember the murder of Laetitia Toureaux at the Porte de Charenton metro station on 16 May 1937.
I killed Laetitia Toureaux.
The letter had been posted from the south of France and there was no name or forwarding address.
It was impossible to say if it was genuine or a hoax.
And so, the mystery remained.
To this day, no one knows who killed Laetitia Toureux, or how.
A murderer boarded a train as it sped through a tunnel, killed a woman vanished. all in a matter of seconds.
Whoever it was, the killer managed to get away with the perfect crime…
Fast track to death
The mysterious murder of Laetitia Toureaux was the first on the Paris metro. 73 years earlier, in 1864, the first murder on a London train had taken place. Thomas Briggs, a rich banker, was mugged and beaten to death in the first-class carriage while he travelled from Fenchurch Street to Chalk Farm. His killer was 24-year old tailor, Franz Muller. Muller escaped the train and set off for America, where he was arrested and brought back to London for his trial and subsequent execution.