Sidebar Menu

Jules Bonnot, infamous French criminal

The Bonnot Gang was a French criminal anarchist group that operated in France and Belgium from 1911 to 1912. The gang utilized cutting-edge technology (including automobiles and repeating rifles) not yet available to the French police.

Originally referred to by the press as simply "The Auto Bandits", the gang was dubbed "The Bonnot Gang" after Jules Bonnot gave an interview at the office of Petit Parisien, a popular daily paper.

The first robbery by Bonnot's Gang was at the money transfer of Société Générale Bank in Paris on December 21, 1911. They escaped with an automobile they had stolen a week before. The gang had the dubious honor of being the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime.

On December 28, 1911 the gang broke into a gun shop in the Paris center. A few days later, on the night of January 2, 1912, they entered the home of the wealthy M. Moreau and brutally murdered both him and his maid. The booty take was equal to 30,000 Francs, and the crime aroused a public outcry.

French Central Police did its best to catch the gang. They were able to arrest one man based on their registry of anarchist organizations. The gang continued their automobile thefts and robberies, shooting two more policemen in the process. Automobiles were not yet common so the gang usually stole still expensive cars from garages, not from the street.

By March 1912, police had arrested many of the gang’s supporters and knew many of the members' faces and names. In March 1912, gang member and would-be leader Octave Garnier sent a mocking letter to the Sûreté.

On March 25, 1912, the gang stole a car in a forest south of Paris by shooting the driver in the head. They drove into Chantilly north of Paris where they robbed the local branch of Société Générale Bank — shooting the Banks's three cashiers. They escaped in their stolen automobile as two policemen tried to catch them - one on horseback and the other on a bicycle.

Even politicians became concerned, increasing police funding by 800,000 Francs. Banks began to prepare for forthcoming robberies and many cashiers armed themselves. The Société Générale promised a reward of 100,000 Francs for information that would lead to arrests.

On April 24, three policeman surprised Bonnot in the apartment of a suspected fence. He shot at the officers, killing one and wounding another, and then fled over the rooftops. Part of the 100,000 Francs reward was later given to the widow of the killed policeman.

On April 28, police tracked Bonnot to a house in the Paris suburbs. They besieged the place with 500 armed policemen, soldiers, firemen, military engineers and private gun-owners. By noon, after a sporadic firing from both sides, Paris Police Chief Lépines sent three policemen to put a dynamite charge under the house. The explosion demolished the front of the building. Bonnot was hiding in the middle of a rolled mattress and tried to shoot back until Lépines shot him non-fatally in the head.

The trial of the Gang's survivors began on February 3, 1913. Viktor Serge was sentenced to five years for robbery. All the others were initially sentenced to death. The sentence of Eugene Dieudonne was commuted to life imprisonment. Sentences of Eduard Carouy and Marius Metge were commuted to life imprisonment at hard labor. Carouy later committed suicide. Metge was sent to a penal colony. Raymond Callemin, Antoine Monnier and Andre Soudy refused to plead for clemency and they were executed by guillotine.

Back To Top