Articles

Book by ODU’s Finley-Croswhite Named a 2010 Favorite (12/15/2010)

  • Mur­der in the Metro: Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France,” a book co-authored by Annette Finley-Croswhite of the Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity fac­ulty, has been named a favorite book of 2010 by the British mag­a­zine His­tory Today.
    • More than a decade of research by Finley-Croswhite and co-author Gayle Brunelle turned up the polit­i­cally charged sto­ry­line. The book was pub­lished last spring by Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Press. Finley-Croswhite is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory and chair of the ODU Depart­ment of His­tory. Brunelle is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fuller­ton. In His­tory Today, the book was cho­sen as a 2010 favorite by Nigel Jones, a British his­to­rian, jour­nal­ist, nov­el­ist and a for­mer edi­tor of the mag­a­zine. He also selected “Mur­der on the Metro,” authored by Finley-Croswhite and Brunelle, as his favorite arti­cle of 2010. The arti­cle, which was pub­lished in Jan­u­ary by His­tory Today, is a digest of mate­r­ial cov­ered in the book. (Read More)

    Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity Arts and Let­ters News (1/14/2010)

    • ODU’s Finley-Croswhite is Author of His­tor­i­cal Mur­der Mystery

    Annette Finley-Croswhite of the Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity fac­ulty has writ­ten an enthralling his­tor­i­cal study of an unsolved mur­der that took place in 1937 on the Paris metro subway.

    The polit­i­cally charged story uncov­ered by Finley-Croswhite and co-author Gayle Brunelle is sum­ma­rized in an arti­cle in the Jan­u­ary issue of the pres­ti­gious London-based mag­a­zine His­tory Today. The author’s book about the mur­der mys­tery will be pub­lished later this year.

    Finley-Croswhite is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory and chair of the ODU Depart­ment of His­tory. Brunelle is a pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity at Fullerton.

    Laeti­tia Toureaux, an Ital­ian immi­grant who was the first per­son ever killed in the Paris metro, is the cen­tral char­ac­ter of the authors’ his­tor­i­cal study. “She was a fas­ci­nat­ing woman whose life reflected many of the com­plex­i­ties of inter-war France,” Finley-Croswhite said in an interview.

    His­tory Today notes in its intro­duc­tion to “Mur­der on the Metro” that in the years lead­ing up to World War II, “France was riven by polit­i­cal divi­sion as extremes of left and right vied for power.” The authors, accord­ing to the mag­a­zine, “tell the tragic and mys­te­ri­ous story of … a young woman swept up in the vio­lent pas­sions of the time.”

    Toureaux was a fac­tory worker and young widow who loved to fre­quent music halls in some of Paris’ shab­bier neigh­bor­hoods. Call­ing her­self “Yolande,” she also worked as a pri­vate detec­tive for the Agence Rouff as well as for the Paris Police and the Italians.

    As some­thing of a triple-agent, Yolande infil­trated a far-right ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, the Comité Secret d’Action Révo­lu­tion­naire, which went by the pop­u­lar name of the Cagoule, and she took their gun-running expert as her lover,” the ODU pro­fes­sor said.

    Finley-Croswhite and Brunelle researched moun­tains of archival sources as well as news­pa­per clip­pings and other records from the 1930s and 1940s in order to recon­struct the untold story of why some­one stabbed Toureaux in the neck on the Paris metro and why the Paris police shelved the inves­ti­ga­tion and left the case unsolved to this day. They build a con­vinc­ing case for her hav­ing known too much about the plans of French and Ital­ian fas­cists, and for the inevitable sup­pres­sion of the mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion by men who would become post-war lead­ers of France, includ­ing the late Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Mit­ter­rand and exec­u­tives of the inter­na­tional cos­met­ics com­pany, L’Oréal. L’Oréal’s founder, Eugène Schueller, bankrolled the Cagoule before the war and offered many of its most noto­ri­ous lead­ers lucra­tive careers in the com­pany after the war.

    The story of Laeti­tia Toureaux is both timely and com­pelling,” the authors write in the mag­a­zine arti­cle. “A 500-page sum­mary of the inves­ti­ga­tion com­piled by the police a few months after her death paints a pic­ture of one woman’s strug­gle to achieve bour­geois respectabil­ity in a world that denied upward mobil­ity to peo­ple of her sex, class and eth­nic­ity. Her mur­der is also inter­twined with the his­tory of French fas­cism. The Cagoule lead­ers were not street thugs but highly edu­cated extreme nation­al­ists who used ter­ror­ism as a means of send­ing a mes­sage to the French pub­lic.” (Read More)

    His­tory Today: Jan­u­ary 2010 | Vol­ume: 60 Issue: 1 | Page 26–32

    • Mur­der on the Metro

    At around 6pm on a Sun­day after­noon in May 1937 an attrac­tive young woman with newly coiffed blond hair, wear­ing a finely tai­lored green suit, white hat and gloves, left a bal musette, or dance­hall, in a working-class sub­urb of Paris near the Char­ente River and the Bois de Vin­cennes. She told a friend, Pier­rette Marnef, that she was late for an appoint­ment and headed off briskly towards a bus stop.
    Approx­i­mately 24 min­utes later she stepped off the bus and entered a métro sta­tion, the Porte de Char­en­ton, where she boarded a first-class car­riage bound for cen­tral Paris. Although the plat­form and the second-class car­riages were full of hol­i­day­mak­ers, who had spent Pen­te­cost Sun­day at the Parc de Vin­cennes, Laeti­tia Nour­ris­sat Toureaux sat alone; in Depression-era France few trav­ellers could afford the cost of a first-class ticket. The train departed at 18:27 and about a minute later arrived at the Porte Dorée sta­tion where six pas­sen­gers entered in two groups of three from doors at oppo­site ends of the first-class car­riage. Inside they spied Toureaux sit­ting alone near a win­dow. One of the pas­sen­gers, a young French woman trav­el­ling with two Eng­lish friends, approached Laeti­tia to ask whether she could open a win­dow to let some air into the stuffy car­riage. Rather than answer­ing, Toureaux slumped for­ward and slid motion­less to the floor, an eight-inch dag­ger in her neck.

    A con­duc­tor imme­di­ately sum­moned the Paris police. The first offi­cer on the scene yanked the knife out of Toureaux’s neck.As a result, she bled to death with­out utter­ing a word. The autopsy revealed that her assailant had struck her from behind. Given the force of the blow – the tip of the knife had pen­e­trated her spine – and the exper­tise required to deliver it, the police con­cluded that the mur­derer was most likely a hired killer. There were no fin­ger­prints and lit­tle other foren­sic evi­dence. The only other clue was the pres­ence of the knife itself,which sug­gested that, like Toureaux her­self, her attacker was an Ital­ian; a knife in the neck was a ‘call­ing card’ of Ital­ian pro­fes­sional assassins.

    The French pub­lic was shocked to read about the crime in their news­pa­pers the next day for this was the first mur­der ever com­mit­ted on the Paris Métro. The judi­cial sec­tion of the police force known as the Sûreté Nationale launched a mur­der inquiry. Over the next 12 months they inter­viewed hun­dreds of peo­ple and fol­lowed up on scores of leads yet never found a sin­gle wit­ness to the crime and even­tu­ally shelved the inves­ti­ga­tion. To this day, the mur­der of Laeti­tia Toureaux remains offi­cially unsolved, a seem­ingly ‘per­fect crime’.  (Read More)

    Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­sity, Fuller­ton (4/20/2010)

    • Mys­tery Shrouds Mur­der:  Professor’s New Book Explores Sen­sa­tional French Case

    Who­ever killed Laeti­tia Toureaux knew what he or she was doing. But, who is the mur­derer? The vic­tim was stabbed in the back of the neck while she sat alone in a first-class car of a Paris métro train on May 16, 1937.

    Gayle K. Brunelle of Cal State Fuller­ton and Annette Finley-Croswhite of Old Domin­ion Uni­ver­sity in Vir­ginia heard about the unsolved mys­tery a decade ago and they set out to learn the full story. Ten years of research and many trips to France later, the his­tory pro­fes­sors have pro­duced a motive and a sus­pect, which they reveal in their book, “Mur­der in the Métro: Laeti­tia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France” (Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity Press, 2010).

    They found case files that had been ordered sealed for 101 years and a plot involv­ing secret love affairs, secret police activ­i­ties, secret polit­i­cal schemes, ter­ror­ism and money.

    We researched this very famous unsolved mur­der case of a 27-year-old Ital­ian fac­tory worker,” Brunelle said. “This was an intre­pid, ambi­tious and clearly seduc­tive woman, deter­mined to rise in soci­ety. She was a woman of mys­tery and intrigue and courage.”

    Toureaux, as it turns out, was no mere fac­tory worker. As out­lined in Brunelle and Finley-Croswhite’s book, the woman was involved in the Cagoule, a secret French extrem­ist group with fas­cist sym­pa­thies. She worked as an informer for the Cagoule, but she was a dou­ble or triple agent as well, oper­at­ing as an infor­mant for the Ital­ian secret ser­vice and, most likely, for the French police, Brunelle said.
    Mur­der in the Metro book cover

    The authors traced the his­tory of the French extreme right dur­ing the 1930s and inter­viewed Cagoule asso­ciates and oth­ers con­nected to Toureaux. Their exhaus­tive research con­cludes with a strong case for who killed Toureaux and why. (Read More)