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20 People Guillotined in 19 Months

Wars and revolutions are conducive to criminal dealings of all sorts. A criminal gang raged in Hainaut at the start of the 19th century, an association of bandits known under the name of “Seigneur et Pérou Gang,” from the name of the two leaders.
Their crimes are listed as follows:

  • September 2, 1805, arson at Deux-Acren
  • December 26, 1805, theft with breaking and entering at Ghoy
  • January 1, 1806, theft at Sorlordinge
  • January 5, 1806, thefts at Ollignies
  • January 23, 1806, theft at Papignies
  • February 20, 1806, at Gondregnies, the gang burglarizes the farmer Ghiste, but he and his son are present. A fight ensues at the end of which the two residents are left for dead. They make it through alive and are therefore able to give a description of their aggressors to the investigators.

On March 23, a member of the gang, Nisolles, is arrested and names his accomplices. The crackdown at the time is very severe. The gang stands trial and nine people are sentenced to death (without having killed anyone whatsoever). The others get prison sentences. Nisolles is pardoned. On June 5, 1807, the sentence is carried out in Mons. The guillotine stood at the Grand-Place, at the entrance of the Rue d’Havré. The convicts were dressed in a red shirt and were walked around the square so that the public could look at them, so that they would be made an example of. They were then beheaded before the crowd, because the execution took place at noon, during a market day! As for those who got prison sentences, they were put on exhibit in the pillory of the main square for six hours.

But what is the link with our region?
On the night of March 27 to 28, 1807, the farm of Petit Mohypret (hamlet of Longsart) in Seneffe was set on fire by François-Joseph Detaye, a miller in Seneffe. He was condemned to death and executed in Mons under the conditions described above on September 19, 1807.
On June 28, 1806, the Saquin brothers, farmers at Braine-Le-Comte, were murdered in their own home.
On September 22, 1807, the criminal court sentenced 4 men and one woman to the guillotine.
One of them was named Michel Descamps (21 years old) and lived in Arquennes. He was also executed at La Place de Mons, in public.
From 1807 to 1809, over a 19-month period, 20 heads were cut off for acts of banditry.
The facts outlined here are taken from an article in the newspaper Le Soir entitled “Le banditisme en Hainaut au début du 19eme siècle” (“Bandrity in Hainaut at the Start of the 19th Century”) and published on May 31, 1963. It is available for consultation at the Seneffe library.

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