RIP Jean Lanfray 26/2/1906

Jean Lanfray was a Swiss labourer convicted of murdering his wife and two children in a drunken rage on the afternoon of August 28, 1905. 

It was later revealed by police that he had drunk an excessive amount of wine and hard liquors that morning, along with two ounces of absinthe. However, due to the moral panic against absinthe in Europe at that time, his murders were blamed solely on the influence of absinthe, leading to a  petition to ban absinthe in Switzerland shortly after the murders. 

The murders

During lunch on August 28, 1905, Lanfray consumed seven glasses of wine, six glasses of cognac, one coffee laced with brandy, two creme de menthes, and two glasses of absinthe after eating a sandwich. He returned home drunk with his father, and drank another coffee with brandy. 

He then got into an argument with his wife and asked her to polish his shoes for him. When she refused, Lanfray retrieved a rifle and shot her along with their two daughters.  He then shot himself in the jaw and collapsed.

He was discovered minutes later by police. After being taken to a hospital, Lanfray eventually recovered and was put on trial for murder.

Trial and death

The trial started on February 23, 1906 and ended that same day. It was argued by his attorneys that the two ounces of absinthe he consumed prior to the murders were solely to blame for his actions; Dr Albert Mahaim, a leading Swiss psychologist, testified that Lanfray suffered from "a classic case of absinthe madness".

Lanfray was eventually found guilty on all three counts of murder and received thirty years' imprisonment. Due to his intoxicated state at the time of the murders, he did not face capital punishment.

Three days after the trial, on February 26, 1906, Lanfray committed suicide by hanging in his prison cell.

Public reaction

The Lanfray case received an astonishing amount of coverage, especially by Europe's temperance movement. It set off a moral panic against absinthe and the incident was a leading factor in the subsequent Absinth ban throughout most of Europe.


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