The Life and Death of a Supercrook

Jacques Mesrine a latter-day-hero for some, but, for others he was a ruthless killer.

The journey of a supercrook is not a pleasant one, especially for Jacques Mesrine who used his skill and diversity to create an infallible criminal record, which to this day, still stands highly against any gangster ever known.

He started off with menial jobs trying his luck at architecture followed by jobs in shops, and small offices. None of which he liked. He left for the French Army in 1956 where his criminal activities blossomed. He turned into a seasoned veteran by fighting and training in Algeria. It is also thought that this is when he joined the fraction group – the OAS (Organisation Armee Secrete). Whose allegiance of contacts in the criminal world helped him further his way and pushed him towards being, as the French Government once proclaimed, “An Enemy of the State”.

In a remarkable bank robbing career, Mesrine used to rob his way out of tricky situations with the French police. Instead of stealing from one bank as most bank robbers do, Mesrine used to rob from multiple banks on the same day.

This upset the French police as they had no way of knowing his motives or what his next move would be. Mesrine’s criminal friends helped his miraculous escapes by tipping them off with the wrong information. Futhermore, he was forever changing his appearance so that physical descriptions of him would lead to an ever growing list of so called appearances. He was the king of disguise. At a dinner table once, after seeing his own picture appear on the restaurants television set Mesrine boasted to another couple beside him about how easy it is to cover up ones appearance with a new haricut and a pair of glasses.

But it was his character and intelligence that brought him vast amounts of wealth from his robberies.

“On one occasion he was robbing a branch of Credit Lyonnais in Paris when a cashier accidently pushed the alarm button on the floor with her foot…’Don’t be afraid’ he told her as he carried on emptying the safes. ‘I like working to music.’ He then walked calmly out of the bank into the street. With his gun under his belt and the money in his brief-case, he stood in the street like other passers-by, apparently trying to locate the noise of the siren that was tearing through the midday air.”

Like every criminal, there comes a time when you get caught. Mesrine was caught many times. More importantly for Mesrine, he escaped every time he was caught. His most infamous example comes from managing to escape from the formidable, secure and never before breached prison – the la sante. He had a bet with the police commissioner that he would escape within 3 months and he done so with two days remaining. It was one of Mesrine’s finest hours as no other criminal had escaped from such a high security prison before.

Being France’s Public Enemy Number One it was only a matter of time for his inevitable demise. In November 1979, the French police carried out an ‘assassin style’ execution on Mesrine by shooting him in cold blood whilst he was in his car travelling away for the weekend, apparently, in search for peace. But it was Mesrine who decided that enough was enough by saying in prison beforehand ‘They will never take me alive’ and the French authorities abided by his wishes and carried out a rare execution on one of the finest criminals the world has ever seen.

Source material:
Carey Schofield , Jacques Mesrine, Pengiun, 1980