About the rape and murder suspects #3 and #4
SIMENON SIMENON. SUR QUI A FAIT ÇA DANS “CHEZ KRULL” / 3
A propos des suspects numéros 3 et 4 dans le viol et le meurtre
SIMENON SIMENON. CHI HA FATTO COSA IN "CHEZ KRULL" / 3
In merito ai sospetti numero 3 e 4 per i furti e per l'omicidio
In The Krull House (Chez Krull), the final two suspects to consider as the rapist-murderer of the young girl are town drunkard Potut and a complete stranger new to the scene. Neither of these actually get much attention, if for no other reason than the implicating specific testimony of a sleepless neighbor of the Krulls who saw both Hans and Joseph come home very late in the night of the crime.
This third suspect, Potut, is a current drunkard, a sometime vegetable seller, and a former croupier, who “cohabits” with the mother of the murdered young girl with whom he may have had sexual relations as well. In fact, Potut quickly gets arrested for the crime, but after a week in jail, an airtight alibi for the night of the crime turns up in the form of a homeless drunkard who places him out of town where a bartender confirms he was present. The released man unsurprisingly joins into the mob hysteria permeating the town and threatening to harm the Krulls, those hated “Krauts.”
The fourth suspect is never more than an unknown, a “vagabond” seen only by Joseph. Well after the crime, the voyeur first tells his mother he watched this man stalk Sidonie, attack her, and drag her body to the canal. Even later, Joseph tells his cousin he will “confess” this “truth” to the police, but Hans counters that “You’re kaput!” since he is “German” and they will not believe him. Very much later, Joseph at last does tell the investigators he had seen the killer: “That evening, a man got close to Sidonie… I saw him poorly… Big enough, strong enough… badly dressed, I think… I followed them…” Admitting he “did not immediately understand what was going on,” he claims he “saw Sidonie struggling” and then “the man dragged her body to the canal.” Since Joseph “did not see his face,” the description is insufficient, making the man unidentifiable. Explaining he did not report these facts initially because “the police detest us [his family] like the whole community,” he falsely denies having told his mother and cousin what he had seen. Equally odd and inexplicable is the fact that neither of them attempts to corroborate Joseph’s story. The police shrug off this whole tale, but they do eventually jail him, mostly to pacify the angry mob advancing on the house to kill him.
In sum, to my view, the tally of indicators points more strongly to Hans than to Joseph, leading to the strong opinion that Hans is the most likely culprit. It is also noteworthy that Joseph denied he was guilty whereas Hans never claimed he was innocent. Indeed, Simenon presents “the foreigner” Hans as “the cause of all the world’s ills,” the major instigator of most of the badness that evolves in the novel. He is evil personified, a man who “provoked the same kind of malaise” as the Krull family “black cat” Joseph had killed. If nothing else, at least the two family heads, his Aunt Maria and Uncle Cornelius, recognize and insist that Hans assume the mantle of guilt as the killer to save the rest of the family from impending destruction by the mob. And the ploy does work! Luckily, after Hans flees the town, looking like the real culprit, the prisoner gets released, is presumed innocent, and the Krull family endures.
David P Simmons
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