Jacques Mesrine [meʀin, mɛsʀin] was born on December 28, 1936 in Clichy, near Paris. His parents were rather well off, owning a luxury lace business in Paris. They had big plans for their son and saw him entering HEC, a prestigious business school. However, Jacques Mesrine did not like school and was expelled from several schools, including one where he was violent towards his principal. 


He left school for good and became a fabric representative. He briefly married a woman from 1955 to 1956. He then left for the Algerian war as a parachutist-commando. Several people close to Jacques Mesrine will testify about the traumatic experience he had there. He was however decorated by General Charles de Gaulle and received a certificate of good conduct.


Back in France, Jacques Mesrine lives on poker games and "small" robberies. He realizes that he can easily be unrecognizable by changing some details on his face. So he uses it to carry out his robberies.


In 1961, Mesrine married Maria de la Soledad, with whom he had three children. At that time, he was arrested by the police for carrying a weapon, which is prohibited in France. In 1966 he opened a restaurant in Tenerife. He continued his illegal activities. He committed several robberies in Switzerland and in France. He managed to escape from the police and fled to Quebec with his new partner, Jeanne. The French Bonnie and Clyde kidnapped a man, Georges Deslauriers, and demanded a ransom of $200,000 from his brother. At this point, Jacques Mesrine enters the world of organized crime.


In 1972, Mesrine was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but he escaped from the Special Unit of the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul penitentiary accompanied by 5 other inmates. Together they committed several crimes in Quebec, mainly robberies, but several police officers were injured and two game wardens were killed.


At the end of 1972, Mesrine returned to France. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, he once again managed to escape from the courthouse where his trial was taking place. He continued to carry out increasingly large-scale robberies of major Parisian banks.


He is arrested again and promises the arresting commissioner that he will escape again. Mesrine finds himself imprisoned with other fearsome criminals. But he keeps his promise and once again manages to escape from prison. A long chase begins between France's public enemy number one and the police. During his escape, Jacques Mesrine carries out several robberies in spite of the large-scale deployment of the police to find him.


Jacques Mesrine was known for taunting the police. Indeed, while on the run, he conducted several interviews with journalists, notably with the famous magazine Paris-Match. In this interview, Mesrine did not mince his words and stated that he wanted to abolish the high security wings. The criminal continues his escape and juggles between robberies and vacations that he takes in other countries thanks to his booty.


The year 1979 was the last year of Jacques Mesrine's escape. The criminal's Parisian apartment was finally located by the police. A manhunt began. On November 2, 1979, Jacques Mesrine was eliminated by the police. He was standing in his car accompanied by his girlfriend. The police shot him 21 times. His companion was wounded, but survived. To ensure Mesrine's death, a police officer shot him one last time in the head.


Jacques Mesrine was the most publicized French criminal. His death was highly publicized and created several controversies. The first controversy that arose from the death of Jacques Mesrine was the broadcasting of his corpse on television. Generally, the bodies are not shown in the media for questions of respect towards the deceased and his relatives. Moreover, it would shock the viewers. However, the body of Jacques Mesrine was surprisingly shown on television.


A second controversy then emerged: was Jacques Mesrine's death an execution, or was it an act of self-defense? The question is still alive. The police defend that it was an act of self-defense. The commissioner in charge of the operation said: "He wanted to take out a grenade. We fired". As for Jacques Mesrine's family, they filed a complaint against the police for murder. The case was reopened in March 2000, and finally, in October 2004, the courts declared the case dismissed. The mystery of Jacques Mesrine's death still remains.


Do you understand the story of Jacques Mesrine? Answer the comprehension questions below.

  • Why was Jacques Mesrine nicknamed "the man with a thousand faces"?
  • Did Jacques Mesrine ever kill anyone?
  • How did Jacques Mesrine die?

Être aisé = 🇬🇧 well-to-do

De la dentelle = 🇬🇧  lace

Se faire renvoyer = 🇬🇧 t o be fire

Un proviseur = 🇬🇧  a principal, headmaster

Du tissu = 🇬🇧  fabric

Brièvement = 🇬🇧  briefly

Un parachutiste-commando = 🇬🇧  paratrooper

Un braquage = 🇬🇧  hold-up

Méconnaissable = 🇬🇧  unrecognizable

Un casse = 🇬🇧  robbery

Le port d’arme = 🇬🇧  possession of a firearm

Commettre = 🇬🇧  commit

Échapper = 🇬🇧  to escape

À ce moment-là = 🇬🇧  at that moment

Le banditisme = 🇬🇧  the crime

S’évader = 🇬🇧  to escape

Le pénitencier = 🇬🇧  the penitentiary

Un garde-chasse = 🇬🇧  gamekeeper

Un procès = 🇬🇧  a trial

Un commissaire = 🇬🇧  a superintendent, a captain

Le bagne = 🇬🇧  penal colony

Une course-poursuite = 🇬🇧  high-speed pursuit

Une cavale = 🇬🇧  an escape, a run

Narguer = 🇬🇧  to mock

Une entrevue = 🇬🇧  an interview

Ne pas mâcher ses mots = 🇬🇧  to spell it out

Abolir = 🇬🇧  to abolish

Jongler = 🇬🇧  to juggle

Un butin = 🇬🇧  a loot

Une chasse à l’homme = 🇬🇧  a manhunt

Éliminé = 🇬🇧  eliminated

De la légitime défense = 🇬🇧  self-defence

Un assassinat = 🇬🇧  a murder

Un non-lieu = 🇬🇧  a dismissed case


I'll see you soon for new adventures, in French of course! 🇫🇷