the red rose apology

Jo Attia was France’s most colourful criminal until his death in 1972.

image of Jo (second from right) found here

***He was raised in a convent until age twelve, when he was sent to earn his keep on a farm. Out of the hard grind came the magnificent physique that would become his underworld trademark. But by age sixteen he’d had it with farm life. He headed to Marseilles and joined a gang of youths. Within a year police caught him red-handed in a break-in. He was sent to North Africa with a penal batallion. There he learned to box and to kill, and became a close friend of Marseilles gangster Pierre Loutrel.

image found here

During the war Attia worked with the French resistance force, the Maquis. His main contribution was to confine his thievery to Germans and their French collaborators. But he allegedly also helped hundreds of Jews to cross the border to Spain.

Following the war Charles de Gaulle appointed Jo Attia to the Legion of Honor. Still, a hero’s glory buys no bread. Jo thought of entering the boxing ring, but the first manager he approached broke up at the sight of Attia’s tattoed body. “We’re looking for a boxer,” he said, “not a roadmap.”

magazine cover found here

By chance Attia ran into his old friend from the penal battalion, Pierre  Loutrel who had become one of Paris’s leading crooks, “Pierrot le Fou” (the crazy). He joined Pierre’s gang only to be nearly caught by the police in September 1946. There followed an exchange of fire in the classic Chicago tradition.

Pierre’s gun found here

When the sound of gunfire reached him, Loutrel sprang into his brand new armored Delahay, not to flee, but to rescue his pals. At top speed he swung through the bullet shower at the hotel entrance and jammed on the breaks long enough for Attia to jump in. He then floored the gas pedal and disappeared. The gendarmes were left gaping. Another gang member, by hiding in a water barrel and breathing through a hose, also managed to escape. When the police left the scene, he emerged.

unarmoured Delahaye found here

Their luck ran out a few months later when they assaulted and shot a jeweler. Carrying the take to the car, Pierrot le Fou stuffed his pistol under his belt. It fired, stopping him in his tracks. His partners buried him on an island in the Seine. Attia took over, but some of the wildness had left him and he opened a chain of bordellos and nightclubs.

image from Vee Speers Bordello series found here

In 1949 Attia was sent to prison for four years for concealing a body (that of Pierrot le Fou) and illegal possession of weapons. The prosecutor, charging Attia with murder, had asked for a life sentence. But Attia got off lightly thanks to the intervention of one Colonel Beaumont, whose life Attia had saved during the war. Behind bars in Fresnes in 1952, Jo married the mother of his daughter, Nicole.

***This is an extract from a fascinating book, The Great Heroin Coup by Henrik Kruger translated by Jerry Meldon and found here. If you were intrigued by this, I recommend you click the link and read more. Or buy the book!

I found it when researching French actress Martine Carol who was briefly kidnapped by Pierre Loutrel. He apologised the next day by sending her a bouquet of red roses.

Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 7:12 am  Comments (44)  
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44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Another fascinating pugilist. I checked the website of Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) to see if Joe Attia was on the list of Righteous Among the Nations, non-Jews who helped Jews evade the Nazis in WWII. Joe hasn’t made it on the list yet. Perhaps someone could bring him to attention of Yad Vashem.

    • The article said he “allegedly” helped Jews escape. It makes for a good story but there may not be much more to it……

  2. Well flowers will fix anything won’t they.

    • In my case, usually yes. I’m a sucker for lovely flowers. But not those nasty mixed bunches that are sold in buckets outside service stations!

  3. I think I will check out the book. Ganster stories are my favorite stories. I’ve read my way through everything from the Sicilian beginnings, through Albert Anastasia to that rat bastard Sammy the Bull.

    What a shitty way to go for poor Pierrot though.

    I’d love to see you in those boots too.

  4. Kidnapped one day, and flowers the next?

  5. I am not into sports cars but I want one of those.

    • I love a low rider 😉

  6. seems Jo had the makings of a good heart, but just couldn’t navigate the turn and go straight. roses and apologies go together like bordellos and nightclubs…

  7. Stories like this could make another guy’s life look just a bit tame. The good nurse writes, “Reliably, Mr. Trail took out the compost bucket and was careful to rinse it thoroughly and dry it in the sunshine before returning it to the kitchen.”

    Ned Moraction

    • Mr Trail, do you do house visits? My compost bucket is a bit on the nose…..

      • For you I would add a hint of bicarbonate of soda.

        Loyal Buddull

  8. Je trouve que tu es toujours très intéressante.

    Le King

    • ….even when I’m running away from parties?

  9. *throwing away flowers that came from Esso* …… I’m just popping out to do some shopping! ……. whooooosh

  10. I’m off to look at the Heroin Coup link.

    great foot/leg wear on that whippy girl

    • Yes, I want her boots badly

  11. “But Attia got off lightly thanks to the intervention of one Colonel Beaumont, whose life Attia had saved during the war.”


  12. That girl with the riding crop(?) does she do home visits? I’ve been sooooooooooo naughty.

  13. No bunch of roses would appease me had I been kidnapped, however briefly.

    • Not in that case certainly, but I can think of someone else I wouldn’t mind being kidnapped by

      • Who? Who?

      • Mads Mikkelsen of course 🙂

      • My hopes are raised …….. and then dashed …….. oh well

  14. I love the wanted poster, complete with cartoons.

  15. So there is honour among (and within) thieves, murderers and kidnappers.

  16. wow! those cars are magnificient pieces of art!

  17. You have to give it to him, the man had style!

  18. Dear woman who I duct taped to a chair in my basement yesterday,

    My bad. Here are some roses.

    Warmest Regards,
    (name withheld)

    • You’re forgiven 😉

  19. Ah a celebrity gangster. At least he had style and panache, something the likes of the Krays didn’t

  20. being shot in the trouser area with your own gun is not the best or cleverest way to go .. ouch!

  21. Damn . . . you’re one of the best educators I’ve ever encountered. I checked-out the movie trailer you suggested to Scott, and now I have to see the movie. It looks fantastic. Thanks for teaching me something new again, nursemyra. That car rocks.

    • There’s two parts to the film, I’ve only seen the first one and it was fantastic!

  22. OK listen up I’m only going to say this once.

    What amazing tits.

    • I’m surprised you’re the only one to say that Inky

  23. Old school gangsters rock

  24. There’s a huge problem with gangs in our neck of the world, but no one wants to talk about them. They seem to prey on folks who think it’s the only way they can belong. The situation here too? Why yes, it could be…although it seems to the contrary at first glance.

  25. It’s never wise to send a man to North Africa with a penal batallion. Bad things happen.

    I love old gangster stories like this.

    • Remind you of your youth darlin?

      Only kidding 😉

  26. This is a man that lived life on the edge and was just a total bad ass. I love it.

  27. […] [More at Delahaye USA. Link found at Nurse M.'s place.] […]

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