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31 May 1901|
|Died||26 January 2007
|Occupation||Soldier / Criminal|
Charles Brunier (31 May 1901 – 26 January 2007) was a French convicted murderer and veteran of both the First and Second World Wars who claimed, in 2005, to have been the inspiration for Papillon. Circumstantial evidence, including his butterfly tattoo and his having been on Devil's Island at the time, supported the claim.
Born in Paris, Brunier served in Syria in 1918 and was wounded in action, also receiving the Croix de Guerre for saving a lieutenant's life. However, in 1923, he was accused of murder and armed robbery, and later convicted; as a result his military medals were revoked, and he was not on the official list of French World War I veterans, although he did serve.
Brunier was sent to the penal colony off the coast of French Guiana. After the outbreak of World War II he escaped to Mexico and joined the Free French Forces as a fighter pilot, serving in the Battle of the Caribbean for two years before transferring to the infantry under Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, and also in Africa (where Charles de Gaulle personally decorated him) and Italy. He was imprisoned again after the war, but released in 1948 in recognition of his services.
- Henri Charrière (the author of Papillon)
- The real Papillon; Le Parisien, 17 December 2005
- Papillon alive and well in a Paris retirement home; Mail & Guardian Online, 26 June 2005
- Charles Brunier emporte avec lui le secret de Papillon (Charles Brunier takes Papillon secret to the grave); Le Parisien, 29 January 2007 (in French)
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