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Expecting the Unexpected in the Philippines: Confronting a Killer

When one thinks of life in the Foreign Service, they imagine living overseas, experiencing different cultures, and trying exotic foods. They picture adventure. While Foreign Service Officers surely do have their fair share of adventure, it is not always merry and light-hearted. FSOs can come face-to-face with terrorists, hostile foreign leaders, and in the case of FSO David L’Heureux, chef-turned-killers.

(March 2016) Pexels |
(March 2016) Pexels |

L’Heureux arrived in Manila in the Philippines in December 1956 to start the next chapter of his career in the Foreign Service as a Consular Officer. During his three years serving in Manila, he worked in the Special Consular Services and the Passport and Citizenship sections. However, his duties were not limited to these two areas.

One day, L’Heureux received a call from a steamship representative claiming that assistance was needed on one of the ships that had just arrived in port. L’Heureux was accustomed to dealing with everyday problems common in consular work, such as issuing visas or helping Americans who may be in trouble.

That day, however, L’Heureux stumbled into a life or death situation, with his life at the mercy of a chef who had gone mad.

L’Heureux’s interview was conducted by Charles Stuart Kennedy on April 24, 1992.

Read L’Heureux’s full oral history HERE.

Read about L’Heureux’s and other FSOs’ spooky experiences HERE.

Drafted by Sophie May

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“So they decided to call the American consul…the salvation of all mankind.”

An aerial view of the port of Manila (2019) Mosbatho |
An aerial view of the port of Manila (2019) Mosbatho |

A Chef Gone Berserk: One time I received a call from a steamship representative saying that they had a problem on one of their ships that had just arrived. I went down to the office and was briefed on the fact that the chef had gone berserk. A great big husky fellow who looked like a lineman on a football team. He had gone crazy two or three days earlier and had sliced up several of the kitchen help with a meat cleaver. The crew was all off the ship and he was still in the galley somewhere. They had asked the Philippine police to go aboard and get him, but they were afraid to go. They said, “We are not going on that ship, we don’t know where the passages are, where he might be hiding. We are not going to risk ourselves.” So they decided to call the American consul…the salvation of all mankind.

“Oh, Mr. Consul, I am so glad to see you.”

Face to Face with a Killer: I talked to the captain, trying to figure out how to handle this. I asked the police if they would go in with me, but they wouldn’t. They would take him when he gets off the ship. I got a little background on him and then said, “I am not going to go on board by myself. I would like someone who knows the ship, so I don’t walk into a trap.” The first mate agreed to go on with me. We got on board the ship and headed down below deck. Every time we came to a passage he said, “You go first, you are the consul.” I ask what was on the other side of an opening, and he would explain to me, and then we would go through.

We finally got to the galley and I looked in and here is this guy sitting at the far end on one of the counters with the meat cleaver in his lap. He had apparently been sitting there for hours. He looked up and said, “Who the hell are you?” I said, “I am the American consul.” Well, in shipping terms the American consul’s name is magic. “Oh, Mr. Consul, I am so glad to see you.” He got up and started coming across toward me. I said, “Wait a minute. Stay just where you are. We have to do something first.” “Mr. Consul anything you want, what is it?” I said, “You come halfway across the room and put that meat cleaver on the counter and then go back to the far end of the room. I will come in and pick up the meat cleaver, will pick it up and then we will leave the ship.” “I am not leaving the ship.” I said, “You are going to leave the ship, that is my order as the consul.” “What are they going to do?” I said, “I assure you that you will not be mistreated. I will personally go with you to the police station and will see that you are properly treated. I will arrange for your return to the United States by air.” Well, we had some back and forth over this. Finally he agreed. He came over and put the meat cleaver on the counter. I came in and picked it up and said, “Okay, now, you come on out here and we are going to leave.” Well, he got to the door and started to go into the passage and said, “Mr. Consul, after you.” I debated what to do, I didn’t want that bruiser behind me, but I thought that was the only way he would do it. So, here I had to leave the ship with the first mate out front, then me and this guy behind me. Of course I couldn’t have handled him anyway, he was so big.

“I am not going in there.”

The steamship City of New York, H McKlown  |
The steamship City of New York, H McKlown |

The Handoff: We got up on deck and he started getting cold feet. I finally talked him into going down the gangplank. The police were waiting down there and he was concerned that they had weapons. So, I called down and asked them to take their weapons and put them on a box over on the side. They agreed. We got down and I said that I wanted the police to back off and that I was going to walk this man to the police station which was down at the end of the pier.

I walked him down there, chatting about his home, family, etc. We got to the police station and went in. They had already conveniently opened one of the cells. I walked over and told him that he had to go in there. He said, “I am not going in there.” I said, “You go in there. I will lock it personally. I will keep the key and I will make sure that nobody does anything to you and that you get proper food.” He agreed and went in. I locked the door and made like I was putting the key in my pocket. I eventually gave it to the police.

By that time it was 1 or 2 o’clock. I said, “I don’t want him mistreated. I don’t want anybody going in there with him. I want to make sure that he gets food if he wants it. I will be back in the morning, I have to go get some sleep.” I went home and came back the next morning and talked to him. He was fairly calm. Everything had gone well, he had eaten well. I arranged, in a couple of days, to have him shipped back to the United States.


Pre-Medical Studies, University of Aix-Marseille 1946–1947
Georgetown University 1947–1949
Joined the Foreign Service 1949
Butzbach, Germany—Clerk at the Displaced Persons Program 1949–1956
Manila, the Philippines—Consular Officer 1956–1959