Relatives charged over murder mystery that has gripped France for three decades

The great aunt and uncle of a four-year-old boy murdered 32 years ago in France have been charged with his kidnapping, raising hopes that a case that has gripped the country could finally be solved.

Gregory Villemin was found drowned with his hands and feet bound in the Vologne river in the Vosges mountains of eastern France on 16 October 1984. The case of “Little Gregory” is one of France’s most high-profile unsolved murders, a saga of family jealousy and rivalries that burst back into the headlines when Jacqueline Jacob, 72, and her 71-year-old husband Marcel were arrested on Wednesday.

More than three decades after Gregory was found dead, the couple were on Friday charged with kidnapping and an additional charge of confinement when they appeared in court in the eastern city of Dijon. They were both remanded in custody.

Both have denied any involvement, Dijon prosecutor Jean-Jacques Bosc later told a news conference. For the moment they do not have an alibi that is “either confirmed or backed up”, Bosc said. Explaining the nature of the charges, he said Gregory would not have died unless he had first been kidnapped. “Gregory was kidnapped from his parents’ home and held for a certain time before his death,” the prosecutor said.

The potential breakthrough in the case came from handwriting and linguistic analysis of threatening letters sent to Gregory’s parents, a source close to the investigation said.

Examination of a letter sent to Gregory’s father in 1983, a year before the boy was killed, led to fresh suspicions about Jacqueline Jacob.

Another letter claiming responsibility for the murder, which was mailed before the discovery of the body and referred to “revenge”, was submitted to linguistic analysis that compared the word choices with those in the earlier letter.

The Guardian 

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