Jean-Claude Romand was born in Lons-le-Saunier and grew up in the village Clairvaux-les-Lacs in the département of Jura. He studied at the lycée of Lons-le-Saunier until his baccalauréat. In 1971, he registered at the classes préparatoires of Lycée du Parc in Lyon, but dropped out after one semester. Afterwards he enrolled as a medical student.
The deception began with a simple lie: Romand claimed that he had passed a second-year medical examination that he did not take. He therefore never qualified as a doctor, a fact unknown to his peers.
Romand fooled his family and friends for 18 years; they thought he was a successful medical professional and researcher in the World Health Organization (WHO). He managed to give an impression that he had researched arteriosclerosis and that he had contacts with political figures.
In reality, he spent his days wandering and used the free information services of the local WHO building. He lived close by in Prévessin-Moëns, France. Periodically he left for a supposed work trip but only traveled to Geneva International Airport and spent a couple of days in a hotel room there, studying medical journals and a travel guide about Switzerland, the country where everyone believed he worked. Romand lived off the money his wife and he had made by selling an apartment, from his wife's salary, and from sums of money which were given to him by various relatives, who relied on his assurances that he was investing the money in various imaginary hedge funds and foreign ventures.
Actions the night of the murders
On 9 January 1993, Romand withdrew 2000 Fr, and purchased a handgun, suppressor, and gas canisters, and asked for them to be gift wrapped. That night, he bashed his wife to death on their double bed with a rolling pin. He left her body until the morning, sleeping as normal. The next morning, he woke his children, had breakfast, and watched cartoons. He put them to bed that night, and once they had fallen asleep, shot them both in the head. After these killings, the only people who could expose him were his parents and his ex-mistress, who wanted back 900,000 Fr that she had given him as a favour.
The next morning, Romand travelled across the border to his parents' house, where he joined them for a meal. Immediately after the meal he repeatedly shot them both and the family dog.
That night he picked up his ex-mistress, telling her he was treating her to a romantic meal for two. Pretending the car had broken down, he made her exit the car, and as she did so he attempted to strangle her with a cord and sprayed tear gas into her face. After she fought back, he apologized and drove her back to her home before returning to his family home, which still contained the bodies of his dead wife and children.
He sat and watched television before he poured petrol around the house, set it on fire, and took an overdose of sleeping pills to create the appearance of an intended suicide. Whether this attempt was genuine is doubtful, since the pills he took were long expired, and he had access to more effective barbiturates; additionally, the manner in which the fire was set and the timing of his taking the pills made his rescue inevitable. He was rescued by local firefighters who were alerted by the road cleaners at 4:00 the next morning.
He survived the blaze, but refused to talk to police during subsequent questioning; it was initially believed that he was too traumatized to speak.
Romand's trial began on 25 June 1996. On 6 July 1996 Romand was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 22 years; he will be eligible for parole in 2015. Romand is reputed to suffer from narcissistic personality disorder.
French author Emmanuel Carrère entered into correspondence with imprisoned Romand to write a book, published in 2000, L'Adversaire (The Adversary), based on the case. Nicole Garcia directed a movie, L'Adversaire (2002), based on the book; actor Daniel Auteuil played the part of Romand (renamed Jean-Marc Faure in the film). Two other movies were loosely based on Romand's life: the French L'Emploi du temps (2001) (English title: Time Out) and the Spanish La Vida de nadie (English title: Nobody's Life). Romand's deception also formed the basis of the "Subterraneans" episode of the BBC crime drama Waking The Dead (third episode of the fifth season in 2005). The episode 16 (season 1) "Phantom" of Law & Order: Criminal Intent is also constructed around this story.
- Le Roman d'un menteur, France 2 documentary, 1999
- L'Adversaire (The Adversary), Emmanuel Carrère book, 2000