|Sir Jack Cecil Drummond|
12 January 1891|
Leicester, United Kingdom
4 or 5 August 1952 (aged 61)|
|Lady Anne Drummond|
10 December 1907
Epsom, Surrey, United Kingdom
4 or 5 August 1952 (aged 44)|
|Elizabeth A. Drummond|
23 March 1942|
London, United Kingdom
5 August 1952 (aged 10)|
The Dominici affair was the criminal investigation into the triple murder of three Britons in France. During the night of 4/5 August 1952, Sir Jack Drummond, a 61-year-old scientist; his 44-year-old wife Lady Anne Drummond (née Wilbraham); and their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth were murdered next to their car, which was parked in a lay-by near La Grand'Terre, the farm belonging to the Dominici family, located near the village of Lurs in the département of Basses-Alpes (now Alpes-de-Haute-Provence). Family patriarch Gaston Dominici was convicted of the three murders in 1957 and sentenced to death, though it was widely believed that his guilt had not been clearly established. In 1957, President René Coty commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, and on 14 July 1960, President Charles de Gaulle ordered Gaston Dominici's release on humanitarian grounds due to his poor health, but he was never pardoned or given a re-trial. Gaston Dominici died on 4 April 1965. The affair made international headlines at the time.
- 1 Timeline of events
- 2 Alternative theories
- 3 References
Timeline of events
Gaston Dominici: Born on 22 January 1877 in Digne-les-Bains, of Italian parentage, he was the illegitimate son of a laundrywoman. He married Marie Germain (1879-1974, nicknamed “the Sardine”) in October 1903, and they had nine children: Ida (1904), Clovis (1905), Augusta (1907), Gaston (1909), Clotilde (1911), Marcel (1913), Germaine (1915), Gustave (1919) and Aimé (1922). Gaston started off as a tenant farmer in Ganagoble before buying the Grand’Terre farm in 1931. He had a reputation as an authoritarian patriarch who rarely spoke. He had no criminal record before the murders.
Gustave Dominici: Born on 15 August 1919 in Digne-les-Bains, he was considered Gaston’s favourite son. He lived at the Grand’Terre with his parents, his wife Yvette and their baby son Alain. He was a farmer and builder.
Yvette Dominici (née Barth): Born in 1932, she married Gustave Dominici in January 1950. She lived at the Grand’Terre with her husband, son and in-laws, and had a good relationship with Gaston.
Clovis Dominici: Born on 25 June 1905 in Brunet, he was Gaston’s oldest son. His father was not fond of him and somewhat neglected him; consequently, they had a poor relationship. Nevertheless, he remained close to his younger brother Gustave and his sister-in-law Yvette. He worked for the SNCF, France’s national rail service, as a platelayer on the Paris-Marseille railway. He was living in Peyruis at the time of the murders.
Roger Perrin: The son of Germaine Dominici, therefore the grandson of Gaston and the nephew of Gustave and Clovis. He was 17 years old at the time of the murders.
Edmond Sébeille (1908-1988): Joined the police in 1930. He initially worked in Montpellier, before transferring to Paris to work for the Judicial Police Directorate at the National Police. After the Second World War, he became a Superintendent (Commissaire) in Aix-en-Provence, before joining the 9th Mobile Brigade of the Marseille Judicial Police’s regional force.
On the evening of 4 August 1952, while they were holidaying in France in their Hillman car with registration number NNK686, the Drummond family made a stop along National Highway 96, 165 metres from La Grand'Terre, a farm in the municipality of Lurs. They stopped by the mile marker 6 km south of Peyruis and 6 km north of La Brillanne. A bridge spanned the railway 60 metres from the road. A path winds down both sides of the railway line to the bank of the Durance river.
The Grand'Terre farm was inhabited by the Dominicis, a family of farmers comprising patriarch Gaston (75), his wife Marie (73), their son Gustave (33), Gustave's wife Yvette (20), and their baby son Alain (10 months). The family was of Italian origin: Gaston's great-grandfather moved from Piedmont to Seyne in 1800 to work the land. Clovis Dominici, older brother of Gustave, also became involved on the day of the murders.
That evening, the Dominici family were having a party to celebrate the end of the harvest. Several family members travelled back and forth between the farmhouse and the fields, passing the Drummonds on several occasions. The Dominicis irrigated their alfalfa field using water from the Manosque Canal, which crosses over the railway track. A few days earlier, Marie Dominici forgot to close off the irrigation pump for the night, causing the pump's ballast to collapse. Since then, several family members had gone regularly to check that the damage was not obstructing the railway track, as the SNCF may have demanded that they pay repair costs if such an obstruction occurred. In the early hours of 5 August, six or seven shots were heard at approximately 1.10 am. A lorry driver, Marceau Blanc, passed the location at 4.30 am. He noticed a camp bed in front of the Drummonds' car, as well as a canvas that covered the car's windscreen and right side windows. At 4.50 am, a Joseph Moynier passed the scene and did not notice any of this. At 5.20 am, a Jean Hébrard noticed a camp bed leaning against the car. The crime scene appeared to have changed throughout the early morning, contradicting the briefly held theory that the murders were part of a contract killing.
Gustave Dominici claimed to have got up at 5.30 am and to have discovered Elizabeth Drummond's body at around 5.45. Her skull had been smashed in as a result of several blows from the stock of a carbine (a long firearm similar to a rifle). She was found 77 metres away from the family car, on a slope leading down to the river. At around 6 am, Gustave flagged down Jean-Marie Olivier, a passing motorcyclist who was on his way to work. Gustave asked Olivier to ride to the nearby village of Oraison to inform the police of the discovery. Investigators later noted that Gustave himself owned a motorcycle and were curious as to why he had not simply travelled on it to tell the police himself, rather than waiting for a passer-by to arrive on the scene.
At around 6.30 am, Faustin Roure, who was travelling on a moped from the direction of Peyruis, overtook Clovis Dominici and his brother-in-law Marcel Boyer, who were riding bicycles. Roure went directly to the railway bridge to check on the state of a landslide that Gustave had informed him of during a visit to Roure's home at around 9 pm the previous day. At the same time as Roure arrived at the railway bridge, the two brothers-in-law arrived at the Grand'Terre, where Gustave told them that gunshots had been heard at around 1 am that morning and that he had discovered the body of a young girl on the slope leading to the river. The two brothers-in-law went to the scene, where they met Roure, who was climbing back up the railway cutting. They spotted Elizabeth's body 15 metres from the start of the bridge over the railway. Boyer noticed that Clovis seemed to know the precise position of the body, and Clovis prevented the other two men from going any closer to it. When they got back to the road, the three men discovered the bodies of Elizabeth's parents. They found Lady Anne Drummond lying on her back, completely covered by a sheet and lying parallel to the left side of the car. Sir Jack Drummond was also lying on his back, underneath a camp bed on the other side of the road. They had been shot to death. Unnerved by what he heard of a hushed conversation after everyone had returned to the farm, Marcel Boyer later denied to the police that he had stopped on his bicycle ride when he was interviewed at his workplace by an Officer Romanet on 16 August.
During questioning on 20 August with police chief Edmond Sébeille, Faustin Roure revealed that Boyer had indeed stopped and was present when the bodies were discovered. Boyer stated that he couldn't explain why he had lied. The suspected reason for Boyer's lie was eventually discovered on 13 November 1953, when Clovis Dominici revealed that Gustave had told him about the Drummonds screaming in pain and terror in the presence of Marcel Boyer and Roger Drac.
Between 6.50 and 7 am, Jean Ricard, a tourist who had been camping the previous night on a plateau in the nearby village of Ganagobie, passed the crime scene on foot. His attention was drawn to the car due to the apparent disorder around it. He walked around the car and saw an empty camp bed lying on the ground alongside it. Two metres to the left, parallel to the camp bed, he saw the body of Lady Anne Drummond, covered by a sheet from her head down to her knees, with her feet pointing in the direction of the Grand'Terre.
At around 7 am, Yvette Dominici, who was pregnant with her second child and had not seen the police arrive, got on her bike and rode towards Sylve Farm, passing through Giropey in order to phone the police. Up the hill at Guillermain Farm, 350 metres to the south of the Grand'Terre, she met Aimé Perrin, who told her that Gustave had found the body of a murdered girl on the riverbank. Perrin also mentioned that Gustave had seen a woman dressed in black with the Drummonds the previous evening. Yvette asked Perrin to phone the police. Perrin headed back towards the crime scene. On the way, he met Officers Romanet and Bouchier, whom he accompanied to the crime scene.
At around 7.30 am, the two police officers and Aimé Perrin arrived at the crime scene, which had already been contaminated multiple times. According to Perrin, Gustave arrived on the scene on foot and not on his bicycle: he came up behind the police officers, who had just found Lady Anne Drummond’s body. The officers found a 4 cm² shred of skin from a human hand hooked on the car’s rear bumper. This evidence was passed to police chief Edmond Sébeille as soon as he arrived on the scene. The car's front doors had been closed, while the double boot door had been pushed in, with the key left in the lock on the outside, dismissing the theory that Elizabeth Drummond had locked herself in the car from the inside. 6.4 metres behind the rear of the car was a drainage sump. Behind the sump, the police officers noticed a large pool of blood covering about 1 square metre. The blood was never tested, and it was never established whose blood this was. The police found two cartridge cases and two full cartridges, lying in pairs (one cartridge case and one intact cartridge). One pair was found 3 metres behind the car, while the other was found 5 metres perpendicular to the front-left of the car and 1.5 metres away from Lady Anne's body. The two pairs of cartridges/cases were approximately 9 metres away from each other. The cartridge cases were marked "LC4", and were different from the full cartridges, which bore the mark "WCC 43" and "WCC 44". Gustave drew the police officers' attention to the body of Sir Jack Drummond on the other side of the road, and pointed them to where Elizabeth Drummond's body lay on the riverbank. The two officers discovered shoe prints from crepe shoes. It appeared that the wearer of these shoes had walked away from Elizabeth's body and back again several times. These shoe prints were protected by placing twigs around them and were photographed.
Officer Romanet borrowed the bicycle of Mrs Perrin (who had come to the scene to join her husband) to go and phone Sylve, a local merchant, and ask for reinforcements. Sometime after 7.45 am, Faustin Roure – returning from Peyruis, where he had gone to inform his employer, stopped once more at the farm. He saw Gaston Dominici bringing his goats back from the pasture, and witnessed Gaston and Yvette talking about the murder. Roure – who had hidden behind a trellis when he heard the two talking, but had been noticed by them anyway – could not confirm whether it was a serious discussion or just a vague conversation.
At around 8 am, Officer Bouchier, who was alone by the camp bed, saw Roger Perrin cycling past towards the Grand'Terre. Shortly afterwards, Perrin returned by foot, carrying his bicycle, accompanied by his grandfather and Gaston Dominici. Meanwhile, Gustave asked the officer for permission to go and cover Elizabeth's body using a sheet that was on the camp bed; he was therefore aware that her body had not yet been covered.
At 8.15 am, Captain Albert arrived on the scene with Officers Crespy, Rebaudo and Romanet, whom he had collected from in front of the Perrin home in Giropey. As soon as they arrived, Captain Albert noticed a bicycle at the foot of a bush. The identity plaque on it indicated that it belonged to Gustave Dominici. When Gustave was asked about this, he said that he had gone to look for some chalk at the request of the police, and had taken his bicycle so as to do it as quickly as possible. This account was refuted by Officers Romanet and Bouchier; furthermore, the bicycle disappeared without anyone noticing who had left on it or when.
At around 8.30 am, Henri Estoublon, the mayor of Lurs, arrived on the scene along with a local doctor, Dr Dragon, who began examining the bodies of the Drummond parents. When he inspected Elizabeth's body at 9.15 am, he noticed that her limbs and torso were still supple but her feet were stiff.
At around 9.15 am, Mr and Mrs Barth, Yvette's parents, arrived at the Dominici farm. Yvette herself had already left the area, getting a lift from Mr Nervi, the local butcher, to the market in Oraison. She didn't return until after 4 pm, this time driven back by her parents. Ordinarily, she did her shopping in Forcalquier and returned by lunchtime.
At 9.30 am, prosecutor Louis Sabatier, judge Roger Périès and his clerk Emile Barras arrived from Digne-les-Bains, the regional capital. At around 10 am, Officer Legonge, the police dog handler, arrived with his dog Wasch. Gaston and Gustave Dominici and Roger Perrin watched as the bitch, picking up Elizabeth's scent, followed the path towards the river for about 50 metres northwards, before going down to the railway track, which she followed for 100 metres in the direction of the farm. The dog then climbed back towards the RN 96 road, crossed it and climbed up towards the irrigation canal 30 metres above the road, where she stopped. No one could work out what this circuitous route meant.
By this time, dozens of onlookers had gathered, while investigators had trampled on and disturbed the now large area of the crime scene. It is possible that some evidence was tampered with – either accidentally or deliberately – or even stolen as macabre souvenirs.
For lunch, Gustave, Clovis and Paul Maillet, a neighbour, gathered in Gaston's kitchen. During the meal, Gustave said that he had found Elizabeth still alive. Maillet claimed to have been shocked that no one tried to help her.
The investigation begins
The investigation was officially assigned to Superintendent Edmond Sébeille of Marseille's 9th Mobile Brigade. At 3 pm, Judge Périès, who had not seen the Marseille police arrive, decided to have the bodies removed. While removing Elizabeth's body, Mr Figuière, the gravedigger (in that era, gravediggers were regularly called upon to remove bodies from crime scenes), found a chip of wood from a rifle stock about 10 cm from Elizabeth's head. This piece of evidence was passed around by hand amongst various people, who were not aware of where it had been found. When the police arrived, an altercation ensued between Superintendent Sébeille, Judge Périès and Captain Albert – the latter was reproached for not having contained the crowd of onlookers and journalists who were walking around and contaminating the crime scene. According to Sébeille, he and his team arrived in Lurs at 1.30 pm. However, numerous journalists, including André Sevry from French daily Le Monde, claimed that the Marseille police did not arrive until after 4.30 pm.
At around 6 pm on 5 August, Inspectors Ranchin and Culioli recovered a Rock-Ola M1 carbine from the river Durance. It was broken in two and had clearly been in very poor condition even before being thrown into the river. Several pieces were missing and repairs had been made using makeshift knick-knacks: the sight had been replaced by half of a 1-franc coin, while the wooden forearm covering the barrel was missing. The lever had been replaced by a Duralumin ring taken from a bicycle's identity plaque, which was fixed to the wood by a screw. The safety strap was missing and the bolt stop was broken. Therefore, it was more of a DIY handyman's weapon than that of a seasoned killer.
On the same day, a lorry driver, Ode Arnaud, reported to the police in nearby Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban that he had seen a man sitting in the rear-left seat of the Drummonds' car when he passed the scene at 11.15 pm on the night of the murders; and that around midnight, 3 km north of Manosque (to the south of the crime scene), he had overtaken a motorcycle with a sidecar on the left-hand side (indicating that it originated from a country where traffic drives on the left, such as the UK). Later on in the investigation, the Dominicis claimed that this motorbike and sidecar had stopped at their farm at around 11.30 pm. Investigators believed that this claim was intended (i) to discredit the anonymous witness who reported having seen Gustave outside the farm in the company of an unknown man between 11.30 pm and midnight; and (ii) to deflect suspicion towards Ode Arnaud.
At around 7.30 pm on 5 August, Superintendent Sébeille met Gaston Dominici for the first time, close to the spot where Elizabeth had been found that morning. Gaston's tattoos, as well as the manner in which he spoke, led to Sébeille forming a bad impression of him.
The Dominicis were formally interviewed for the first time on 6 August, and inconsistencies quickly arose. The Dominicis claimed to have heard gunshots but not the victims' screams and calls for help. Gaston claimed that he (and not the gravedigger) was the person who found the chip of wood from the US M1, stating that he found it 30 cm from Elizabeth's head while he was covering her body with the sheet. He also claimed that he gave the chip to Officer Bouchier. Inspectors Culioli and Ranchin discovered girl's underwear in some undergrowth on the railway embankment, some 450 metres south of the Grand'Terre and close to Lurs railway station. In contrast, the crime scene itself was located to the north of the Grand'Terre. In a letter to Captain Albert dated 25 August 1955, during the second investigation, Inspector Ranchin confirmed that Francis Perrin, the postman in Lurs, told the police that he had followed the Drummonds' car southbound from Lurs between 11.30 am and midday of 4 August 1952. He originally reported this to Superintendent Constant on 3 October 1952.
On 6 August, Lucien Duc, a lorry driver from La Roche-de-Rame, a village 150 km (95 miles) away in the Haute-Alpes département, reported to his local police in L'Argentière-la-Bessée that he and his brother, Georges, had passed by the crime scene at 12.20 am on the night of the murders. They reported seeing an unknown man "with a disturbing facial expression" who froze on the spot when they approached. He was reportedly standing 100 metres from the Drummond's car in the direction of the Dominici farm. This unknown man was described as being about 40 years old, overweight, about 1.8 metres (5 ft 11) tall and with a thick head of hair.
On 6 and 13 August, Superintendent Sébeille took witness statements from Henri Conil, an estate agent, and Jean Brault, a medical student who was on holiday in Peyruis. Conil, who was giving Brault a lift, reported that they drove past the Drummonds' car between 1.30 and 1.35 am. Both men reported seeing a silhouette moving in the shadows near the car, indicating that the killer or an accomplice was still at the scene.
On 7 August, a search warrant was executed at the Dominici farm. Investigators found a 12 mm calibre hunting rifle, an old Fusil Gras service rifle that had been rechambered for hunting large game, and a 9 mm carbine. Gustave refused to answer the police officers' questions, presenting them with a falsified doctor's note. The Drummonds' funeral was held at 5 pm that day in Forcalquier, and they were buried in the cemetery there, a few miles from where they were murdered.
On the morning of 8 August, Gustave was questioned for four hours by Superintendent Sébeille in Peyruis. He stuck to his previous statements. Sébeille interviewed Lucien Duc, who reasserted his statement of 6 August. Roger Roche, who lived in Dabisse, a hamlet connected to the village of Les Mées on the other side of the river from the crime scene, went to the police station in Malijai, claiming that he had been in his garden at the time of the murders and had heard four or five gunshots coming from what sounded like the direction of the farm. He said he may have heard screams, but could not be sure. He reported that he remained outside for 15 minutes and neither heard the sound of an engine nor saw any vehicle lights on the road where the murders took place. On the afternoon of 8 August, Superintendent Sébeille showed the US M1 carbine to Clovis Dominici, who reacted by collapsing in apparent shock. He was brought to Peyruis and questioned for two hours, but denied being familiar with the weapon.
Officers Romanet and Bouchier went to Jean-Marie Olivier's home (the motorcyclist who passed the crime scene at 6 am the morning after the murders and went to inform the police). Olivier told them that Gustave had waved him down from behind the Drummonds' car. Surprised, Olivier was unable to stop instantly and stopped 30 metres down the road. Gustave ran towards him and asked him to go to Oraison to alert the police. Gustave allegedly said to him: “There’s a dead guy on the embankment by the side of the road.” Gustave himself claimed that he merely said: “There’s a dead person over there,” gesturing towards the river. Investigators interpreted from Gustave’s own version of the phrase that he knew that Elizabeth was still alive.
On 9 August, daily newspaper France-Soir published a picture and details of Elizabeth Drummond's travel diary. In reality, it was a mock-up made by journalist Jacques Chapus.
On 12 August, Aimé Perrin was interviewed at his home in Giropey by Officer Romanet. The questions revolved around his meeting with Yvette Dominici on the morning of 5 August. Perrin told Romanet what Yvette had told him, i.e. that there had been a woman dressed in black. Perrin said that he was informed that a crime had taken place by Mr Bourgues, a platelayer, before 7 am on the morning of 5 August. This assertion was not credible because Mr Bourgues was not in the area that morning, and would in any case not have been working at that hour. Daily newspaper L'Humanité published a photograph from early May 1945 of Sir Jack Drummond wearing a Home Guard officer's uniform, in discussions with Wehrmacht officers behind German lines in the Netherlands. The French Communist Party promoted the theory that the Drummonds were murdered due to fierce battles being fought at that time in the Basse-Alpes area between the British and American secret services.
On 13 August, Yvette was interviewed at the Grand'Terre by Officers Romanet and Bianco, but she did not mention the woman dressed in black that Gustave had allegedly seen.
On 16 August, Superintendent Sébeille took a witness statement from Raymond Franco, a Marseille leather merchant who had been on holiday in Les Mées. He reported what he thought at the time were two hunting shots, followed by three of four shots with longer intervals between them. He had heard this from the open window of his bedroom. Superintendent Sébeille also interviewed Yvette, who claimed that Gustave, having returned from the Girard family farm, told her that the Drummonds were camping on an easement that the Dominicis held on a piece of government-owned land. When asked about this again in 1955, she denied having said it. She maintained that she did not leave her kitchen that evening, and that no one came to the house to ask for food or water, nor did anyone come to ask for permission to camp. Her statement repeated Gustave's statement of 8 August word for word, suggesting that the couple had colluded in advance on what to say to the police. Gustave added that when he was driving back in the opposite direction at 8 pm on 4 August, he noticed the Drummonds' car and assumed that the family were planning to sleep there without setting up a tent.
When Marcel Boyer (Clovis Dominici's brother-in-law) was interviewed by Officer Romanet, he stated that he did not stop at the Grand'Terre on the morning of 5 August and that he went directly to Lurs railway station. But on 20 August – and later on 25 June 1953, when interviewed by Superintendent Sébeille – Boyer reneged on this assertion. Boyer claimed to have been so unnerved by a conversation that he had heard between Gustave and Clovis on the farm that he had decided to categorically deny that he had been on the farm at all that morning. Then, when he eventually admitted to stopping by there, he denied having heard anything other than the word "body" in reference to Elizabeth Drummond.
On 17 August 1952, a Mrs Jeanne Christianini from Marseille reported to the Marseille-North police station that she had passed the crime scene at 8.30 pm on 4 August and had seen a fairly tall man, possibly Sir Jack Drummond, looking underneath the car's bonnet. This would explain why Lady Anne and Elizabeth may have gone to the farm to ask for some water to fill the car radiator, whose cooling system, designed for the British climate, was totally inadequate in the face of the Provençal heatwave that was occurring at that time. On the night of 17 to 18 August, a police reconstruction was organised at the crime scene. There was no moon on the night of the reconstruction, whereas there had been a full moon on the night of the crime. The reconstruction involved the Duc brothers (who had seen an unknown man 58 metres from the farm) and Marceau Blanc, the lorry driver who had passed the crime scene at 4.20 am on 5 August.
On 19 August, Jean Garcin, a farmer from Ribiers, about 40 km (25 miles) north of the crime scene, went to his local police station to report that he had passed the crime scene at 3.45 am on 5 August and seen cushions arranged around the Drummonds' car.
On 20 August, Gustave went to Peyruis to give Superintendent Sébeille a letter that he had received from his brother Aimé, who lived in Eygalières, in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, some 100 km (60 miles) west of the Dominici farm. Through the letter, Aimé explained that the initials "RMS" found on the stock of the US M1 carbine corresponded to René-Marcel Castang, a resident of Lurs who had died in 1946. However, in reality, these initials may also simply stand for the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, one of the manufacturers that produced this type of carbine. Aimé wrote that on the day of Castang's funeral in 1946, some weapons had been stolen from his farm, which bordered Paul Maillet's farm. Also on 20 August, Superintendent Sébeille received an anonymous letter stating that Maillet had stolen the US M1 from Castang's farm on the day of Castang's funeral.
Still on 20 August, a Giovani Colussel reported to the police in La Saulce, 70 km (45 miles) north of the crime scene, that he had passed the location at 5 am on the morning after the murders, and he saw a sheet that had been laid out flat about 1.5 metres in front of the Drummonds' car. Also on 20 August, Germain Garcin, a lorry driver from Laragne (85 km (50 miles) east of the crime scene), who coincidentally happened to be a relative of Jean Garcin (the farmer who had made a witness statement the day before), reported to the police in Laragne that he had passed the location at 3.50 am on 5 August and had seen one of the car's doors open and a fairly tall man standing over the raised bonnet, holding a lamp in his hand.
On 21 August, a letter to the editor was published in Le Monde: Mr Garçon, a Parisian lawyer, condemned Superintendent Sébeille's "ill-considered gossip" to journalists and accused him of trying to cheaply achieve fame. On the same day, Joseph Juliany, a coach driver, reported to the police in Manosque that he had passed the crime scene at 11.30 pm on 4 August on a return journey from Corps (130 km (80 miles) north in the Isère département) to Manosque, and he saw a fairly tall man leaning over the Drummond car's open bonnet, holding a lamp in his hand. By now, thanks to the numerous independent reports of a man looking under the bonnet of the Drummonds' car, the investigators confirmed that the Drummonds had experienced a mechanical problem with their car.
On 24 August, the police identified the writer of the anonymous letter: it was a female lavender farmer who stated that she had visited the Maillets in the summer of 1950 and had seen the murder weapon hanging up on a nail in their kitchen.
Another anonymous letter was sent to Superintendent Sébeille. It was dated 25 August and sent from Sisteron, a nearby larger town, and stated that Gustave had been outside the farm with an unknown man between 11.30 pm and midnight on 4 August.
On 18 August and again on 27 August, a Mr Panayoutou told the police that he had taken part in the triple murder. However, his claims turned out to be false. It has never been established whether he was trying to distract the police's investigation for criminal motives or whether he was a pathological liar tempted by the reward of 1 million francs offered by newspapers the Sunday Dispatch and Samedi Soir.
On 29 August, a search warrant was executed at the home of Paul Maillet, where two Sten guns with loading mechanisms and ammunition were found hidden in his kitchen stove. Maillet was questioned in Forcalquier until 7 pm about the origin of his weapons, to which he provided no credible answer. He suddenly remembered that on the afternoon of 4 August, he heard the sound of gunshots coming from the direction of the bushes on the riverbank while he was working on the railway at the station in Lurs. Following a deal with the prosecutor's office, Maillet was not prosecuted for unlawfully possessing weapons of war, in exchange for providing assistance to the investigators.
Still on 29 August, Paul Delclite, a boss at the local mine in Sigonce – who occasionally slept at the Guillermain farm, 350 metres south of the Dominici farm – provided a witness statement to Officers Romanet and Bouchier. He reported that at around 10 pm on 4 August, he cycled to his allotment in Saint-Pons, about 1 km north of the Grand'Terre. He said that when he passed the Drummonds' car, he noticed a pile of sheets to the left of the car, but saw neither a tent canvas nor a camp bed.
Gaston Dominici is arrested and charged
On 1 September 1952, radiesthetist Jean-Claude Coudouing visited the crime scene. With the permission of a police officer, he surveyed the railway with his pendulum, returning at 4.10 pm with a crushed bullet that he said he had found at the bottom of the railway embankment, 100 metres to the north of the bridge. Analysis later revealed the bullet to have been fired from the US M1 carbine.
On 2 September, a search warrant was executed at the farm of François Barth, Yvette Dominici's father. Nothing of any evidential value was found.
On 3 and 4 September, Gustave Dominici was questioned at the police station in Forcalquier, where he contradicted the statement made by motorcyclist Jean-Marie Olivier. Olivier had previously taken part in a police reconstruction at the crime scene, where the police had had to dispel groups of former Francs-Tireurs et Partisans (FTPs – from an armed communist resistance organisation active during World War II) who were attempting to prevent the reconstruction from taking place. According to Olivier, on the morning after the murders, Gustave had emerged from in front of the Drummonds' car. Gustave claimed that he had emerged from a path about 15 metres further away, on the other side of a blackberry bush, and that he had already once returned to the farm without approaching the camp bed. Olivier and Gustave were both adamant that their own respective accounts were true. Gustave's questioning lasted for seven hours. Superintendent Sébeille eventually handed over to his colleague Superintendent Constant, who was joined by Superintendent Mével, the deputy to Chief Superintendent Harzic. Gustave eventually admitted to having intercepted Olivier from next to the front of the car and not from the other side of the blackberry bush. He also admitted to having seen the two camp beds but not the bodies of Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond.
Gustave and Yvette continually disputed Olivier's account during the investigation.
From 5 September until the end of December 1952, Superintendent Constant led the investigation, in place of his colleague Sébeille.
On 16 September, L'Humanité, which at that time was the French Communist Party's official daily newspaper, reported on a notebook belonging to Sir Jack Drummond. The notebook, which was partially burnt, was allegedly found by schoolchildren on a rubbish heap in Long Eaton, near the Drummonds' Nottingham residence. The newspaper reported that on one unspecified day in July 1947, a note was written "6 pm, meeting in Lurs with …". The rest of the line had been burnt. The source of this information was deemed by the British press to be unreliable.
On 29 September, Henri Chastel, a lorry driver from Orpierre, a village about 50 km (30 miles) north of the crime scene, informed Inspector Ranchin that he had passed the area on the night of the murders at around midnight and had seen a thin man of average height, wearing a shirt with rolled-up sleeves, his hands pressed against one of the car's rear doors and looking into the car. This man is unlikely to have been Sir Jack Drummond, who was overweight, and the description matches the one of the man seen at 11.15 pm by Ode Arnaud on the night of the murders.
On 30 September, Paul Maillet was suspended from his duties as secretary of the local Communist Party branch in Lurs by the departmental federation. The party, which had long been suspected of preparing an armed uprising and active support for the Việt Minh in Indochina, did not want to risk being compromised by a potential obscure provincial militant whose war weapons had been seized and who had a previous conviction for stealing electricity.
Professor Ollivier, a weapons expert, filed an initial report on the lubrication of the Rock-Ola carbine. The report formally confirmed that the lubricant from the carbine was totally different from that from the weapons belonging to Gustave Dominici and Paul Maillet.
On 2 October, a gun (either a Springfield or a Garand) belonging to Aimé Perrin, who lived in Giropey and was the brother of Roger Perrin's father, was confiscated. Aimé Perrin was confirmed as being the person who fired a shot that was heard by Maillet on the afternoon of 4 August: he claimed to have been shooting at some crows that were pecking at his vineyard.
Also on 2 October, Superintendent Constant took a witness statement from Germain Chapsaur, a radio-electrician from Peyruis and the owner of a travelling cinema that toured the local area. He claimed to have passed the Drummonds’ car at 12.50 am on the night of the murders. He was travelling northbound, on the opposite side of the road to the lay-by in which the car was parked. He noticed nothing out of the ordinary: there was no sheet to the right of the car and no lamp was lit. He added that he did not pass any other vehicles until he arrived in Peyruis.
On around 15 October, Paul Maillet informed Superintendent Constant that Gustave had heard Elizabeth’s cries, which led him to find her. According to the file, Maillet confided this to Emile Escudier, a greengrocer from La Brillane, a month after the murders. He also confided to Escudier that Gustave had witnessed her murder. Escudier urged Maillet to tell the police. Although Superintendent Constant did not mention the name of the Communist Party member to the Digne-les-Bains police department, it is possible that it was Escudier who provided this information.
On 15 October, Gustave was taken to Digne-les-Bains, where he was questioned along with Clovis and Maillet, who both confirmed his account. Gustave admitted to having heard Elizabeth Drummond make an unusual “humming” noise before her folded left arm relaxed, but he denied having told Maillet this during lunch at the Grand’Terre on 5 August. He stated that Elizabeth’s cries had drawn him to the other side of the bridge and that he then returned to the farm to tell Marie and Yvette, who did not go to look themselves. Gustave maintained that he did not go out that night and that he got up at 5.30 am. This assertion was later found to be untrue. Clovis admitted telling his brother to say nothing. Superintendents Sébeille and Constant went to the Dominici farm to question the rest of the family. Sébeille questioned Yvette and then Gaston, while Constant questioned Marie. All three denied knowing that Elizabeth had still been alive when she was found.
On 16 October, Gustave, when questioned by Superintendent Constant, refused to admit to having been by the camp bed when Olivier passed the scene, as well as denying having seen Elizabeth still alive and struggling. He later said that he made these denials for fear that his parents may have murdered Elizabeth and would lash out at him. He said that while he was waiting for the police, he had been located at the top of a small set of steps leading to the Grand’Terre’s southern courtyard, on the lookout in case the Drummonds’ car drove off so that he could catch its number plate. When Officers Romanet and Bouchier arrived on the scene at 7.30 am, they did not see Gustave when they passed these steps, and were surprised that he was not present. It is unknown at what time Gustave realised that Elizabeth was still alive since there is no evidence that he indeed found her shortly after Olivier passed the scene, as Gustave had claimed. Gustave later alternatively provided and retracted other contradictory versions. Therefore, Gustave’s true movements at this time remain unknown to this day.
Gustave Dominici was taken into custody at Saint-Charles Prison in Digne-les-Bains in the late afternoon of 12 October 1952. He was formally charged by Judge Périès of failing to assist a person in danger of death, after he admitted that Elizabeth Drummond was still alive when he found her at around 5.45 am on 5 August 1952. Superintendent Constant interviewed Dr Dragon about his post-mortem of the three victims. Dr Dragon stated that Elizabeth had not been chased to the place where she was found, but rather that the killer had carried her there, as her feet exhibited no grazes or dust. Dr Dragon also stated that she would have died three hours after her parents.
On 20 October, Gustave, accompanied by Mr Pollak, his lawyer, retracted his previous statements. Holding him in custody had not had its desired effect but his request for bail was refused.
On 29 October, Superintendent Constant received new information from the intelligence agency in Marseille: a month after the murders, Clovis Dominici and Jacky Barth (Yvette Dominici's younger brother) were allegedly seen in the Grand'Terre's sheep pen in the company of a man known as 'Jo'. Marie Dominici apparently insisted that the family pay Jo off as soon as possible so that he would not cause a nuisance for them. Mr Pollak and his girlfriend, Nelly Leroy, also allegedly saw Jo. The only description given of Jo was that he had very bad teeth.
On 5 November, Gaston and Marie Dominici, François Barth, and her daughter Yvette, were questioned by Superintendent Constant. The all denied any knowledge of Jo's existence and of his presence on the farm.
Meanwhile, the police tracked down the "unknown man with a sinister look on his face" whom the Duc brothers saw when they passed the location at 12.20 am on 5 August. On 6 November, Superintendent Constant questioned the man, Marcel Chaillan, all day but the questioning did not result in any progress being made in the investigation. Chaillan's nephew, Fernand, and brother, Louis, were also questioned, with no further action taken against them. Unlike his colleague Sébeille, Superintendent Constant believed that Marcel Chaillan was the man seen by Ode Arnaud at 11.15 pm on the night of the murders, then by Chastel at around midnight, and then by the Duc Brothers at 12.20 am, about 105 metres from the Drummonds' car. Constant's belief in this implies that Chaillan was also the unknown man seen with Gustave between 11.30 pm and midnight, and possibly also the man seen by the anonymous caller from Sisteron.
Gustave was questioned in prison on 7 November. He was evasive on the topic of Jo. Having returned to the crime scene with his lawyers, Mr Pollak and Mr Charrier, he claimed to know nothing about what allegedly happened in the sheep pen and denied knowing Jo. On the other hand, he stated that François Perrin, the postman in Lurs, had come to the farm that day. When questioned, the postman stated that he saw the lawyers and a journalist, as well as his father Louis, but not the Barths. Louis Perrin stated that he passed the Grand'Terre and went through its southern courtyard. He claimed to have seen Nelly Leroy (lawyer Pollack's girlfriend) and her daughter at the entrance to the sheep pen, in the company of Jacky but not her father, François Barth. Louis Perrin also denied that his nickname was Jo. He had some metal teeth, some of which were partially broken.
On 12 November, Nelly Leroy was questioned by Superintendent Constant. According to her, they visited the farm on 8 September. Besides the Dominicis, she only remembered seeing Jacky Barth: she remembered that at one point, a man with metal teeth approached from the direction of the sheep pen before immediately going back towards it. The two lawyers themselves were not questioned.
Still on 12 November, Gustave Dominici was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for failing to assist a person in danger. His past as a member of the FTP spared him from the maximum five-year sentence. He was released on 15 December. On this same day, Wilhelm Bartkowski, who had been detained at Stuttgart prison in West Germany since 9 August 1952, claimed that he had been driving the car of the commando of a contract-killing squad recruited in West Germany by a secret East German mission whose aim was to execute the Drummonds. Bartkowski retracted this statement later, following questioning by a Superintendent Gillard.
Following Gustave's imprisonment, Paul Maillet began to receive several death threats in the post. On the morning of 17 November, he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life: in an attempt to decapitate him, an iron wire had been tied across a track along which he was travelling on his moped. Then, shortly before Christmas, unidentified people were seen loitering close to his house and farm.
On 17 November, a Dr Morin provided a witness statement of the events of 6 August. He had apparently been camping nearby, and at the invitation of Gustave Dominici he had changed the location of his camp to a raised piece of land on the approach to the bridge over the railway. He said when he left this location, he went to stay at the Grand'Terre itself, but that he wasn't sure if he had stayed on Gaston's or Gustave's land. Gustave allegedly gave him two hunting rifles, one of which was used to hunt wild boar. This gun's sight had been replaced by half of a one-franc coin, which Gustave had welded into place. When Morin was shown the photograph of the US M1, he did not recognise the carbine with no loading mechanism that Gustave had shown him – the latter was different from the US M1, which did have a loading mechanism. At this stage of the investigation, Dr Morin's testimony was considered vague and was not taken on board.
On 30 November, Paul Maillet was expelled from the Communist Party by local secretary Roger Autheville for "collaborating with the police". Autheville was a former FTP boss and a friend of Gustave's.
On 4 December, Professor Ollivier filed a new expert report about the lubrication of the Springfield weapon seized from Aimé Perrin. The spectrum of this gun's lubricant was very different from that of the Rock-Ola.
On 20 January 1953, Superintendent Sébeille officially took charge of the investigation. He was warned not to make any ill-advised statements to the press.
Paul Maillet told the local police in Forcalquier on 23 January, followed by Superintendent Sébeille on 27 January, that Gustave Dominici had viewed the Drummonds' murders from the alfalfa field.
On 27 January, Aimé Perrin learned from Sébeille that Gustave and Yvette had seen a mysterious woman dressed in black on the evening of 4 August 1952 standing by the Drummonds' car. Yvette allegedly informed Perrin of this when they met on the morning of 5 August, and claimed that Clotilde Araman, a member of the Dominici family, also knew of this. On 14 February, Clotilde Araman confirmed this under questioning, and claimed that she had also been informed of the sighting by Yvette. However, she also reported that Gustave denied having seen the woman. Clotilde believed the woman could have been Marie Dominici, but the police did not believe this, as Gustave would not have failed to recognise his own mother.
On 29 January, Roger Perrin Jr, Gaston Dominici's grandson, repeated this story to Superintendent Sébeille, before telling the same account to the local police in Forcalquier the following day.
On 2 February, Superintendent Sébeille questioned Officer Bouchier from Forcalquier. Bouchier claimed to have seen Roger Perrin pass by on his bicycle at around 8 am on 5 August 1952. Bouchier insisted that he saw Roger return a few minutes later on foot with his bicycle in his hand, accompanied by his grandfather (Gaston) and Gustave, all three of whom had left the farm to go to where the Drummonds were camped. Despite this account seeming insignificant, Gaston and Gustave jointly contested it in front of Judge Batigne on 19 November 1955. Questions were asked as to why they were so determined to hide the fact that they had left the farm together. In his first statement to the court, Gaston claimed that Gustave had informed him of the murders, but as Roger's version threatened Faustin Roure's testimony, Gaston and Gustave issued denials. Roger had stuck to his version since telling Sébeille of it on 29 January 1953. The investigation's waters were muddied by Roger's return to the farm at around 7.45 am and by the confusion regarding who owned the bicycled used by Roger. Bouchier reported that he had asked Roger to hold a measuring rod. Gaston was furious at this request and sent Roger back to the farm. Roger only grudgingly obeyed, staying at the scene for a minute or two before returning to the farm with his grandfather; they both returned to the scene at around 11 am. Gaston therefore brought his grandson to Prosecutor Sabatier, though Gaston fiercely denied this at his trial.
On 19 March 1953, Captain Albert took witness statements from Officer Émile Marque from the local police in Valensole, a town a short distance south of the crime scene. He reported that he saw the Drummonds arrive at the Hôtel l'Ermitage at around 6.15 pm on 4 August 1952 and leave about an hour later. Marque claimed that an hour after the Drummonds left the hotel, another British couple arrived, the woman of whom was dressed in black. The man asked Marque if he had seen an English car. Marque replied that he had, upon which the man went into the hotel to use make a telephone call, while the woman stayed by the car. The couple left about 15 minutes later. This is the second time that a woman dressed in black had been mentioned during the investigation. Even though this testimony was provided by a police officer, the statement was given little credence due to how long Marque had waited before reporting it, and it was not retained by the investigators. Officer Marque was not called to court as a witness.
On 3 May, Superintendent Constant provided his final report to Chief Superintendent Harzic. He went out of his way to make the point that the local communists had been entirely cooperative with the investigators. The Basse-Alpes branch of the Communist Party organised committees dedicated to defending the Dominicis around August 1953 and scheduled an anti-police protest for the beginning of September 1953. Both of these initiatives had been prohibited by prefectural order (a decree issued by the prefect of the département).
On 7 May 1953 in Digne-les-Bains, Roger Perrin (who had by that time been working as a butcher there for a while) informed Superintendent Sébeille of the existence of a canvas water bucket that the Drummonds had used to bring water to the farm. The following day, Roger's mother Germaine – in whom Yvette had also confided – confirmed to Sébeille that the Drummonds had come to the farm. Furthermore, the Drummonds' money, as well as a few of their personal items, including a camera, were not present at the crime scene and have never been found.
On 13 May 1953, Superintendent Sébeille travelled to Marseille to take a witness statement from Jean Ricard, who had been camping on the night of the murders in Ganagoble, a village located on a plateau above the west bank of the river near the crime scene. Ricard stated that he passed the crime scene at around 7 am on 5 August 1952 and saw Lady Anne Drummond lying on her back parallel to the left-hand side of the car, with her feet facing south towards the farm, and her body partially covered by a sheet down to her lower legs. However, when Officers Romanet and Bouchier – accompanied by Aimé Perrin, whom they had met en route – came across her body at 7.30 am, she was lying on her front, entirely covered by the sheet, and in a diagonal position in relation to the car and several metres away from it, with her feet facing north-east towards the river. Gaston Dominici could not have moved her body, as he had returned to the farm at 7.45 am, herding his goats, who had been grazing since sunrise in Giropey, 2 kilometres to the south.
On 21 August 1953, Superintendent Sébeille took a new statement from Jean-Marie Olivier, as his original statement provided on 5 August 1952 had only been noted partially by Officer Gibert in Oraison. Olivier had spoken to Captain Albert, who had directed him to Officer Gibert. Olivier had told Gibert that the Yvette and Marie Dominici were at the entrance to the farm, watching Gustave. Olivier's new statement also revealed the following information:
- The man seen on four occasions roaming the area between 11.15 pm and 12.20 am (unless this was several different people) resembled neither Sir Jack Drummond nor Gaston Dominici: Gaston had been seen in the company of an unknown man between 11.30 pm and midnight; Marcel Chaillan was probably the unknown man seen by the Duc brothers at 12.20 am. In addition, 'Jo' had been seen at the farm in early September.
- Statements from various members of the Dominici family regarding the number of gunshots were inconsistent: Gaston's statement agreed with Roger Roche's, while Gustave's and Yvette's agreed with Raymond Franco's.
- Gaston and/or Gustave altered the crime scene several times shortly after the murders. At the very least, Gustave did so at around 4 am, as Gaston could not have done so as he had left for Giropey with his goats by that time.
- Gustave refused to admit that he had been present at the crime scene, despite being surprised there by Olivier passing on his motorcycle.
- Gustave mentioned several bodies, rather than only that of Elizabeth Drummond on the embankment by the river. However, Gustave claimed to have only been referring to Elizabeth's body, and claimed that she was dead, although he knew that she was in fact still alive.
- Marie and Yvette Dominici stayed on the lookout at the entrance to the farm: they therefore knew that Gustave was doing something at the crime scene.
- Therefore, the Dominicis intended neither to save Elizabeth Drummond nor to raise the alarm. According to the prosecution, the reason for this was obvious: they had to allow Gustave time to change the crime scene again, since Jean Ricard had passed it shortly after 7 am.
- Gustave had therefore been lying repeatedly since he was first questioned on 6 August 1952.
Lie after lie
When Roger Perrin was questioned by the police about his movements on the morning of 5 August 1952, he told them that he got up at 5 am to tend to his cattle, then left for Peyruis at 6 am to fetch a bottle of milk from an elderly local man named Mr Puissant. Perrin claimed that Mr Puissant told him that Puissant’s friend, Jean Galizzi, had accidentally taken the bottle of milk to Pont-Bernard, where he then learnt of the murders. Galizzi confirmed this account when he was questioned. However, when the police went to Peyruis to visit Puissant to confirm this story, they found that Puissant had died in November 1951. When Galizzi was re-questioned about this, he admitted having made up his testimony. According to Daniel Garcin, Galizzi’s employer, Galizzi spent the night of 4 to 5 August at La Cassine, a farm located beyond Peyruis (in relation to the murder scene) and that the Perrin family had just become tenant farmers there.
Roger Perrin then changed his story: it was Faustin Roure, who led the team of platelayers at Lurs railway station, who had informed him of the murders when he stopped by at the Perrins’ farm. When Roure was subsequently questioned, he denied this, though he later admitted in the witness box at the murder trial that Perrin’s account was indeed true.
When Perrin was asked how he had arrived at the crime scene, he claimed that he had used a racing bike belonging to his cousin Gilbert (Clovis Dominici’s son). When Clovis was asked about this, he said that he only lent the bicycle to his son on 18 August 1952. However, the police officers saw only Gustave Dominici’s bicycle (and no others) by the wall on the morning after the murders. Roger Perrin later claimed to have borrowed his mother Germaine’s bicycle – but Germaine spent the night of 4 to 5 August at La Cassine and Roger claimed to have slept alone at La Serre, the Perrin family farm.
Astonished by Perrin’s various lies and contradictions, the police questioned him about his movements on the night preceding the murders. He claimed that he had gone to the hamlet of Saint-Pons, about 1 km north of the Dominici farm, to water apricot plants and chat with Paul Delclite, who worked on a neighbouring allotment. When Delclite was questioned to verify Perrin’s story, he denied having met Perrin. Re-questioned about this, Perrin provided a new alibi: his mother Germaine Perrin (née Dominici) had helped him water his plants. His mother confirmed this. However, Roger forgot that he had stated to Superintendent Constant on 23 September 1952 that his mother had left on her bicycle to join her husband at La Cassine, north of Peyruis, on 4 August at 2 pm.
Despite Perrin’s chain of lies, Superintendent Sébeille considered him a harmless young braggart. Perrin lied on ‘only’ three points: his presence at the Grand’Terre on the night of the murders; how he learned of the murders; and which bicycle he had used to arrive at the crime scene on the morning of 5 August when Officer Bouchier saw him arrive at 8 am.
On the morning of 12 November 1953, a police reconstruction was held at the crime scene. Participating were Marcel Boyer, Faustin Roure and Clovis Dominici. Dr Dragon and motorcyclist Jean-Marie Olivier were also present. The first part of the reconstruction concerned the exact location of Lady Anne Drummond’s body: the first three witnesses agreed that she had been lying parallel to the left of the car, but Jean Ricard (a tourist who had passed the crime scene on foot between 6.50 and 7 am) claimed she was covered by a sheet from her knees up, while the other two witnesses claimed that she was totally uncovered. Clovis Dominici claimed that Lady Anne’s body had been lying in a diagonal position 6 metres away from the car, but he later changed this story and admitted that she had indeed been lying on her back parallel to the car. Gustave Dominici was then questioned: he claimed that he reluctantly placed the sheet at an angle a certain distance away from the car. He was confused by the other witness statements and was unsure of the exact spot from which he had hailed Jean-Marie Olivier when he was riding past on his motorcycle at around 6 am. Gustave was brought before the court in Digne-les-Bains on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice due to his lies. Ricard, Roure, Clovis Dominici, Pailler, and Germaine and Roger Perrin were later brought before the court. Contrary to Superintendent Sébeille’s later claims, he had always considered Gustave Dominici the prime suspect. During this round of questioning, Gaston Dominici remained at the family farm and the police did not seek to question him.
When Gustave was confronted by Maillet and Olivier’s statements, he initially denied the facts, before eventually admitting that both men’s accounts were true. Roger Perrin then resisted the investigators’ efforts and became arrogant towards his uncle – his questioning at this time therefore yielded no answers. Gustave Dominici admitted that the Drummonds had come to the farm, but said he was not there at the time. He claimed to have found Elizabeth Drummond, severely injured but still alive, at 4 am. He claimed that he only discovered the bodies of her parents at 5.45, after having tended to his cattle. He said that he did not interfere with Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond’s bodies or the sheet, and that therefore someone else must have done so. Questioning was suspended at 7 pm and resumed at 8.30 pm. Gustave then admitted to moving Lady Anne Drummond’s body without providing a credible explanation why: he claimed that he had been looking for cartridge cases. Gustave ended his questioning by admitting: “I was looking for the bullets or cases. I was scared that they would be found close to the house.” This statement implies that other ammunition scattered around the location did not originate from the farm. Gustave's explanation is all the more improbable as he claimed to have seen two cases and two cartridges grouped together in pairs – which would suggest that the scene was staged – while also claiming that he did not touch them, yet four cases were missing.
Gustave added that he was disturbed by Jean Ricard's unexpected arrival and that he didn't have time to hide in the gorge at the end of the embankment. Gustave was not challenged about other aspects of the crime scene that the police believed may have been staged, such as Lady Anne's sandals, which were hidden underneath a cushion on the small footpath leading off diagonally from the car towards the railway, or the sheet wedged underneath her body (which was a different sheet from the one that had covered her body at some point earlier in the morning). This led the investigators to wonder whether there had been two assailants (or whether, at the very least, two people had moved the body), and whether Clovis had stayed at the farm to help Gustave after the platelayers had left.
On the morning of Friday 13 November, Judge Périès instructed the police to bring in Germaine Perrin, her son Roger, and Yvette Dominici for questioning. At 9.30 am, the judge questioned Yvette about the Drummonds' arrival at the farm. Yvette denied that they had come to the farm, even after Judge Périès told her that Gustave had admitted that they had. At 10 am, the judge questioned Yvette and Roger together, without success. He then ordered for Gustave Dominici and Germaine Perrin to be brought to the superintendent. Yvette held out against the others and refused to make any admission. At around 2.45 pm, Gustave broke down in tears and accused his father Gaston of murdering the Drummonds. Superintendent Sébeille was content to draw up a seven-line procès-verbal (an official statement of facts with legal force), noting Gustave's accusation without asking him any questions about it.
Gustave was questioned by Judge Périès at 4.30 pm. Gustave claimed that on the night of the murders, he was awoken by gunshots and was unable to go back to sleep. At around 4 am, he heard his father get up, and he then joined his father in the kitchen (doubts later arose as to how this could be true when Gustave never heard Gaston return home after the gunshots took place, despite being awake from this time onwards). Gaston allegedly told Gustave that he had fired the gunshots using a carbine that he had hidden, either in his bedroom or in the farm's sheep pen. It is still unknown how the gun was hidden again (it was later found by Clovis). Gustave claimed that he was unaware of the existence of the carbine. Gustave then stated that Gaston left to hunt rabbits with a war weapon and on his return, admitted to Gustave that he had murdered the Drummonds. Gaston allegedly told Gustave that he had shot Sir Jack first, followed by Lady Anne. Notably, he did not admit to his son that he had killed Elizabeth. Gaston then allegedly got rid of the weapon, but did not tell Gustave where or how he had done so. Gustave stated that his father had knocked Elizabeth unconscious at the foot of the bridge, whereas he had previously denied knowing where Elizabeth's body was located. Gustave claimed that upon hearing his father's admission, he went to the crime scene and found that Elizabeth was still alive (forensic scientists consulted by Superintendent Constant in October 1952 stated that due to her injuries, Elizabeth could not have survived for longer than an hour after the attack). Gustave claimed that he then went back to the camp bed and saw the bodies of Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond. He asserted that the parents' bodies were covered but Elizabeth's was not. Gustave then returned to the farm between 4.30 and 4.45 pm and told Yvette and Marie – who were doing chores in the farm's courtyard – that Elizabeth was still alive and struggling. This account of events is improbable: if Gustave took only 10 or 15 minutes to leave the farm and find the bodies, geography dictates that Gaston – who had been driving his herd of goats towards Giropey – must have crossed paths with the women in the courtyard, who had been up and about far earlier than they usually were. Gustave continued his statement by claiming that he tended to his cattle before returning to the crime scene to search for anything that might belong to his father. He said he saw the cartridge cases but did not touch them. It was at that point that motorcyclist Jean-Marie Olivier came upon the scene, about an hour and a half after the bodies were discovered. The investigators saw no reason to doubt Olivier’s account. Gustave’s suspected untruthful account continued, claiming that his father told him to shut up when several people (including Clovis and Maillet) gained knowledge that the police were beginning to suspect Gaston several weeks later.
Gaston Dominici is accused and confesses
Gaston Dominci’s sons, Gustave and Clovis, accused their father of the murders on 13 November 1953. In return, Gaston accused them of concocting a plot against him, and he claimed during the second inquiry in 1955 that his son Gustave and Roger Perrin were responsible for the murders.
Gaston arrived in Digne-les-Bains at around 7 pm on 13 November 1953, escorted by Gendarmerie Commander Bernier. According to official sources, he was questioned until 10.30 pm, although other sources claim that he was questioned through the night.
In the mid-morning of 14 November 1953, Gustave and Clovis, who had been taken to the Grand'Terre by the police, showed them where the US M1 carbine had been kept: on a shelf in a shed. This revelation was preceded by a brawl between law enforcement and the Dominici women and girls, who were eventually held in an outbuilding.
Gaston Dominici was questioned until 6 pm on 14 November, but no progress was made with the investigation. His custody was the responsibility of Custody Officer Guérino. At 7 pm, Gaston confided in Guérino that he was responsible for the murders, but stated that it had been an accident: the Drummonds had attacked him, thinking he was a mugger. Gaston asked Guérino to go and find Superintendent Prudhomme of the Digne-les-Bains police, whom he considered the legitimate law-enforcement leader – he refused to make any admission to Superintendent Sébeille.
When Guérino finished his shift at 8 pm and handed over to his colleague Bocca, Guérino immediately went to inform his boss, while Gaston changed his story when he began confessing to Bocca. When Prudhomme arrived, Gaston asked him to draw up "the document that says I'm guilty", all the while proclaiming his innocence and claiming that he was sacrificing himself to protect his grandchildren. Irritated, Prudhomme responded that the situation could not be treated like a negotiation at a market: either he was guilty or he wasn’t. Superintendent Prudhomme did not ask which grandchildren Gaston meant, i.e. all of them, only Gustave’s or only Germaine Perrin’s. In light of Gaston’s difficulties in expressing himself, Prudhomme suggested to him that the crime was sexually motivated. Following this tactic, Gaston changed his initial account and stated that the murders were triggered by his sexual attraction to Lady Anne Drummond.
Later that night, Gaston repeated his statement to Superintendent Sébeille while Prudhomme noted it down. Gaston claimed to have seen Lady Anne Drummond getting undressed and decided to invite her to have sexual relations with him, which she accepted. The noise of their lovemaking then woke Sir Jack Drummond. A fight resulted, and Gaston consequently shot Sir Jack three times – twice to his front – before shooting Lady Anne either once or twice. Elizabeth fled towards the bridge but Gaston caught up with her at the riverbank and knocked her unconscious with a single pistol-whip.
Gaston's confession and sexual motive contradicted the autopsy results: Lady Anne Drummond’s body was entirely clothed, and her dress had been pierced by the bullets. Furthermore, the autopsy showed that she had not been involved in sexual intercourse immediately before her death.
On the morning of 15 November, Judge Périès arrived at work early and was unaware of Gaston’s confession. Giraud, the building’s caretaker, informed Judge Périès upon his arrival, since Sébeille had already not done so. Rather than having Gaston brought to him for questioning, Périès interrogated Giraud until 9.15 am. Sébeille arrived at 9.30 am and went straight to where Gaston was being held. At 10.15 am, Sébeille presented Gaston to Périès. Gaston protested his innocence and accused Gustave of being the real murderer. At this point, Périès withdrew to discuss with his clerk, Barras.
At 11.15 am, Périès returned to speak to Gaston, who had now agreed to admit to being the sole perpetrator. He claimed that it was the first time that he had used the US M1 and that he had taken it with him hunting just in case he came across a badger or a rabbit. Périès did not ask Gaston why he had opted to take a war weapon when he also owned various hunting rifles. In addition, Gaston claimed that the US M1’s magazine was full, thus containing 15 cartridges, and that he had also taken another two or three cartridges that were lying around on the shelf. Six shots had been fired from the US M1, and two full cartridges and two empty cartridge cases were found at the crime scene. This meant that about 12 cartridges were missing, as the magazine was found empty.
Gaston maintained that he had been using the weapon for the first time and did not know how to operate it properly, as it was semi-automatic. Those who believe in his innocence have asked how he could have been able to kill two alert adults and then shoot Elizabeth from 60 metres away while she was running (Elizabeth sustained a gunshot wound to her right ear). Although there had been a clear sky and full moon on the night of the murders, Gaston was short-sighted and did not wear glasses. Périès did not ask these questions, while Sébeille showed a lack of interest in the technical matters relating to the ballistics. In a book that he wrote later, Sébeille admitted that he never consulted the Drummonds’ autopsy reports. What mattered to him was the confession (which he acknowledged had inconsistencies), rather than material elements that weakened Gaston’s various confessions. For their part, Prosecutor Sabatier and Judge Périès simply followed Superintendent Sébeille, rather than giving him instructions.
In the afternoon of 15 November 1953, Judge Périès discussed for the first time a pair of trousers belonging to Gaston, which Inspector Girolami had been seen drying on the Dominicis’ trellis in the late afternoon of 5 August 1952. Inspector Girolami confirmed this in writing to the investigators leading the second inquiry on 24 August 1955.
Gaston Dominici is charged
On the morning of 16 November 1953, a reconstruction took place at the crime scene without Gaston being charged with the crime, which was contrary to the Law of 8 December 1897 on criminal instruction. When Gaston was brought to the farmhouse and asked where the murder weapon was hidden, he signalled a different shelf from the one indicated by his two sons, as can be seen in the photographs taken at the scene. The reconstruction was carried out quickly, following Gaston’s unreliable admissions and the scenario that Superintendent Sébeille had supported since the start of the investigation. Gaston attempted suicide, which the investigators considered an admission of guilt. When the reconstruction was complete, Gaston was charged with the murders while sitting in the police van, which went against criminal procedure. In July 1954, the Court of Cassation ruled that the method of this charging went against all established jurisprudence.
The following days saw the press turn unanimously against Gaston, labelling him the “Tattooed Killer”, “Wild Boar of the Basses-Alpes”, “Monster of Lurs”, “Lecherous Billy Goat” among other monikers. Rumours spread of him committing bestiality with his goats, having extramarital affairs, going on drinking sprees and committing domestic violence. All of the women in the Dominici family were accused of debauchery, while baseless insinuations were made connecting them sexually with Lady Anne Drummond.
In hearings held between 18 November 1953 and the end of the first three months of 1954, Gustave and Yvette Dominici made numerous contradictory statements and told some outright lies. This period also saw a frenzy of letter-writing between Gaston’s children, when they normally never wrote letters. Investigators believed that the letters were written with the deliberate aim of being intercepted and read by them.
On 24 November 1953, Clovis Dominici told Judge Périès a third version of the conversation in which his father informed him at the end of November 1952 that he had committed the murders. Clovis continued to change his story, particularly relating to the assistance that he provided to his younger brother Gustave in altering the crime scene between when Ricard passed the scene and when the police arrived at around 7.30 am.
On 30 November 1953, a man named Elie Gautier was interviewed by Judge Périès. Gautier claimed that he had given a lift to Paul Maillet in early November 1953. During the ride, Gautier told Maillet that sometime in 1951, he had stopped at Gaston’s farmhouse for a drink. Gautier claimed to have told Maillet that he had seen a single-barrelled rifle, without a magazine, hanging on Gaston’s living-room wall opposite the front door, and that Gaston had told him that this rifle was for shooting wild boar. Maillet confirmed Gautier’s account and added that Gautier had told him that the rifle had been assembled haphazardly by Gaston, but Gautier denied telling Maillet this. Maillet said that he had never seen the murder weapon at Gaston’s property in all the time that he had visited the farm. However, he may have been referring to the Fusil Gras that had been rechambered for hunting large game, which was seized on 7 August 1952.
On 5 December 1953, Judge Périès questioned Gustave about the US M1 carbine. Gustave said that he and Yvette had stored it in the shed after his brother Aimé left in January 1951. According to Gaston, the carbine had never been in the shed before, and he only saw it later on one occasion. He did not touch it but he noticed that it had been fixed together in an amateurish manner. In addition, two magazines were lying side by side and there were no cartridges on the shelf. He claimed that the weapon was clearly visible; he assumed that Gaston had previously kept it in his and Marie’s bedroom, but Marie claimed never to have seen it there.
On 7 December 1953, Superintendent Sébeille interviewed Paul Maillet, who confirmed what Gustave had told him in early September 1952 about hearing the Drummonds’ screams. He added that Gustave had been in the alfalfa field and witnessed the murders, although Gustave himself never admitted this – he had always claimed not to have left his bedroom by this time. Gustave would have had to come very close to the crime scene to be able to witness the murders, as the alfalfa field was located behind the camp bed – as can be seen on contemporary aerial photographs – and not between the farm and the railway-bridge footpath, as the police asserted. It is therefore unclear as to what Gustave was doing outside at the time of the murders. Furthermore, if he was indeed outside, his claim to have met Gaston in the courtyard at 4 am was a lie. In an attempt to clear some of this confusion, Superintendent Sébeille questioned Escudier, the greengrocer in La Brillanne in whom Paul Maillet had confided in September 1952. Escudier corroborated Maillet’s story.
On 17 December, Judge Périès questioned Paul Maillet, who reaffirmed his earlier statements. He added that he had never suspected Gaston before Gaston confessed, nor had he ever believed that Gustave saw the murderer and did not want to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals. He reiterated his belief that Gustave was concealing some of the truth. Périès then questioned Gustave, who insisted that Gaston habitually wore slippers when walking around at night and that he hadn’t heard him get up before 4 am. Judge Périès did not believe that Gaston would have gone outside in slippers. When Paul Maillet was brought into the interrogation room, Gustave denied his earlier story and stated that he did not leave his bedroom.
Maillet then left again, and in front of Gustave, Périès summed up what he believed to be Gustave’s lies ever since the start of the investigation. This was a well-known interviewing technique, and Gustave responded to it by saying that he would finally tell the whole truth. He claimed that he had met his father not at 4 am, but at 2 am, by the well in the courtyard, looking very agitated. In his previous story, he had said that his father was calm. Gustave then said that he rushed to the railway embankment to find Elizabeth Drummond still alive. Judge Périès did not further challenge Gustave that even under a full moon, he would have had to go very close to Elizabeth to be able to tell that she was still alive. Gustave claimed that he went back up the embankment to the camp bed, without touching anything or looking for ammunition. He said that he did not rummage inside the car or through the Drummonds’ personal belongings, which were scattered around the crime scene. Either through incompetence or through fear that Gustave would stop talking, Judge Périès did not react to Gustave’s assertion that he had not touched anything, even though the car had clearly been ransacked. Gustave claimed that he then went to the shed to find that the rifle and its two magazines were missing. Périès did not challenge Gustave that in the dark, it would have been impossible to tell that these items were missing from the shed. According to Gustave, when he returned to the house to go back to bed, his father was not outside but the light was on in his parents’ kitchen. Gustave then headed to his bedroom and told Yvette everything that had happened. He did not go out again until around 5 am. Gustave added that Clovis had told him of his suspicions about Paul Maillet.
Judge Périès brought Clovis in to put him face to face with Gustave. Clovis said that he had suspected Maillet right from the start because Maillet had arrived late to the building site at Lurs railway station. He recognised the rifle when Superintendent Sébeille showed it to him. Clovis had noticed that same evening that it was missing; he mentioned this to Gustave, who responded that he knew. Nevertheless, Clovis suspected Gustave, but Gustave assured Clovis that he was not involved in its disappearance. Previously, the two brothers had claimed that they had only spoken about the rifle on 17 or 18 December 1952 while cutting wood at Saint-Pons. Clovis confirmed that he had only seen the rifle after their brother Aimé left in January 1951. Clovis allegedly picked it up and only saw one magazine attached, while Gustave had always mentioned there being two magazines.
At about 2 pm on 18 December 1953, Judge Périès turned up at the farm unannounced and ordered Gustave to leave so that he could question Yvette alone. He asked Yvette to recount the events of the night of the murders. Yvette said that she had heard six or seven shots and – less distinctly – the victims’ screams. By her account, she fed Alain at 1.30 am after they had been awoken by their dogs barking. Yvette said that Gustave did not get up until after 1.30 am, leaving for about 15 minutes. In the courtyard, he allegedly came across his father, who had been beaten by a drunk man. Yvette did not hear Gaston leave or return and did not hear Gustave and Gaston talking in the courtyard. According to Yvette, Gustave returned to bed at around 1.45 am and told her that Gaston had killed the Drummonds. She said that Gaston left at around 5 am to tend to his goats, while Gustave followed and then went to the crime scene. When he returned, he allegedly told Yvette and Marie, who were doing chores in the courtyard, that Elizabeth Drummond was still alive on the bridge. A short while later, according to Yvette, Gustave returned to the crime scene and touched Elizabeth’s arm. She said that Gustave went to the crime scene several times after 5 am.
Judge Périès did not believe Yvette’s assertion that she thought Elizabeth Drummond’s body was located underneath the bridge, rather than on the riverbank. If Yvette was telling the truth, it would mean that Elizabeth’s body had been located on the railway – after having been moved – before being moved again later. Yvette then claimed that Gustave only found out about the US M1 carbine being the murder weapon when he returned from the market in Oraison at the end of the afternoon. Yvette said that she was unaware of the weapon’s existence and did not see it on the shelf in the shed. Therefore, if Yvette was telling the truth, the murder weapon was not present at the farm before the murders. She could not remember the exact time at which she learned that Clovis knew the identity of the killer and was not sure whether Gustave had told her at the time of the murders or on 14 November 1953.
In light of this, Judge Périès confronted Yvette and Gustave. Gustave stated that he went back to sleep at around 2.30 or 2.45 am without telling Yvette that he had been to the location of the Drummonds’ car. He did not want to tell her that Elizabeth Drummond was still alive. However, Yvette recounted that Gustave had come back to bed at around 1.45 am; despite this, Judge Périès did not press the couple on the contradiction.
The Drummonds had been on holiday since 1 August 1952 in Villefranche-sur-Mer (on the Mediterranean coast, several hours away from the Dominici farm) with friends, married couple Guy and Phillys Marian, as well as the couple’s daughters Valery and Jacqueline. On 21 December 1953, Phillys told Superintendent Sébeille that Sir Jack Drummond had taken a significant sum of money with him in an envelope when he left Digne-les-Bains on the morning of 4 August 1952. Neither this money nor his wallet have ever been found.
On 28 December 1953, Gustave told Judge Périès that Yvette’s statement was incorrect: he had indeed gone to the location of the Drummonds’ car at 2 am, he had not met Gaston along the way and he therefore could not accuse Gaston of the murders. He confirmed the location of the carbine and the two magazines. He stated that he had seen neither a blanket to the right of the Drummonds’ car, nor a camp bed in front of it. Judge Périès returned to the matter of the woman dressed in black that Gustave and Yvette had seen on the evening of 4 August 1952, but Gustave denied that two women had been by the camp bed; according to him, the lone woman there was dressed in dark clothing. Yvette backed up this statement during the 1955 investigation, while the existence of this darkly dressed woman seemed to cause Gustave and Yvette considerable embarrassment. Contrary to all the evidence, Gustave accused Clovis of being the first person to denounce their father as the murderer.
On 30 December, Judge Périès interviewed Gaston in the presence of his lawyers. Gaston retracted his previous confessions. Périès asked Gaston about the injury on Sir Jack Drummond’s hand, to which Gaston responded that he based his story on what the doctors said. Gaston continued to claim that he got up at 4 am to herd his goats and that he only learned of the murders after 7.45 am when Yvette told him. Faustin Roure, who had gone to greet Gaston around this time, witnessed Yvette telling Gaston the news. Gaston explained that his earlier confessions came as a result of fatigue and pressure from the police officers, who ordered him to either confess or see his son Gustave sentenced to death. Gaston said that he felt so tarnished that he wanted to commit suicide.
Judge Périès then had Gustave enter the room, told him what his father had just said, and asked him to confirm this account. After a long silence, Gustave refused to do so and begged his father to tell the truth. Gaston’s lawyers demanded that Gustave be requestioned about his movements on the night of the murders. Judge Périès rejected this demand without explanation. Pollack, one of Gaston’s lawyers, asked Gustave to explain the accusations that he had made. Gustave sidestepped the issue by explaining that he had made the accusations as a result of police brutality. When asked why he was now retracting his allegations, he responded: “Because there are witnesses who can hear me!” Neither the judge nor the lawyers asked Gustave to explain what he was alluding to.
Judge Périès then had Clovis enter the room. Clovis recounted what Gaston had told him in November 1952 and confirmed his accusation that Gaston was the murderer. He changed his previous account insofar as he now did not know how the murders started. Gaston then hurled insults at Clovis and accused him of having brought the US M1 carbine to the farm. In response, Clovis accused his father of having made his family suffer for too long. Gaston’s lawyers saw these remarks as an eldest child’s vindictive grudge, which could have gone so far as to lead to him accusing his father of murder. Once Clovis had left the room, Gustave was left in the custody of Superintendent Sébeille, who did not write up a report of this interview. The lawyers later slammed this interview as the unacceptable pressurising of a witness. At 6 pm, when Gustave was brought back in front of Judge Périès, he asked to no longer be brought face to face with his father. In exchange, Périès attempted to get Gustave to admit that he had been outside at the time of the murders and that the person he had seen from the alfalfa field was his father. Gustave denied this and continued to insist that he had never been in the alfalfa field. Périès then paid for a taxi to take Gustave home.
On 29 January 1954, Clovis Dominici sent a letter to François Barth, Yvette’s father, urging him to pressurise Gustave to stop repeatedly recanting his testimonies, which risked putting Clovis at the forefront of attention.
On 4 February 1954, Judge Périès summoned Gustave to discuss a letter sent to Gaston, which was dated 10 January but not sent until 19 January, and then intercepted on 28 January by Périès. Périès asked him to explain the threats alluded to in the letter. Gustave said that the threats referred to the pressure put on him by the police on 12 and 13 November 1953. He then completely retracted his previous allegations: on 4 August 1952, he went to bed at around 11 pm and was awoken at 11.30 pm by people on a foreign motorcycle. He went back to sleep, before being awoken again to loud bangs and then hearing distant cries following gunfire. He was unsure whether the noises came from the direction of Peyruis to the north or Lurs railway station to the south. At 4 am, he heard his father get up. Gustave himself got up at around 5 am, and at 5.30 am he headed for the embankment to make sure nothing was blocking the railway track. He approached the camp bed and noticed some disorder around the Drummonds’ car. He then went towards the bridge and, on the approach to it, found Elizabeth Drummond, who was moving her arm. He went back towards the road and did not approach the car. He did not flag down a foreign motorcycle that passed by, and he headed back towards the farm. While heading in that direction, he stopped a motorcyclist, Jean-Marie Olivier. Gustave claimed that he was unaware of the details of the murders and that his father had never claimed to have committed them. He had never seen the murder weapon before the morning of 6 August 1952, when Superintendent Sébeille showed it to him.
At 5 pm on 4 February 1954, Judge Périès brought Gustave and Clovis face to face to discuss their varying accounts. Clovis handed Périès a letter he had received, purportedly from their other brother, 15-year-old Gaston Junior, containing a death threat. Clovis said that he was convinced that some family members were pressurising Gustave to renounce his allegations. He reiterated that he had asked Gustave whether he had really used the weapon after noticing that it had disappeared. Gustave responded to Clovis that it was Gaston who was responsible for the gunshots and Gaston had told him this on the morning after the murders, before he went to take his goats to the pasture. At the time, Clovis did not place any importance on what Gustave said because it seemed impossible, in Clovis’s opinion, that an elderly man could commit such a crime and that deep down, he still suspected Gustave, despite his denials. In response, Gustave stated that while the two brothers were cutting wood in Saint-Pons after leaving prison, he had confided in Clovis, who had in turn shared revelations about their father. Judge Périès then asked Gustave why, at the start of the interview, Gaston had never confessed to him that he was the killer. Gustave did not answer.
Judge Périès decided to have Clovis leave the room so that he could requestion Gustave alone. Périès pointed out to Gustave that even if his recantations and statements might have been acceptable before 15 November 1953, they no longer were. Périès reminded Gustave of the multiple changes of story that Gustave had given between 14 November and 30 December 1953. It was only in Clovis’s presence that Gustave had gone back to the statements he made on 13 November 1953. During a previous interview, Gustave claimed to have seen the US M1 in early 1952, some time before Aimé, his youngest brother, had left the farm. However, Aimé got married in late 1950, not December 1951. On 15 November 1953, Gustave had told Périès that the carbine had been at the farm since American troops passed through the area during the Second World War. When the police seized the farm in 1948, the weapon was not at the farm. This would imply that it did not belong to Gaston and that if it had ever been in the shed, it no longer was, and had not been since before the murders. At 7 pm, Périès released Clovis but kept Gustave in custody: he wanted to know whether the family had dictated the letter. Gustave responded that he had acted alone, knowing that Périès would intercept the letter. Périès then allowed the weary Gustave to leave.
On 9 February 1954, Judge Périès ordered the police to seize Clovis Dominici’s and the Perrins’ hunting weapons so that they could be examined by Marseille Police’s technical laboratory. However, Périès did not do the same for the hunting rifle and the two PM Stens seized from Paul Maillet in August 1952 or for the Springfield rifle seized from Aimée Perrin in early October 1952.
On 14 February 1954, Subprefect Degrave sent a letter to Captain Albert in Forcalquier, informing him that a pair of trousers seen drying at Gustave Dominici’s bedroom window had been seen on the morning of 5 August 1952.
On 23 February 1954, Judge Périès decided to question Gustave yet again. He had spoken to the media to continue to claim his father’s innocence, despite his previous interviews in which he had insisted on his father’s guilt. Gustave repeated the allegations that he had made during the joint questioning with Clovis: it was Clovis, not him, who was the first person to accuse their father of the murders. His sisters had told him to stop accusing their father. Gustave himself had wondered whether his father might have been drunk when he admitted his guilt, and whether, therefore, this guilt was simply the figment of the imagination of an elderly, confused farmer. For this reason, Gustave claimed that he could no longer continue to accuse his father of being the murderer because his father had proclaimed his innocence in his letters. Gustave claimed that he saw the US M1 neither in 1951 nor in the days preceding the murders; however, he could not remember whether or not he had seen it three to six months before the murders. He claimed that he had been asleep at the time of the noises outside on the night of the murders, and that he did not think to ask his father whether he had heard the gunfire from his bedroom.
According to Gustave’s latest version of events, Gaston was neither calm nor agitated: he was simply drunk. As for the carbine, it had never been in the family’s possession, while the rest of the family deemed Gustave to be mad for continuing to make his accusations. Judge Périès did not challenge these new contradictions and accepted the new version.
On the same day, Périès interviewed Abel Bastide, a roofer who worked on Périès’ estate. Bastide claimed to have witnessed an altercation at the Dominici farm while he was repairing the roof there. On 26 August 1944, an American Command Car military truck, whose personnel were responsible for accounting for weapons in the local area, stopped at the farm. A GI fired a demonstration shot towards the hill in the presence of Gaston and Gustave. The three men then went into the house. Therefore, Bastide could not see whether either of the two Dominici men gained possession of the carbine on this occasion. When Gustave was questioned about this event, he denied being at the farm on that date as he had been enlisted with the FTPs in Sisteron from 19 August 1944. Two days later, Gaston was confronted by Bastide and dismissed him as a liar and a drunkard. At the end of his report, Périès noted that Bastide had indeed been drunk during the interview.
On 24 February 1953, Gaston shared his suspicions with Judge Périès and implicated his grandson, Roger Perrin, in the murders. He believed that Roger instigated the murders because he was a racing cyclist. Périès thought Gaston was attempting to divert the investigation, but as Gaston had always claimed that he was sacrificing himself to protect his grandchildren, Périès decided to summon Perrin.
On 8 March 1953, Judge Périès summoned Roger Perrin to answer questions about his movements on the day before the murders, the night itself and the following morning. Roger changed his story several times and his lies confused Périès, Superintendent Sébeille and the other police officers. Roger maintained that he saw the Drummonds arrive at the farm and stated that Yvette had forbidden him from revealing this.
On 9 March and 27 March 1954, Professor Ollivier’s expert testimony stated that the lubricant used on Clovis Dominici’s rifles was very similar to the lubricant found on the US M1. On 15 March 1954, while being transported from the police headquarters to his home, Clovis Dominici told Judge Périès that the only substance he used to grease his rifles was olive oil from his own crop. Judge Périès then took a sample of this oil.
On 20 March 1954, while being questioned about his letter of 29 January, Clovis Dominici stated that Superintendent Canale had accidentally revealed intelligence to him about the next meeting between Gustave and Gaston. Clovis stated that the letter was the idea of his wife Rose, but he took responsibility for writing and sending it. Gustave claimed that he had been manipulated by Yvette and her sisters: in their willingness to ensure that their father, François Barth, was declared innocent, the sisters wanted to divert attention to Gustave, who, according to Gaston, was totally innocent. Gustave stated that François Barth was keen to engineer this situation in the interest of his daughter, Yvette.
When Clovis was reminded by Judge Périès that Gustave had stated on 8 August 1952 that Gaston was guilty, Clovis responded, “I’d forgotten that detail.” Périès was angry that Clovis referred to such a gratuitous massacre as a “detail”. Clovis was confused with all the unconvincing claims: until he had talked to Gustave in Saint-Pons, he had refused to believe that their father was guilty. There were suggestions that the two brothers concocted a plot during this conversation, but Périès did not believe this.
The letter raised other questions that Judge Périès did not explore. François Barth was a Communist Party comrade and lived about 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Clovis, and it would have been easy for him to go to Clovis’s property without being seen. Clovis allegedly asked Barth to visit him, as well as suggesting writing to Gustave, which was surprising due to Barth’s family links with Gustave. Writing a letter when they lived so close to each other seemed impractical unless Clovis wanted to leave evidence. Like those of the other family members, Clovis would have known that his letters would be seized by Judge Périès.
On 9 April 1954, Professor Ollivier concluded his findings: only lubricant from Clovis’s rifles were present to a high degree of conclusive similarity with the lubricant of the murder weapon, while the weapons kept at the farm were lubricated with sheep’s tallow.
On 21 April 1954, Judge Périès held a final interrogation, during which he went back over the entire file against Gaston. In retrospect, this strengthened the case for Gaston’s innocence and his intention to thwart his children in court.
On 23 June 1954, after being suspended from his post of Departmental Secretary in March 1953, Roger Autheville was expelled from the French Communist Party for “inappropriately regular relations with the police”, “lack of vigilance” in the murder case, and for selling photographs to weekly magazines Le Nouveau Détective and Radar for 7,500 francs. His expulsion followed his sacking from his role as Collecting Officer for PTT (the French postal and telecommunications provider) for using his workplace to take collection of the fees for releasing the photographs.
At 1.45 pm on 9 November 1954, Roger Autheville was on his scooter when he was involved in a traffic accident in the Épinettes neighbourhood of Digne-les-Bains. He suffered serious head injuries and died at the clinic of Dr Jouve in Aiglun after having been in a coma for several hours. Rumours circulated that Autheville was planning to make sensational witness testimony at Gaston’s trial.
The US M1 carbine found in the River Durance was confirmed to be the weapon that was used to kill Elizabeth Drummond. The state of her body and the findings of Dr Dragon confirmed that Elizabeth was murdered three hours after her parents. The absence of any dust on Elizabeth’s feet and of any grazes on the arches of her feet implied that she had been carried to the location after being killed, rather than being chased by her killer. Dr Dragon was not called to testify at the trial, with the court instead preferring to call on Dr Jouve, who was well known locally and never came into contact with Elizabeth.
The autopsy report for Lady Anne Drummond concluded that she had died in crossfire from two shooters and noted the lack of sexual activity before her death.
Superintendent Sébeille admitted in his 1970 book that he neglected several pieces of evidence and lost a shred of skin from Sir Jack Drummond’s right palm. He also refused to consider various witness statements claiming that three of four men, including Gustave, were at or near the crime scene between 11.15 pm and 12.20 am. None of these witness statements described any of the men as resembling Gaston.
Jack Drummond’s autopsy showed that he had been shot twice in the back; the second bullet shattered his spinal column. His bladder was empty, suggesting that he had got up a short time earlier to relieve himself, and that he was therefore already awake as the attack commenced, rather than being awoken by Gaston. Gaston claimed that he fired shots, the first of which accidentally ripped off the shred of skin from Sir Jack Drummond’s right hand. Sir Jack’s body had been moved from the ditch to the other side of the road, explaining the irregular bloodstains on the road.
Gustave Dominici was suspected of making false statements, destroying evidence and other crimes, but was never charged with an offence.
In 2003, four cartridge cases from a Springfield 30.06 were found in a hollow brick during the demolition of the shed in which – according to the official account – Gaston Dominici hid his US M1.
The first trial and conviction
Gaston Dominici’s trial began on 17 November 1954. It drew crowds and international attention, and inspired several French writers to opine on the affair, including Jean Giono and Armand Salacrou. Gaston, who came across as simple and ineloquent, presented an inept defence. In one court hearing, Superintendent Prudhomme from Digne-les-Bains reluctantly admitted that he suspected Gaston’s motive was sexual.
The key exhibit in the trial was the carbine, which did not seem to belong to anyone and had not been claimed by anyone since it was seen at Paul Maillet’s home in the summer of 1950, presented by Gustave Dominici to Dr Morin at the Grand’Terre farm in late summer 1951, and, according to Gaston, kept at La Serre, the Perrin property. The later appeal successfully argued that the fact that Clovis stored the weapon at La Serre when he was poaching with Roger Perrin proved that Gaston’s admission of guilt to Clovis was a fabrication by Clovis.
Since the police search in 1948, it was undisputed that the US M1 was not at the Dominici farm. This search followed the traffic stop and body search, which revealed the magazine of a PM Sten at the Dominici farm. This search seized a Mauser with ammunition, a PM Sten that Gustave had hidden in the chimney, and a 6.35 pistol belonging to his brother Aimé. Gustave was convicted and received a suspended 6,000-franc fine.
Advocate General Calixte Rozan stated during his summing up for the prosecution that the murder weapon probably belonged to Clovis Dominici. Gaston’s main barrister, Mr Pollak, highlighted the lack of evidence and said that Gaston’s limited vocabulary should not be used against him. However, the defence failed to help their client following the testimony of Dr Boudouresque, a psychiatrist. The defence appeared unperturbed by Gaston being badly treated under cross-examination and did not take the opportunity to respond to the points being made against him. Throughout the trial, the defence passed up the chance to respond or disprove the accusations; it failed to bring up Gaston being in the alfalfa field, the account provided by the court clerk placing the US M1 in the shed, the expert testimony regarding the lubrication of the murder weapon, Dr Dragon’s remarks, and the witness testimony of Francis Perrin, the Lurs postman, who – unlike Officer Marque – was summoned to court but was ultimately not called to testify. These omissions contravened the ethical code of a defence counsel.
Advocate General Rozan’s prosecution summing up did not contain any solid proof of Gaston’s guilt. Rozan made subjective and judgemental remarks about the area of the crime and the locals, and prejudicial observations on the witnesses which bordered on insulting. He described Gaston as a sorcerer who delivered women’s babies and prescribed medieval medicine to evoke “bad spirits” from the Durance; a man raised on soup and bread crust in harsh conditions but who was a chieftain – a devil-like being who basked in a medieval universe. This summing up shocked court journalists, who later said that they felt like they were attending a witchcraft trial. They wrote that the Advocate General chose literary lyricism over concrete facts and that he neither tackled the facts nor attempted to prove the case.
This was the first time that a French trial was broadcast publicly over the radio. The president of the Court of Assizes did not issue written permission for this, which could theoretically have been grounds for appeal. When Mr Orsatelli, the Attorney General for Aix-en-Provence, was questioned about the public broadcast, he denied that it had happened, despite hundreds of people having seen or heard it, including many journalists, and contrary to what can be seen in photographs and film clips.
The trial hinged on testimony from family members and did not show any compassion for the victims. This made the jury uncomfortable and convinced them to find Gaston guilty. The president of the court, Marcel Bousquet, threatened several witnesses with imprisonment when they refused orders not to reveal their testimonies. In particular, Clovis was crumbling when cross-examined on his accusations of a plot led by Gaston, Gustave and his sister Augusta, but was saved by Bosquet when, in an unprecedented occurrence, Bosquet threatened Clovis with prison if he recounted the alleged plot. These parodic events reached their peak on the evening of 27 November 1954, when a belote tournament was held, attended by lawyers from both the prosecution and the defence, as well as police officers, journalists, jurors and witnesses. On 28 November 1954, after a trial lasting 12 days, Gaston Dominici, then aged 77, was found guilty with no extenuating circumstances, and sentenced to death.
New investigation and presidential pardon
After the verdict, Gaston Dominici informed one of his defence barristers, Léon Charles-Alfred, that he had overheard Gustave and Yvette having a private conversation on 7 August 1952, shortly after the murders. From what he could hear, Gaston gleaned that Roger Perrin had helped Gustave to move Elizabeth Drummond.
Gaston’s legal team submitted this testimony to Jean Michel Guérin du Boscq de Beaumont, the Minister of Justice who, on 9 December 1954, ruled Gaston’s statement sufficient evidence to launch a new investigation. On 13 December, Gaston was interviewed by a magistrate, Joseph Oddou. Oddou asked Gaston to confirm the informal testimony that he had provided to his lawyers on 28 and 29 November. He did so, implicating Gustave Dominici and Roger Perrin. However, Gaston claimed not to know who had done what in relation to the crime. The testimony also asserted that Clovis had hidden the US M1 carbine at La Serre, the Perrin farm.
On 15 December 1954, the Minister of Justice ordered Orsatelli, the Prosecutor General of Aix-en-Provence, to embark on an information-gathering mission. The task was entrusted to two Parisian police officers, Chief Superintendent Chenevier and Chief Commissioner Gillard, from the Judicial Police Directorate. The objective was to ascertain whether Gaston’s story about overhearing Gustave and Yvette’s conversation was credible.
Chenevier and Gillard questioned Gaston Dominici on 19 and 20 December 1954 at Baumettes Prison in Marseille. Gaston’s testimony varied during the course of the long interrogation. He initially reasserted what he had reported to his legal team and the magistrate, before changing his story and stating that he had personally seen Gustave and Roger moving Elizabeth Drummond’s body. He then retracted this, returning to his original story about overhearing Gustave and Yvette having a private conversation.
During his two-day questioning, Gaston mentioned a seemingly unimportant detail in passing: he said that Roger Perrin was the only person in the entire family who wore shoes with crepe soles. When Elizabeth Drummond’s body was discovered, the investigators on the scene found footprints from crepe soles that headed both towards and away from Elizabeth’s body. Gaston habitually wore hobnailed heavy-duty work boots.
During the questioning, Chenevier asked Gaston why he had seemingly sacrificed himself before changing his story. Gaston responded that he didn’t want to pay for someone else’s crime; he changed his story because he thought he would be acquitted at trial. Chenevier was sceptical of the explanation but Gaston insisted that this was the reason, and maintained his innocence. Chenevier asked, “So who was it?” Gaston stuck to the version of events that he had given the judge and repeated what he had said to Oddou, the magistrate. He added a few small details regarding Gustave not having heard him leave and return on the night of the murders. He explained a part of his daily routine: before lunch, he took his shoes off in the kitchen and put on his slippers, as he always took a nap in his armchair after lunch; while at night, he took his work boots upstairs to bed with him so that he could put them on at dawn. He stated that he only learned where the weapon was hidden when the police told him. He said that Gustave and Yvette had cleaned the weapon before Aimé – another of Gaston’s sons – left in January 1951. Gustave and Yvette confirmed this and said that there was no carbine on the shelf. Gaston alleged that after returning from hunting, Clovis had said, “If I’d had the carbine, I would have got it [the prey] from 140 metres away.” Gaston assumed that Clovis was referring to the murder weapon. When later questioned about this, Clovis denied having said it. Furthermore, all of the hunters (except Marcel Boyer, Clovis’s brother-in-law) either claimed not to remember the episode, or claimed that the weapon to which Clovis was referring was the Russian PM Sten that was seized from the Perrin home. However, it is very difficult to hit a target from as little as 25 metres with a PM Sten, and completely impossible to do so from the 140-metre distance allegedly mentioned by Clovis.
On 21 December 1954, Augusta Cillat, one of Gaston’s daughters, told Chief Commissioner Gillard that Clovis had talked to her about the sketch of the Dominici property drawn by Barras, the court clerk. The sketch marked the Rock-Ola carbine as being stored on the shelf in the shed. Gustave later gave a different version of the same episode to Chief Superintendent Chenevier.
On 23 December 1954, Chenevier and Gillard submitted an initial report of their exploratory investigation to Sabatier, the prosecutor in Digne-les-Bains. In it, they recommended that a formal delegation be established to further investigate the case.
On 27 December 1954, Chenevier and Gillard submitted a report of their investigation to the Minister of Justice.
On 7 January 1955, at his own request, Judge Roger Périès was appointed in Marseille. He was replaced by the former deputy judge of Toulon, Pierre Carrias. Carrias was inaugurated in his post on 3 February, and his primary purpose was to lead a second investigation into the Drummond murders.
On 25 February 1955, Prosecutor Sabatier signed an introductory indictment to open a murder investigation against an unknown person or persons.
Judge Carrias personally undertook some of the evidence-taking, such as interviewing Superintendent Sébeille and Gustave Dominici. During his interview, Gustave mimicked the event where he informed Sébeille that his father, Gaston, was the murderer and cried on Sébeille’s shoulder. The Minister of Justice also ordered Carrias to issue letters rogatory to Chenevier and Gillard. This led to extensive investigations, during which numerous witnesses were interviewed using questions prepared in advance, in accordance with a plan organised down to the finest detail. Gaston Dominici, who remained in Baumettes Prison, was questioned as and when required by Judge Jacques Batigne, the examining magistrate in Marseille.
Chenevier learned through the media that Judge Batigne had questioned Gaston Dominici and then confronted Gustave and Yvette Dominici.
On 15 March 1955, the investigators met Judge Carrias to share their findings.
On 21 March 1955, Judge Carrias organised a reconstruction of the crime at the Grand’Terre to check whether Gaston could have overheard Gustave and Yvette’s conversation from where he had been standing. Carrias stood on the landing and Sabatier stood in Gustave and Yvette’s bedroom, while Gustave and Yvette themselves lay down on their twin beds. Carrias said that he could not hear anything when Gustave and Yvette were whispering. Sabatier asked the couple to talk again, this time in a quiet voice but louder than a whisper. Carrias could hear them talking, but it was not loud enough for him to be able to make out anything they were saying. When Gaston reported overhearing the conversation, he claimed that he could hear the words bijoux (“jewellery”), petite (“little girl”), portait (“was carrying”), “Roger” and mouchoir (“tissue”). During the reconstruction, Gustave and Yvette initially categorically refused to utter these words; however, they later obeyed the judge’s instruction, but spoke quietly enough so that those words could not be understood. It was noted that if – at the time of the alleged conversation – Gustave and Yvette did not hear Gaston walking up and back down the stairs in his slippers, they would have had no reason to speak quietly.
On 15 June 1955, a further meeting took place between the investigators, Judge Carrias and Captain Albert, a police officer who had arrived at the crime scene in the morning after the murders.
On 20 July 1955, Judge Carrias issued limited letters rogatory.
On 30 July 1955, Judge Batigne interviewed Gaston Dominici. Gaston said that when he arrived at the crime scene shortly after 8 am, in the company of his son Gustave and Roger Perrin, many people were already there, including Nervi, the butcher. According to the police report, the only person present when Gaston arrived was Officer Bouchier, at which time Gaston asked Bouchier for permission to go and cover Elizabeth Drummond’s body with a sheet. Bouchier allowed Gaston to do this without watching him. Some investigators theorised that Gaston could have taken this opportunity to plant the fragment of rifle butt at the scene. When Chenevier confronted Gaston about this, Gaston denied everything that he had said on 20 December 1954, but confirmed that Gustave had brought Roger Perrin and Jean Galizzi to the scene on his motorbike, before the three men went to inspect the blockage on the railway track. Gaston was annoyed with himself for telling Gustave about this blockage, as Gustave would otherwise not have gone to Peyruis and brought Roger and “the others” to the area. This time, Chenevier asked Gaston to clarify whether he was talking about the Drummonds or other people; Gaston refused to answer. Later, Gaston retracted his statement, claiming that he had made the whole thing up as a joke and that he thought the worst that could happen would be his family scolding him.
On 3 August 1955, Superintendent Chenevier interviewed François Barth. Barth said that when he arrived in the courtyard of the Grand’Terre in the late afternoon of 5 August 1952, the discussion was revolving around the woman dressed in black. François Barth’s wife also told Chief Commissioner Gillard that she had heard this woman mentioned and that she had apparently been on the railway track. Their testimonies contradicted that of their daughter, Yvette Dominici, who denied that her parents had been there.
On 4 August 1955, Francis Perrin, the Lurs postman, informed Chenevier that Gustave Dominici had asked Aimé Perrin – Roger’s brother – whether he had told the police that Yvette had come with him to the Drummonds’ tent on the evening of 4 August 1952. Aimé Perrin replied that he had, adding that Gustave had insisted that Perrin not reveal that Yvette had come with “le pétit” (“the little one” (specifically for a male) or “the little boy”) later that evening. Investigators were certain that “le petit” did not refer to Alain Dominici, who was two months’ old at the time, but instead to Roger Perrin, whom Gustave had brought from La Serre at around 9:30 pm following his visit with Faustin Roure in Peyruis at around 9 pm.
Yvette was questioned by Chenevier on 5 August and then by Gillard on 10 August 1955. She “suddenly” remembered – at this time, it was three years since the murders – that she had accompanied Gustave to the blockage on the railway line, and had carried baby Alain in her arms. She said that it was about 8:15 pm, when she was returning from the bridge, that she heard the Drummonds’ car parking by the side of the road. Yvette claimed that as she was some distance away and it was dusk, she may have mistaken Lady Anne Drummond’s red dress for a black one. Chenevier and Gillard were sceptical of this account, which contradicted Gustave, who stated on 12 November 1953 that the Drummonds had come to the farm to fetch water before Gustave returned to the farm at around 8 pm, and that Yvette had told him about the Drummonds’ visit when he arrived back at the farm.
On 5 August 1955, Aimé Perrin confirmed to Chenevier that Gustave had joined the group after Aimé had arrived at the crime scene in the company of Officers Romanet and Bouchier. Perrin stated that Gustave had arrived alone and by foot, definitely not on his bicycle.
Officer Romanet was questioned about Gustave’s claim that Gustave had helped Romanet to get out of the back passenger door of the Drummonds’ car after Romanet had accidentally locked himself in while examining it – the back door of that particular model of Hillman car could only be opened from the outside. Romanet strongly denied that this had occurred. Gustave had told this story to Superintendent Sébeille to explain why his fingerprints would probably be found on the handle of the car’s rear door. This would suggest that Gustave somehow already knew that the car door only opened from the outside. The fact that the door could not be opened from the inside contradicted the prosecution’s argument that Elizabeth had been sleeping in the back of the car and had escaped out of the back door while her parents were being attacked. The new investigation concluded that Gustave had opened the back door to rummage through the car and deliberately put its contents into a state of disarray. Moreover, no fingerprints were found on the door handles of the rear doors. The cleanliness of the rear door handles, despite all the Drummonds having repeatedly touched them during their holiday in the days and hours before their deaths, led investigators to believe that the door handles had been wiped down following the murders.
On 6 August 1955, Chief Commissioner Gillard questioned Nervi, the butcher. Nervi stated that he stopped at the crime scene at around 7:30 am, when the only people at the scene were Officers Romanet and Bouchier, Gustave Dominici and Aimé Perrin. According to Nervi, Gustave asked him to give Yvette Dominici a lift to the market in Oraison, as Gustave himself was unable to take her on his motorbike, which he usually did. This appeared to be a lie, as Yvette’s father, François Barth, was usually the one who picked her up, and the routine was to take her to the market in Forcalquier, not Oraison. Nervi stated that Gustave then took him to the farm, where Yvette was getting ready to go out, and they all left at 8:10 am. At that time, Faustin Roure was at the farm, and in his testimony, he mentioned neither Nervi nor his van being there. Nervi stated that he saw neither Gaston Dominici nor Roger Perrin, despite both of them being at the crime scene shortly after 8 am.
On 10 August 1955, Yvette was questioned by Gillard and contradicted Nervi, stating that Roger Perrin had come with the butcher. Both Yvette and Nervi stuck to their stories. Yvette claimed that during the journey, Nervi had tried to get more gossip about the events, but Yvette had curtly refused to speak about them. According to Roger Perrin, on 7 May 1953, he told Superintendent Sébeille that Mr and Mrs Barth – Yvette’s parents – had come to the farm at 9:15 am, but left again as Yvette was not ready. On 22 October 1955, under questioning from Inspector Leclerc, François Barth denied this and said that he had heard about the murders through his son and wife, who had met Yvette at Oraison market. However, Roger Perrin was backed up by a third-party witness: Augustin Bonnet, a café owner in Lurs. Bonnet testified that at around 8:30 am, when he was returning from the Guillermin farm and driving back towards Lurs, he saw François Barth’s car coming in the opposite direction, heading towards Forcalquier and the crossroads with the RN 96 road.
On 10 August 1955, Gustave Dominici informed Chief Superintendent Chenevier that Gustave and his brother had hatched a plan while in the courthouse at 8 am on 14 November 1953. Their plan was to “independently” specify the same location on the shelf in the shed when asked where the US M1 carbine had been. According to Gustave, Clovis produced a sketch from his pocket – in the presence of Barras, the court clerk – and showed him on which shelf the carbine had been found.
On 12 August, Roger Perrin was confronted by Yvette Dominici’s testimony. Roger stuck to his earlier account about the Drummonds coming to the farm, adding that Yvette invited Lady Anne and Elizabeth Drummond to set up camp in the same place at which another family, the Morins, has stayed in 1951: at the edge of the railway bridge. Yvette denied that this conversation took place. On the same day, Chenevier questioned Gustave and Roger. Roger told Chenevier that Gustave had told him about the woman in black who was with the Drummonds, whom Gustave had seen when he was going to the blockage on the railway track at around 8:15 pm. Gustave strongly denied this.
In August and October 1955, Judge Carrias asked another judge, Désiré Gervaise, to question Inspector Girolami in Casablanca, where the latter had been transferred to work in the intelligence services of the French colonial authorities in Morocco. Girolami stated that on 5 August 1952, he had noticed a pair of Gaston Dominici’s trousers opposite the kitchen door. The trousers were soaking wet but appeared neither stained nor bloody. Gaston explained to Girolami that his clothes were not washed at the farm, but instead at his daughter Augusta Caillat’s house, who would return his clothes washed and ironed. Therefore, Girolami was surprised that this pair of trousers had been washed at the farm only a few hours after the murders. Girolami had hurriedly informed Superintendent Sébeille of this, but Sébeille had paid little attention as he was busy looking for clues and the murder weapon. On 21 September 1955, these trousers came up in Judge Carrias’s questioning of Yvette and Marie Dominici. Judge Batigne questioned Gaston about the trousers on 24 October 1955.
On 23 September 1955, Judge Carrias organised a face-to-face meeting in his office between Superintendent Sébeille and Gustave Dominici, in the presence of court clerk Barras and Chief Superintendent Harzic, Sébeille’s commanding officer. Gustave complained that he had been subjected to unbearable pressure by the police ever since he denounced his father on 13 November 1953. Sébeille disputed this and, with Carrias’s consent, suggested that Gaston mimic the occasion when he burst into tears on Sébeille’s shoulder while denouncing Gaston. Gustave agreed to do this, and questioned as to whether Sébeille was being truthful. Carrias stated 40 years later that he wondered whether Sébeille telling the truth or whether the crying episode was made up.
On 29 September 1955, Judge Carrias issued new, expanded letters rogatory to Chenevier and Gillard.
On 12 October 1955, Aimé Dominici and his wife, Mauricette, were questioned. Their reactions led police to believe that they were familiar with the US M1 carbine. At the very least, Aimé had seen the weapon in the hands of one of his brothers or his father before 24 January 1951, when he left the Grand’Terre to move to Eygalières, 100 km (60 miles) to the west.
On 12 and 16 October 1955, Chenevier and Gillard questioned Dr Morin from Nice, who had been camping with his wife near the Grand’Terre on the night of the murders, on Gustave Dominici’s invitation. He claimed to recognise the weapon as the one that Gustave had repaired in his presence in the summer of 1951. It was clearly the same weapon, as the gun's sight had been replaced by half of a one-franc coin, which Gustave had welded into place. When Gustave was questioned about this event, he fiercely denied it and accused Morin of having made up the entire story. The investigators found the insistence of his denials suspiciously strong, and consequently leaned towards believing Morin’s story.
On 17 October 1955, Clovis Dominici was questioned and suggested that his brother Gustave could have taken the weapon out from the undergrowth. Clovis also refuted the accusations made by Gustave on 10 August: he denied the existence of a sketch of the property, claiming that if there had been one, it would have been drawn by a police officer.
On 19 October 1955, Jean Girard, Yvette Dominici’s maternal uncle, informed Inspector Leclerc that Aimé Dominici had told him that Gustave took the Drummonds to the railway embankment. If this had occurred, Gustave would have returned home well after 8 pm. Girard added that Clovis came to the Grand’Terre on the evening of 4 August 1952, before going to the camp and arguing with the Drummonds. Clovis denied this.
On 21 October 1955, confronted with Aimé and Clovis Dominici’s testimonies, Jean Girard stuck to his story. Clovis said it was untrue, while Aimé backed up Girard’s basic account but could not remember who had gone to the embankment and who had gone to the Drummonds’ camp. Also on 21 October, Jean Galizzi, a friend of Roger Perrin and the lover of his mother Germaine, told police officers in Forcalquier that he had passed La Cassine (the farm where the Perrins were tenant farmers) on the night of 4 to 5 August 1952, in the company of Germaine Perrin and her husband, Roger Perrin Senior.
Bourgues, the platelayer, was questioned in relation to his colleague Clovis Dominici’s account. Bourgues stated that Clovis had arrived late at the work site on the morning of 5 August 1952. Clovis denied this, accusing Paul Maillet, a neighbour of the Dominicis, of being the reason for his delay. When Paul Maillet was questioned about this, he claimed that he arrived on site at around 7:15 am and was told of the murders by Bourgues. This would imply that Clovis was not on site at the time.
Still on 21 October 1955, Chief Superintendent Chenevier questioned Clovis and Gustave. Gustave repeated his accusations of 10 August against his older brother, adding that when they were being taken back to the Grand’Terre in a police car on Sunday 15 November 1953, Clovis whispered that their father had taken the US M1 carbine to kill a badger. Clovis denied these allegations.
Chenevier checked his understanding of the events with Barras, the court clerk. However, Barras had a completely different version. On the evening of 13 November 1953, Barras had interviewed the two brothers in the office of Judge Périès, who was away at the time. Barras revealed that he was the one who had drawn the sketch, in order to remove any ambiguity from the brothers’ description of where the gun had been on the shelf. Barras’s account destroyed the prosecution’s only piece of physical evidence: the presence of the gun in the farm shed. Chenevier was dumbfounded but did not request letters rogatory from Judge Carrias when he formally questioned Barras. He noted this in his final report, which softened the consequences for Barras and Judge Périès.
On 22 October 1955, Francis Perrin reported to Inspector Goguillot – who was on Chenevier’s team – that he had heard a story that Gustave Dominici had brought Jean Galizzi on his motorbike at the same time as Roger Perrin on the evening of 4 August 1952. Chenevier did not consider it necessary to verify this account.
Weekly news magazine France Dimanche published a letter from Gaston, in which he repeated the conversation he overheard between Gustave and Yvette, and accused his son Gustave, along with Roger Perrin, of being the real murderers.
On 18 November 1955, Clovis went against Gustave and confirmed that the Morins’ camp when they stayed at the time of the murders had moved in relation to where they camped in the summer of 1951 – at the time of the murders, their camp was closer to the ledge overlooking the location where Elizabeth Drummond’s body was found.
Roger Perrin had a face-to-face conversation with Gaston Dominici in the presence of Judge Batigne and Chief Superintendent Chenevier. Roger exhibited a rare display of insolence towards his grandfather, going as far as to provoke a reaction from him. However, Chenevier noted that it was clear from Roger’s attitude he felt protected by a taboo preventing Gaston from going any further in his accusations against his grandson. Roger’s bragging manner led Chenevier to believe that he was far more involved in the murders than simply being a witness or a passive accomplice.
On 22 November 1955, when Chief Commissioner Gillard reminded Yvette Dominici about Aimé Perrin’s story of the woman dressed in black, Yvette changed her account, claiming that the woman in black was her mother-in-law waiting by the side of the road. However, this turnaround did not convince Gillard.
On 19 January 1956, Roger Perrin told Chief Superintendent Chenevier that ten days after Gaston’s guilty verdict, Léon Dominici – Roger’s uncle – had advised him to enlist in the French Foreign Legion to escape any legal proceedings. That way, if Gaston were ever exonerated, Roger would be impossible to locate. When added to the fact that the Foreign Legion would never enlist someone guilty of such a serious crime, this shows the extent of the doubts that Léon had regarding his nephew’s innocence.
On 10 February 1956, Chenevier and Gillard went to Nîmes Prison to question an inmate, Jean-Baptiste Bossa. Bossa informed them that when he was being held at the Saint-Charles Prison in Digne-les-Bains along with Gustave Dominici, he had overheard several conversations in the visiting room between Gustave and Yvette. Bossa reported that it seemed from these conversations that Gustave was directly involved in the murders.
On 25 February 1956, Chenevier submitted his final report to the Chief Constable of the Judicial Police. This second investigation shed light on the involvement of Gustave Dominici and Roger Perrin. It also found that Gaston Dominici may also have been involved, but could not prove it.
On 13 November 1956, due to the absence of any significant new evidence, Judge Carrias ordered that the case be closed, formally closing the second investigation and ending the case into the triple murder.
Following the second investigation, Superintendent Sébeille was demoted on 22 December 1959, becoming the Head of Public Safety at a police station in the Belle de Mai quarter of Marseille. He was never promoted as high as superintendent again, and he never received the Légion d’honneur that he was promised at the end of August 1952.
In 1957, President René Coty commuted Gaston Dominici’s death sentence, and on 14 July 1960, President Charles de Gaulle pardoned him, releasing him from prison immediately. He was assigned to live in a residence in Montfort. In the final years of his life, Gaston found a confidant in Father Lorenzi, a Benedictine monk at Ganagobie Abbey, whom he had known since 1915.
Gaston Dominici died on 4 April 1965 at a hospice in Digne-les-Bains, without the degree of his involvement (if any) in the Drummond murders ever being established. In accordance with local tradition, Father Ferdinand Bos took Gaston’s final confession, but never revealed its contents. Gaston Dominici is buried in a vault in the new cemetery in Pertuis, along with the rest of his family.
Numerous theories have been suggested as being the reason behind the crime:
- An accident originating from a misunderstanding, perhaps caused by the language barrier
- Gaston Dominici taking the blame – despite not being the killer – to protect his family
- An attempted robbery gone wrong, committed by two or three of the Dominicis
- Industrial espionage (given Sir Jack Drummond's job as a government scientist) committed by an unknown third party against the backdrop of the Cold War
- Revenge for Sir Jack Drummond's work for the British Secret Service during the Second World War
- A conflict between Dominici family members, with the Drummonds being innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time
- A sexually motivated attack
On a 29 May 1999 episode of the France Inter spy-themed radio documentary Rendez-vous avec X, a guest, referred to only as Mr X, shared his theory with presenter Patrick Pesnot. In Mr X’s opinion, the key to the mystery lies with former British spy Sir Jack Drummond. Mr X believed Drummond may have had a rendezvous at the location to spy on a nearby chemical factory, and that he and his family were killed in relation to this. A supporting factor in this theory is the fact that Sir Jack Drummond’s camera was stolen and never recovered.
According to Jean Teyssier, Sir Jack Drummond was on a personal mission, not related to his work, to discover the fate of a British parachutist who landed in the area and was never found. Teyssier alleged that some members of the Communist resistance admitted that the parachutist had been executed by a local member, and the community was worried that Sir Jack had been sent to investigate, so they made an appointment with Sir Jack and killed him. The presence of some former resistance members in the area between August 1952 and November 1953 give some credence to the theory, which has never been proven or disproven.
When Chief Superintendent Chenevier published his memoirs in 1976, he gave an unambiguous version of events. According to Chenevier, Gustave Dominici and Roger Perrin came across Sir Jack Drummond while on a night-time check of the railway line and hunting rabbits. Sir Jack, unhappy with weapons being in proximity to his family’s camp, strongly admonished them before attempted to disarm Gustave who, furious, shot Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond and then shot at Elizabeth as she escaped. Gaston Dominici then joined Gustave and Roger and killed Elizabeth by striking her with the rifle butt. The three men then tore the Drummonds’ camp apart and stole a few items to divert suspicion. Gaston later admitted to being the sole person responsible for the murders, naively believing that the unbelievable nature of his story would see him acquitted. Neither Gustave Dominici nor Roger Perrin were investigated following Chenevier’s revelations.
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