Murder of Grégory Villemin
24 August 1980
|Died||16 October 1984 (aged 4)|
near Docelles, France
|Home town||Lépanges-sur-Vologne, France|
Grégory Villemin (24 August 1980 – 16 October 1984) was a French boy from Lépanges-sur-Vologne who was murdered at the age of 4. His body was found 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) away in the Vologne River near Docelles. The case became known as the Grégory Affair (French: l'Affaire Grégory) and for decades has received widespread media coverage in France, where it continues to capture the public interest. The murder remains unsolved.
In the years preceding the murder, Gregory's parents, the Villemins, had been receiving anonymous letters and phone calls from a male threatening revenge against Grégory's father, Jean-Marie Villemin. This person, who had detailed knowledge of the extended Villemin family, was later referred to as Le Corbeau ("the Crow", French slang for "the informant").
At 5 P.M 32. on 16 October 1984, an anonymous call was made to Gregory's uncle, stating that the boy had been taken and had been thrown into the Vologne River. Grégory, who had been playing in front of his house, was later confirmed as a missing person, thus beginning a manhunt. Grégory's body was later found in the Vologne with his hands and feet bound with rope and a woolen hat pulled down over his face.
On 17 October the Villemins received an anonymous letter that said "I have taken vengeance". Bernard Laroche, a cousin of Jean-Marie Villemin, was implicated in the murder by handwriting experts and by Laroche's sister-in-law and taken into custody on 5 November 1984. The sister-in-law later recanted her testimony and Laroche, who denied any part in the crime or being "the Crow", was released from custody on 4 February 1985. Jean-Marie Villemin vowed in front of the press that he would kill Laroche. On 25 March handwriting experts identified Grégory's mother Christine as the likely author of the anonymous letters. On 29 March 1985, Jean-Marie Villemin shot Laroche dead as he was leaving for work. Jean-Marie Villemin was convicted of murder and served 5 years in prison.
In December 1986, Christine Villemin was charged with the murder, but was ultimately cleared of the charges on 2 February 1993.
The case was reopened in 2000 to allow for DNA testing on a stamp used to send one of the anonymous letters, but the tests were inconclusive. In December 2008, following an application by the Villemins, a judge ordered the case reopened to allow DNA testing of the rope used to bind Grégory, the letters, and other evidence. This testing proved inconclusive. Further DNA testing in April 2013 on Grégory's clothes and shoes was also inconclusive.
In June 2017, based on new evidence, three people were arrested. Grégory's great-aunt and great-uncle, as well as an aunt—the widow of a biological uncle who died in 2010—were arrested on 14 June 2017. The aunt was released, while the great aunt and great uncle have invoked their right to remain silent. The police stated that they did not know who killed the child, but that there are multiple new suspects.
On 11 July 2017, the magistrate in charge of the first investigation, Jean-Michel Lambert, committed suicide, citing in a farewell letter to a local newspaper the increasing pressure resulting from the reopening of the case.
- "All of France is asking: Who killed petit Gregory?". The New York Times. 16 July 1985. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "The smiling boy whose murder haunts France". The Local Fr. 25 April 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "COLUMN ONE : The Long Shadow of 'The Crow'". Los Angeles Times. 9 December 1993. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Mother cleared in 'little Gregory' murder case". The Independent. 3 February 1993. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Judge reopens case of four-year-old Gregory, murdered in 1984". France 24. 6 December 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Gregory Villemin child murder: Three held in 1984 French mystery". BBC. 15 June 2017.
- Blavignat, Yohan; Piquet, Caroline (14 June 2017). "Affaire Grégory : «plusieurs personnes ont concouru» au crime". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 16 June 2017.
- "Affaire Grégory : l'ancien juge Jean-Michel Lambert retrouvé mort". RTL. 11 July 2017. Archived from the original on 14 July 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2017.