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, Grégory's parents, Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin, received numerous anonymous letters and phone calls from a man threatening revenge against Jean-Marie for some unknown offense. This person, whose written and telephone communications indicated he possessed detailed knowledge of the extended Villemin family, was later referred to as Le Corbeau "the Crow", French slang for "the informant".
Shortly after 5:00 pm on 16 October 1984, Christine Villemin reported Grégory to police as missing after she noticed he was no longer playing in the Villemins' front yard. At 5:30 pm, an anonymous caller to Gregory's uncle Michel Villemin stated that the boy had been taken and thrown into the Vologne River. At 9:00 pm, Grégory's body was found in the Vologne with his hands and feet bound with rope and a woollen 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 a statement from Laroche's sister-in-law Murielle Bolle, and taken into custody on 5 November 1984. Bolle later recanted her testimony, saying it had been coerced by police. 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 and killed Laroche as he was leaving for work. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to 5 years in prison. With credit for time served awaiting trial and a partial suspension of the sentence, he was released in December 1987 after having served two and a half years.
In July 1985, Christine Villemin was charged with the murder. Pregnant at the time, she launched a hunger strike that lasted 11 days. She was freed after an appeals court cited flimsy evidence and the absence of a coherent motive. Christine Villemin was 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.
On 14 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. The aunt was released, while the great-aunt and great-uncle invoked their right to remain silent. Muriel Bolle was also arrested and she was held for 36 days before being released, as were the others who had been detained. 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.
In 2018, Murielle Bolle authored a book on her involvement in the case, Breaking the Silence. In the book, Bolle maintained her innocence and that of Bernard Laroche, and blamed police for coercing her into implicating him. In June 2017, Bolle's cousin Patrick Faivre told police that Bolle's family had physically abused her in June 1984 in order to make her recant her initial testimony against Bernard Laroche. In her book, Bolle accused Faivre of lying about the reason why she recanted her initial statement in 1984. In June 2019, she was indicted for aggravated defamation after Faivre lodged a complaint with police.
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