The Disappeared of the Yonne
Classification: Serial killer
Number of victims: 7
Date of murders: 1975 - 1979
Date of arrest: December 2000
Date of birth: January 26, 1934
Victims profile: Madeleine Dejust / Chantal Gras / Bernadette Lemoine / Christine Marlot / Martine Renault / Jacqueline Weiss / Françoise Lemoine (mentally handicapped young women)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Yonne, Burgundy, France
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 25, 2004
Émile Louis (born January 21, 1934 in Pontigny, Bourgogne) is a retired French bus driver and prime suspect in the disappearance of seven young women in the département of Yonne, Burgundy, in the late 1970s. In 2000 Louis confessed to their murders; he retracted this confession one month later.
Louis is currently (since March 2004) serving a 20-year jail sentence for the rape and torture of his last wife and of her daughter. He was also twice convicted of sexual attacks on minors: once in 1983 for which he was sentenced to four years in prison, and again in 1989 with a five-year jail term.
Émile Louis is a prime suspect in the disappearances in the Yonne Département of seven young women with mild mental deficiencies between 1975 and 1980. The disappearances initially did not attract much attention, as the girls had no close relatives and lived in homes for the handicapped; it was assumed that they had simply run away. Louis confessed to murdering the seven girls in 2000, before retracting his statement. However, his statement led police to find the remains of two of the victims. Louis allegedly kidnapped the girls while driving a bus meant to transport them.
One recurring question is how the justice system could have ignored this string of disappearances for so long, even though suspicions had grown and some official reports indicating probable foul play had been produced. In particular, gendarme Christian Jambert submitted a report in 1984 designating Louis as a prime suspect. On August 4, 1997, Jambert was found dead and judicial authorities found the cause to be suicide. However, an examination of his skull on March 31, 2004, indicated that two bullets had entered the brain, and both should have instantly been fatal.
In 1992, Pierre Charrier, the head of the Yonne APAJH association managing the home for handicapped young people where the missing girls had been staying, was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a 23-year-old handicapped woman. Nine years before, Nicole Charrier, his spouse, had testified in favor of Louis. In 2001, Nicole Charrier was removed from her management position at APAJH.
The lack of reaction on the part of judicial authorities has led to suspicions that the blocking of enquiries was not out of negligence or incompetency, but because of the possible involvement of locally well-connected people in a network providing sadistic prostitution services.
One issue in the legal treatment of Louis actions is prescription (the statute of limitations). Even if Louis admitted to crimes committed in the late 1970s, it might be impossible to prosecute him. The Court of Cassation ruled that certain acts that before would not have been considered to be interrupting prescription, but in fact interrupted prescription.
Louis' trial by the Yonne assize court for the seven murders started on November 3, 2004. On November 10, the court visited the location where the bodies of two victims, Madeleine Dejust and Jacqueline Weis, were exhumed after Louis confessed their location to the Gendarmerie. Louis has retracted his confession and maintains his innocence.
List of alleged victims
On March 26, 2004, Louis was sentenced by the assize court of the Var for the rape and torture of his second wife and his stepdaughter to 20 years in prison, two-thirds of which are without parole. With this last disposition, the jury went beyond the requests of the prosecution.
Born in Auxerre on January 26, 1934, Emile Louis abandoned as of his birth and is placed by the DDASS (departmental Direction of the medical and social service) in a family of Pontigny, a small borough of Yonne.
He is raised by a feeder mother that he describes as "authoritative", but maintains good relations with her husband, a craftsman-mason, also grave-digger. Scapegoat of its comrades of class, who call it the "bastard one", according to his statements, Emile Louis carries out a poor schooling.
He leaves the school at 14 years after having failed the certificate of primary studies.
Engaged at 19 years in the national navy, it tells to be deeply marked by the scenes of torture of which it is pilot in Indo-China.
On its return in Yonne, it marries Simone Delagneau, who will give him four children. The couple also accomodates children of the DDASS, from of which one of disappeared, Jacqueline Weiss.
In 1978, he divorces and settles with his concubine Gilberte Lemenorel, another nurse. At that time, Emile Louis becomes driver of bus, in charge of school transport.
Then 35 years old, it leads young women, among whom majority of the seven disappeared, between families of reception and médico-educational centers where certain defective mental are provided education for.
The teenagers describe it like "very understanding" and see in him a "large-brother" or a "father" to whom "one can all entrust", according to a former director of hearth, Nicole Charrier, in a testimony of morality, addressed to the examining magistrate at the beginning of the Eighties.
Emile Louis is then accused of the murder of a pupil of the DDASS, Sylviane Lesage, for which it will profit from a withdrawal of case in 1984.
During its police custody, it acknowledges nevertheless contacts on teenagers, entrusted to her concubine.
It will be condemned to four years of firm prison. At its exit of prison, it leaves Burgundy for the VAr, where it settles in a mobile-home, living allowances and various odd jobs.
In 1989, it is again condemned for indecent assault. But it is for rapes with acts of torture and cruelty on his second wife, Chantal Paradis, and of the sexual aggressions on his/her daughter-in-law, whom it most heavily will be condemned in March 2004 by the court of sat VAr: 20 years of criminal reclusion. Psychiatric experts belonged to the "faults" in the personality of Emile Louis, seemingly "normal" and well integrated socially and professionally.
They evoke a profile of "narcissistic sexual pervert", equipped with a "emotional coldness" and a "certain contempt of others". "Emile Louis acknowledges himself attracted by the people in difficulty, affectivement vulnerable or precarized auprès of which it (shows) readily helpful", affirms a psychologist who concludes: "Mister seems to be satisfied to easily sit his capacity on not very capable dependent people to dispute it".
With the experts, Emile Louis described the meeting with his second wife, of which he was the tutor: "it was a zombie, a poor girl who needed somebody strong".
Serial killer suspect convicted of rape
March 26, 2004
A French man who has been charged with the murder of seven mentally handicapped young women was sentenced in a separate trial today to 20 years in prison for raping and torturing his ex-wife and stepdaughter.
Retired bus driver Emile LOUIS, 70, was found guilty by a court in Draguignan in the south of France of repeatedly drugging and raping his second wife, Chantal PARADIS, and stepdaughter Karine Magret during the 1990s.
LOUIS, who denied the charges, showed no emotion as the sentence was read.
Described as a serial offender, LOUIS is due to go on trial later this year for the murder of seven mentally handicapped women who went missing in the same area of central France in the late 1970s, in a case that shocked France.
Louis initially admitted to the killings and told detectives he had felt "uncontrollable urges" to murder the women, but he later withdrew his confession.
He told investigators at one stage that he buried the bodies in a field at the edge of a river near the town of Auxerre.
Forensic experts in 2001 identified two skeletons as those of Jaqueline WEISS, who disappeared aged 17 in April 1977, and Madeleine DEJUST, who went missing aged 22 in July the same year. Remains of the five other women have yet to be found. The seven victims all attended a day centre for the mentally handicapped in Auxerre and disappeared between 1976 and 1979. LOUIS drove them between their homes and the centre.
Serial killer clue to student’s murder
October 31, 2004
The father of a British language student who was murdered in France 14 years ago believes that the trial of an alleged serial killer this week may yield vital clues about her death.
Roger Parrish hopes that the man, who is accused of murdering seven mentally handicapped women, may have information about a sex ring believed to be linked to the death of Joanna, his 20-year-old daughter.
Her body was found floating in the Yonne River at Moneteau near Auxerre, Burgundy, in May 1990. She had been tied up and raped before she was strangled. Her death came in the midst of a series of unsolved disappearances and killings in the Auxerre region over the past three decades.
Officials are suspected of shielding well-connected sex offenders and the trial of Emile Louis, 71, in Auxerre is expected to expose embarrassing lapses by detectives.
Parrish, from Newnham, Gloucestershire, plans to attend part of the trial. He has become increasingly disheartened by the lack of progress in investigating his daughter’s murder.
“It is quite frustrating, to put it mildly,” he said last week. “The authorities, for whatever reason, are not very good at solving these cases.”
Louis, a former coach driver, was jailed for 20 years earlier this year for sexual assault. He has also confessed to murdering seven women and has emerged as one of the country’s most hated criminals, his puffy features and rheumy eyes illustrating many magazine articles.
There are increasing suspicions, however, that he might not have acted alone. Efforts by Christian Jambert, a former military investigator, to implicate Louis in the murders were blocked repeatedly decades ago. Jambert allegedly committed suicide in 1997.
Suspicions of a cover-up were fuelled earlier this year when an autopsy revealed that Jambert had not taken his own life but had been killed by two shots to the head.
Parrish has since spoken to Jambert’s son Philippe, who told him the former policeman had “strong suspicions” about the identity of Joanna’s killer.
Although Louis could not have murdered Joanna since he was in prison when she died, he may have information that could help to solve the case. His trial, expected to last more than a month, will hear testimony from more than 70 witnesses.
Louis’s confession to seven murders in 2000 led police to the remains of Madeleine Dejust and Jacqueline Weiss. But the following year Louis retracted his confession and said that he had just been the lowly employee of a sex network in Auxerre that included eminent local people. The same defence was used to no avail by Marc Dutroux, the Belgian child killer who was jailed for life earlier this year.
In the Auxerre region, however, the existence of such a network was no secret. In 1984 a young woman turned up in a hospital with a sickening story: she had been held prisoner in a cellar where she had been raped and tortured by visitors for three months before she managed to escape.
Police freed another victim who had been abducted and imprisoned for a week in the house and discovered a torture chamber and a price list — clients could pay up to £60 to inflict a cigarette burn. Claude Dunand had apparently been running the business for years with impunity.
Dunand was jailed for life in 1991 but was freed after 10 years, prompting speculation that this preferential treatment was part of a conspiracy to protect the identity of former clients. Local journalists say that a list of people implicated in the sadistic abduction ring was drawn up by police but disappeared from the files. A link was suggested by the fact that some of Dunand’s victims were also mentally handicapped girls who attended daycare centres where Louis was a driver.
French Serial Killer on trial
November 3, 2004
Emile Louis knew many of the girls who went missing.
A 70-year-old bus driver has gone on trial in France over the deaths of seven young girls, in one of the country's biggest post-war scandals.
Emile Louis is accused of murdering the girls - many of whom were mentally disabled and in local council care in northern Burgundy - over 30 years.
He confessed to some of the murders four years ago, although he has since retracted the confession.
Only two of the girls' bodies have so far been found. Over three decades, some 30 young women went missing while in the care of the social services in the Yonne region.
Many victims' families say they will be in court to see the severe failings of the French authorities laid bare.
They include the father of a British student, Joanna Parrish, from Gloucestershire, whose murder near the city of Auxerre in 1990 was never solved.
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says many of the victims had severe learning difficulties, yet the local authorities simply recorded them as runaways.
The French police showed little interest, our correspondent says.
Only one local gendarme pursued evidence against a bus driver, Emile Louis, who knew many of the girls personally.
But the enquiries were halted and a damning report was lost until 1996.
The gendarme was then found shot dead - in what was recorded as suicide.
The victims' families started to suspect a cover-up and a new investigation showed that dozens of files relating to the cases had disappeared from a court house.
Rumours emerged of a high-level sex ring and four years ago Mr Louis confessed to several of the murders, before retracting his confession.
French serial killer given life
November 26, 2004
Emile Louis knew the victims personally.
A 70-year-old French bus driver has been jailed for life for the murders of seven young women in the 1970s.
Emile Louis was found guilty of killing the women - many of whom were mentally disabled and in local council care in northern Burgundy - over 30 years.
He confessed to some of the murders four years ago, although he has since retracted the confession.
Louis had already been given 20 years in jail for raping his second wife and his daughter-in-law.
He will serve a minimum of 18 years.
Before the judges retired to consider their verdict, Louis said: "I'm sorry for the families, but I'm innocent".
May they haunt your sleep, your days, your nights... the kingdom of emptiness - it is you ..Didier Seban,. Lawyer for victims' families. His lawyers have maintained that the crimes took place too long ago for the case to be legally valid.
But Didier Seban, a lawyer representing victims' families, told the defendant: "You, Monsieur Louis, will one day have a grave around which your children can gather. They (the victims) will have no grave.
"May they haunt your sleep, your days, your nights... the kingdom of emptiness - it is you."
Two bodies were found in shallow graves after Louis, who knew many of the young women personally, gave police instructions to their whereabouts in 2000. He later retracted his confession and the bodies of the others, all aged between 15 and 25, have not been found.
Over three decades, some 30 young women went missing while in the care of the social services in the Yonne region.
The father of murdered British student Joanna Parrish, from Gloucestershire, whose body was found near the city of Auxerre in 1990, was following the trial proceedings.
The victims' families have kept up pressure on the authorities.
Her murder was never solved, but Roger Parrish has now ruled out Louis' involvement. After the trial, he said: "I don't think he had any direct involvement or contact with Joanna.
"He wasn't in the area at the time that she went missing. I believe he was in prison in the south of the country for other sex offences."
The Louis case has been marked by a series of judicial problems. In March 2002, the government punished three magistrates for failing in their duties by allowing Louis to avoid prosecution for more than 20 years.
The thoroughness of the investigation was also questioned.
Many of the victims had severe learning difficulties, yet the local authorities simply recorded them as runaways. The French police appeared to show little interest.
Only one local gendarme pursued evidence against Louis, but the enquiries were halted and a damning report was lost until 1996.
The gendarme was then found shot dead - in what was recorded as suicide. It was only thanks to pressure from the victims' families that the issue was kept alive.
The missing and murdered of Burgundy, France
By Rachael Bell
On the morning of May 17, 1990, Patrice Bardot, an unemployed dustman, traveled from his home in the French village of Monéteau to the nearby Yonne River for a day of fishing. Not long after he arrived he noticed something floating in the water. Initially, he believed it was a bobbing barrel, but as he drew nearer he was shocked to realize it was a nude human body.
Bardot immediately flagged down a woman jogging on a nearby path and alerted her of the gruesome find. The jogger then ran toward a café, where the police were called. The authorities soon arrived and conducted what would later be considered a terribly bungled investigation.
The police cornered off a small section of land close to where the body was found and began searching for clues. However, investigators ignored a large portion of the surrounding area, most of which had been trampled by police, emergency personnel, onlookers and vehicles. According to an Expatica.com article by Graham Tearse, the secured area was "released to the public just several hours later" and the following day it was further trampled by children on a field trip. Had there been any evidence, it was likely lost from the contamination of the crime scene.
The body was withdrawn from the river and taken to a nearby hospital for identification and autopsy. The woman was identified as 20-year-old Joanna Parrish, who was from Gloucestershire, England. Joanna was enrolled in a modern languages work/study program at Leeds University and took a position as an assistant English teacher at a secondary school in the nearby town of Auxerre. She was working on a bachelor's degree in modern languages at Leeds University. At the time of her death she was only one week away from completing her posting.
An autopsy revealed that Joanna had been drugged, tied up, raped, beaten and strangled before being dumped into the river. It was suspected that her body had been in the water only several hours prior to it being found. Even though the body was discarded in broad daylight, police were unable to find any witnesses. They believed that whoever murdered Joanna was probably familiar with the area and could have even resided in the immediate vicinity. Yet, police were unable to produce any suspects.
According to Tearse, Joanna had a friend named Janet visiting from Canada around the time of her death. Janet claimed that Joanna placed an advertisement in a local newspaper offering English lessons. She planned to use the money to fund a holiday trip with her fiancée.
Investigators learned that a local man responded to Joanna's ad by phone and was interested in hiring her to teach his teenage son. They made arrangements to meet at 7 p.m. on May 16 at the town's square in Auxerre. Tearse suggested that on that day, Janet joined Joanna on her trip into town and they walked around for a while before they separated at about 6:30 pm.
Joanna went to meet the man at the town square. It was the last time Janet ever saw her again. Tearse said that Joanna never told Janet the name of the man she was planning to meet.
Several weeks after her body was discovered, Joanna was buried in Gloucestershire. Her parents, Roger and Pauline, went to Auxerre and hired a lawyer to assist them in their gaining access to information concerning the case from the magistrate and the police detectives. They wanted to closely follow the investigation, hoping that it would eventually lead to the apprehension of their daughter's murderer. Their expectations were quickly shattered when they realized how inadequately the case was being handled.
At the time, Roger and Pauline didn't know that their daughter's murder was not an isolated case. In fact, there were many unsolved murders and disappearances in the Burgundy region, most of which were grossly mismanaged, completely ignored and even discarded. Many suspected that high-level officials were trying to cover-up the fact that Burgundy had an unusually high murder rate for such a tiny province. It was something that could not be hidden for long.
The investigation into Joanna's death was bungled from the beginning. The crime scene was turned into a forensic disaster. Moreover, much of the information gathered during the investigation was kept from Joanna's family, who desperately tried to learn what advances were being made in the case.
Tearse suggested that during a British inquest into Joanna's murder, critical evidence was discovered that was ignored or overlooked by French coroners. He claimed that a second autopsy, conducted by the British, revealed several bite marks on Joanna's body. From a forensic standpoint, bite marks are vital clues that can reveal information about the killer because teeth, bite and jaw formations are individually unique and can be easily matched. The revelation shocked Joanna's parents who couldn't comprehend how something so obvious and important could have gone unnoticed.
During the autopsy, medical examiners were able to obtain sperm samples. It took two years for the samples to be analyzed, but the results led to a genetic print. The DNA evidence was one of the biggest clues in the investigation and Roger and Pauline hoped that it would lead investigators to the killer. However, they were not so fortunate.
Tearse said, "investigators refused to call for voluntary DNA tests of the local male population and continued to refuse to make a media appeal for witnesses." It was another blow to the investigation and a major disappointment for Roger and Pauline. Frustrated at the incompetence of police, Joanna's family decided to take measures into their own hands.
They family offered a reward for information into Joanna's death and handed out leaflets in and around Auxerre and Monéteau. They even appealed to the British government for assistance. Even though they were unsuccessful in getting help from the British government they did manage to get some interesting responses to their leaflets.
Several people called offering some information directly concerning Joanna's death. Roger and Pauline eagerly presented the new leads to the French authorities. However, for some unknown reason the investigators failed to pursue the tips.
The family members of other murdered victims in Burgundy responded to the leaflets. Roger and Pauline learned that three other young women, Isabelle Laville, 17, Danielle Bernard, 39, Sylvie Baton, 24, were murdered near or in Auxerre between 1987 and 1990. Their families were angered because they also felt as if the investigators were mishandling the cases of their deceased loved ones.
Eventually, Roger and Pauline discovered that there were approximately 13 more unsolved murders and disappearances of women in the Auxerre area over the last 30 years. Interestingly, investigators working on Joanna's case never told them about the spate of murders, two of which occurred within months of their daughter's death.
Roger and Pauline tried to obtain Joanna's case files so they could bring in outside help to assist in the investigation. However, investigators continued to deny them access to the documents. Even though it seemed as if they were battling a lost cause, they refused to give up in their search for evidence.
A Criminal Network
Among the 17 girls missing or found murdered were seven pupils from the Medical-Educational Institute, a special needs school for handicapped young women in Auxerre. The girls, 16 to 22 years old, were accounted for in December 2000, when a former bus driver of the school made a startling confession. Emile Louis, 68, admitted to police that he had sex with the seven pupils and then murdered them sometime between 1977 and 1979.
When the girls first began to disappear, the police interviewed Louis because he was known to have a history of sex offenses. However, they did not pursue him for long and eventually he was disregarded as a potential suspect. Eventually, the cases were dropped and the girls were listed as runaways.
Louis continued to drive female pupils to and from school. It is also believed that he continued to rape and kill them indiscriminately. He would not be looked at as a suspect for almost another two decades.
Hugh Schofield's article Mystery of France's Missing Girls suggested that there were similarities between many of the cases. He quoted Corinne Herrmann, a French lawyer and author of the book The Disappeared of the Yonne, stating that the girls were either mentally handicapped, "or like Joanna far from home." Moreover, according to Stuart Jeffries 2000 article for The Observer, witnesses were able to place Louis near the spots where many of the victims were last seen.
Louis was caught almost two decades later when his daughter found items in his house belonging to several of the victims. During his confession, Louis told authorities that he buried the girls near the Yonne River. Only the skeletal remains of two girls were ever recovered.
Not long after his admission of guilt, Louis changed his story. He claimed that he was pressured into giving false testimony and that he actually didn't commit the murders. In a January 2002 article in The Guardian by Jon Henley, Louis insisted that "the girls were routinely abused and finally abducted and killed by a nebulous ring of men 'of some standing, locally and in the region." Not surprisingly, Louis' story was met with skepticism by local investigators.
Louis could not be charged with the murders anyway because under French law it was considered unlawful to convict anyone of a murder 10 years after a crime was committed. According to Jeffries, Louis was instead "convicted for kidnapping, for which there is no statue of limitations." The authorities believed Louis could have been involved in some of the other murder cases, yet there was not enough evidence to convict him.
One thing was for certain: Louis could not have been directly responsible for Joanna's death. At the time of her murder, he was serving a prison sentence for sexually assaulting a minor. Nevertheless, Schofield suggested that a private investigation conducted for 13 years by French police agent Christian Jambert, 56, "clearly established that Louis was linked to all the women." It was believed that he was affiliated with a sex ring operation that prostituted, abused and even murdered many girls in the region, possibly including Joanna.
Initially the authorities ignored Jambert's theories, but an incident in 1984 led them to reconsider the idea that there was indeed a sex ring in the area. That January, a 19-year-old girl was found wandering the streets of Auxerre in a confused state. When the police picked her up and questioned her she claimed that she was held captive in the basement of a nearby house, where she was sexually abused and tortured.
The girl's testimony led the police to the home of Claude and Monique Dunand, known friends of Emile Louis. Stuart said that when they searched the house, they found another girl in the cellar, "naked and suspended from a ladder by her wrists." He further claimed that for approximately 15 years, local handicapped girls were lured to the house, locked up, fed dog food and repeatedly raped and tortured by invited guests. However, there was no indication that any of the girls were murdered.
Claude Dunand was eventually convicted of kidnapping and given a life sentence in 1991. His wife Monique received two years for accessory to the crimes. According to Andrew Alderson and Kim Willsher's article 'I Want Justice for Joanna,' Yonne crime reporter Ludovic Berger stated, "Claude Dunand has always said that politicians, industrialists and magistrates were involved but he has refused to name them." The article further suggested that a list of at least 50 clients "rumored to include several French 'notables' who paid to torture and abuse" captive girls was discovered by police and handed over to the Auxerre Courthouse. However, the list mysteriously disappeared from a courtroom and has never been found.
It was not the only document that went missing. In fact, there were more than 100 murder and missing person case files from between 1958 and 1982 that vanished from the courthouse. Moreover, the court ledger documenting the investigations also vanished. It became increasingly clear that someone was either trying to cover up the crimes or the Auxerre Courthouse had a serious management problem.
Christian Jambert was almost certain he knew who was behind Burgundy's rash of murders and missing person cases, and he was convinced that Louis was one of the primary culprits. However, he also believed that Louis was only one of many involved in the crimes. Jambert kept meticulous notes and diaries concerning the cases, along with the evidence he collected over the years. In 1997, he made preparations to present his findings during a new inquiry. Yet, he never got the chance to reveal what he worked so hard to acquire.
In August of that year, just several days before the inquiries were scheduled to begin, Jambert was found dead in the basement of his Auxerre home. An autopsy revealed that he died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Medical investigators claimed that Jambert had a history of depression. It was believed that his poor mental state prompted him to end his life. His death was listed as a suicide.
By the late 1990s, the mounting scandal in Auxerre gained international attention. People were shocked by the negligence exhibited in the investigations and the fact that more than 100 files, mostly of missing women, had gone missing from Auxerre's Courthouse. According to Harry de Quetteville's January 2002 article in The Telegraph, the scandal was "taken so seriously in Paris that Marylise Lebranchu, the French justice minister, ordered a series of internal investigations." Joanna's murder case was one of those selected for re-examination and it was further linked with the inquiry into the seven girls Louis once claimed to have murdered.
Not surprisingly, Joanna's parents welcomed the decision of a new inquiry. They waited more than a decade for her investigation to be reopened. BBC News Online stated that Roger, "was hopeful there would be progress in the investigation and the potential capture of the killer."
Investigators working on the case quickly realized that there was a possibility someone tampered with Joanna's murder file. Witness statements, which were obtained at the time of her murder, were missing from her dossier. Moreover, important DNA evidence taken during the autopsy also disappeared from the file for more than a decade before it was found again.
During the investigation, it was suggested that Joanne and many of the other girls that were murdered or missing were likely the victims of an organized sex gang operating around Auxerre. Yet, because so many of the facts were missing, there was not enough evidence available to convict anyone.
The only exception was the case of the seven missing girls Louis initially claimed to have murdered before retracting his confession. Investigators continued to believe he was involved in their disappearances and murders. A re-examination of his case was ordered, with the hope of uncovering more evidence linking Louis or anyone else to the girls.
Many in the community believed that the murder cases were deliberately ignored and the files stolen or destroyed because they implicated high-level officials. Investigators re-examining the cases determined that it was more likely that gross negligence on behalf of local magistrates was to blame for the mishandling of the cases. In all likelihood, it was probably a combination of both theories that prevented anyone from being apprehended for the crimes.
In March 2002, four magistrates from Burgundy faced accusations of gross negligence in the cases of missing and murdered women in their region. The judges included former chief prosecutors Rene Meyer and Jacques Cazals and former deputy prosecutors Daniel Stilinovic and Bertrand Daillie. The men were ordered to appear before a panel of six senior judges, who would review the cases over a three-day period.
According to a 2002 article by Susan Bell in The Scotsman, accused magistrate Stilinovic admitted that "there were people who allowed information to be stifled." He was further quoted saying "magistrates tampered with procedures on behalf of people they wanted to protect. It is a conspiracy at the very top." However, he maintained his innocence, suggesting that he did not stifle any of the investigations. His peers thought otherwise.
The panel returned a verdict in late March and found Stilinovic guilty of negligence. He received the severest penalty and was dismissed from his position. Cazals was also found guilty and transferred from his prestigious post in Paris. Meyer, who was retired at the time of the inquiry, was stripped of his honorary title after he too was found guilty. Daillie received no punishment.
In August 2002, investigators found new clues during their inquiry into Joanna's murder. They revealed that recently recovered DNA evidence pointed to two men being involved in the rape and murder of Joanna. The BBC News further stated in their article "Fresh Clues in Joanna Murder Hunt" that new documents were found which indicated that police arrested a suspect in connection with Joanna's murder early in the investigation. Yet, he was released because of lack of evidence.
Investigators are continuing to follow up on the new leads, hoping that it might result in the arrest of her killers. However, a great deal of time has passed since her death and the chances of solving the crime have significantly decreased over the years. Regardless, Joanna's family and law enforcement officials re-examining the case have not given up hope.
In April 2004, more new evidence arose concerning the suicide of Jambert. According to Alderson and Willsher's article, Corinne Herrmann received access to Jambert's files while she was conducting research into the case of the Burgundy's missing and murdered girls. She became suspicious of his death and believed he might have been murdered. She just had to prove her theory.
Herrmann, author of Les Disparues D'Auxerre, convinced Jambert's children to exhume their father's body so that another autopsy could be conducted. After several days of examining the remains, the medical investigators made a startling discovery. Alderson and Willsher claimed that Jambert had been shot not once, but twice in the head making it almost impossible for him to have committed suicide.
Herrmann's suspicions were proven correct and she persuaded area magistrates to begin a murder inquiry. It was believed that his murder was directly linked with the investigation on which he was working. Even though investigators interviewed several possible suspects, no one has yet been convicted for the crime.
Jambert's case, like Joanna's, is being pursued with more vigor than ever before. Moreover, investigators continue to review the Louis case. They are hoping to put an end to the disappearances and murders that have plagued Burgundy for so many years. Moreover, they hope to restore the reputation of the beautiful, medieval town that has attracted visitors from around the world for centuries.
Emile Louis Trial
On November 2, 2004, Emile Louis' murder trial finally began in Auxerre, France despite repeated attempts to throw out the case. According to a November 3, 2004 AP Worldstream article, Louis' lawyers requested that the case be delayed until after the European Court of Human Rights ruled "on their bid to dismiss the case" because they believed "the crimes took place too long ago for the case to be legally valid." However, the court rejected the defense request and ordered the resumption of Louis' trial.
The 70-year-old retired bus driver, convicted of the murders of seven mentally handicapped women, continued to deny he was responsible for the murders even though he confessed to them years earlier. It is hoped that the trial will finally reveal the truth as to how the girls died. The trial is expected to last four weeks. If convicted, Louis could face life imprisonment.
The case is considered one of France's most controversial scandals because the investigation was bungled and many of the case files dealing with the girls' disappearances, as well as other cases of murdered and missing women went missing from the Auxerre Courthouse. It is believed that the files were destroyed in order to cover up a high-level sex ring, which allegedly involved some prominent French officials.
AP Worldstream reported that, "more than 90 witnesses including magistrates, social workers, police officers and family members of the victims are to testify at the trial." Many other family members of the victims are expected to fill the courthouse, in the hopes of seeing Louis brought to justice after escaping prosecution for the murders for approximately twenty-five years. The father of British student Joanna Parrish, who was murdered in Auxerre in 1990, is also expected to be in attendance.
Since the onset of the trial there has been an upsurge of media and public interest, which has led to security concerns. Moreover, there is concern for Louis' personal safety and the authorities want to prevent the possibility of someone taking justice into their own hands. In response, safety measures were taken to secure the perimeter around the courthouse, Mie Kohiyama reported for Agence France-Presse. There is no doubt that Louis is considered by many to be one of France's most reviled citizens.