A socialite, a gardener, a message in Blood: the murder die France still in holds his grip

PARIS — The wealthy socialite was found dead in the basement of her villa on the Cote d’Azur. The only door was locked from the outside but also barricaded from within. A message, scribbled in the victim’s blood, seemed to accuse her gardener.

the cheeky one killing, in 1991, of Ghislaine Marchal and subsequent conviction of her Moroccan gardener, Omar Raddad, became one of The most sustainable in France murder mysteries, capturing the popular imagination.

Now, three decades later, new DNA technology can lead to a second process that supporters hope will exonerate Mr Raddad, who has always maintained his innocence and reopened a case die, although apparently regulated legally, has long been unsettled France.

It hasn’t just done this because of the violence that was visited in an enclave of pride homes just north of cannes, of because the main characters were from diametrically opposed backgrounds. There was also the riddle of the locked room die was never satisfactorily unraveled. And there was the final message — that a grammatical . contained error.

“Omar killed me”, Mrs Marchal seemed to have written in her dying moments. Or, in the original French, “Omar m’a tuer” – not “m’a tuée”, as it should have been. The mistake asked very French questions over the class and language, in the first place of a woman of her station would be so trivial error of if instead the gardener was framed and easily convicted because he was of Arab descent.

“Today, When You’re Asked To” give An example of wrongful conviction, people mention Omar Raddad right away,” said Henri Leclerc, the lawyer who represented the victim family in the 1994 trial in which the gardener was convicted. “There is very little we can do today to change” public opinion.”

In his original trial, Mr. Raddad was sentenced to 18 years in prison. But after a request from King Hassan II of In Morocco, where the case was closely followed, and with a partial pardon from the then French president, Jacques Chirac, Mr Raddad was released after four years. But he was never erased of the killing.

Today awaits Mr. Raddad, 59, for a statement on his request to repeat his trial, which was filed? in June. Still tormented, he seldom goes away home and “didn’t live anymore,” said Sylvie Noachovitch, who is Mr Raddad’s lawyer and said he didn’t? wish to be interviewed.

The victims family believes that Mr Raddad is guilty and is against a new process.

“It is no event of the past that’s what i learned live withsaid Sabine du Granrut, who is Mrs. Marchal’s niece and… also a lawyer, referring to her aunt killing. “It is a event that always comes back to the present.”

Mrs du Granrut, who said she was very close met her aunt, remembered that three days before the killing. “Her voice is still in my ear,” she said.

In 1991 Mrs Marchal, 65, lived alone in a large villa whose garden was tended by Mr Raddad. She was born of a prominent family, until parents who had fought in the resistance, and her second husband was the heir to an industrial fortune.

Mr Raddad had grown up in Morocco, couldn’t read of write and spoke little French. He had joined to be father, who had worked for years as a gardener in the same community on the Côte d’Azur, and had a young family.

On a summer evening that year, after Mrs Marchal had failed until show up up to two appointments with friends, the police found her dead, with multiple bruises and cuts, in the locked cellar of an attachment of her villa. Inside, a folding bed blocked the door with the help of a metal tube.

“Omar m’a tuer” was written on a door in the locked cellar. On another door was a second message — “Omar m’a t” — also written in the victim’s blood. Over the years, handwriting experts disagreed on of the messages were written by the victim.

Prosecutors and Mrs Marchal’s family argued that Mr Raddad, who frequently played slot machine machines, Mrs Marchal fell . at out of anger when she refused give him an advance on his wages. After Mr. Raddad fled the basement and locked it outside, they said, Mrs Marchal survived long enough to identify her killer with An dying message. She barricaded the door out of fear that Mr. Raddad would return, they said. And money turned out to have been taken from her handbag, what found empty on her bed.

But Mr. Raddad has said he is innocent and had no… reason until kill Mrs Marchal, who had treated him well. His supporters claim that Mrs. Marchal’s real killer was in able to prop up the bed against the door when leaving the cellar and wrote the messages to avoid detection by the gardener in to list.

An empty handbag was not proof of theft, they said, and there were no jewels of other valuables missing. Most importantly, neither Mr Raddad’s DNA nor his fingerprints have ever been… found at the crime scene.

in 2015, new DNA technology led to a discovery on the spot of the traces of four unknown men. An expert for Mr Raddad then identified the presence of 35 tracks of DNA of one unknown man die mixed laundry with the second message written in the victim’s blood, said Mrs. Noachovitch, Mr. Raddad’s lawyer.

“This DNA must belong to the killer,” said Mrs. Noachovitch, met arguing that it was highly unlikely that researchers of others came. who polluted the scene.

Ms. du Granrut, the victim’s niece, said she believed there was met evidence was handled with less care three decades ago and that the new DNA was contamination from an unrelated source.

Immediately after Mr. Raddad was convicted in 1994, some of the themes die had been in the background in the court came in the public. His lawyer at the time Jacques Verges, who had become famous for anti-colonial embrace causes, conjured up the Dreyfus affair. Like the Jewish officer die was wrongly convicted because of his religion, die from the gardener wrong was an Arab, the lawyer said.

Inspired by Emile Zola’s defense of Captain Dreyfus, Jean-Marie Rouart, a novelist, formed a group until support mr. Raddad and wrote a book, “Omar, the Making of a culprit.”

“The dying woman who points to her own killer – it was like An bad novel by Agatha Christie,’ said Mr Rouart.

The tensions in the class stayed play out after the trial, sometimes in unexpected ways. For Mr Rouart — who used to be also from a prominent family and the literary editor of Le Figaro, the newspaper of France’s conservative establishment – his plea pitted him against members of his own class.

Class, in fact, used to be in the heart of the debate over the grammatical mistake in the message supposedly left by the victim, “Omar m’a tuer.” Correct French would not have used the infinitive “tuer”, but rather the past participle, ending with an “e” to agree with the female writer, Mrs Marchal.

Her family’s lawyer, Mr Leclerc, recalled hearing over the… killing while listening to the radio in to be car.

“The reporter said that the… body of was a woman found in her locked cellar and that she had left accusations against her gardener – and what was strange was that there was a spelling mistake”, recalls Mr. Leclerc.

It is a mistake common among students, but would someone from her class make it?

Proper use has long been considered a privilege of the elite, said Anne Abeillé, an editor of An 2,628 pages of French grammar book. In 1901, an attempt to simplify the spelling to make it more accessible was defeated for political reasons, she said.

“All these working-class boys had to be prevented from acquiring the same command” of the language like the elite,” said Ms. Abeillé.

To the supporters of Mr Raddad, the mistake was proof that the message was not written by Mrs Marchal, but by someone die tried to frame the gardener.

Madame du Granrut said that her aunt, like many others women of her class and generation did not go to university. detectives also found other examples of her writing with the same past participle mistake.

“I am not sure Which in the moment she was writing, she was bored in notice all her grammar and French syntax,’ said Mrs. du Granrut.

On this point, Mr Rouart, the novelist, agreed. prominent people — even members of the French Academy, the institution in charged with protect the French language – making spelling mistakes, said Mr Rouart, a member of the academy since 1997.

However the spelling mistake took on a life of its own, die resurfaces even decades later in book titles, headlines and social media until signal a miscarriage of justice.

That happened, Mrs. du Granrut thought, partly because her… family chose to remain quiet over the killing. if public opinion turned against them, family members briefly discussed of they would speak out, but fell back on the discretion die them and their social class, she said.

“And because we didn’t speak, it became” more and more hard to speak,” said Mrs. du Granrut, who finally did some interviews in recent years. “I think it was too late.”

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