Grégory Villemin, a four-year-old French boy who was abducted from the front yard of his home in a small village called Vosges, in France, on 16th October of 1984. The same night, his body was found 2.5 miles away in the Vologne River near Docelles. The most atrocious part of this case is that he was perhaps thrown into the water alive! The case became known as the “Grégory Affair” and for decades has received widespread media coverage and public attention in France. Though, the murder remains unsolved to this day.
The Murder Case Of Grégory Villemin:
Grégory Villemin’s tragic end was destined previously as from September 1981 to October 1984, Grégory’s parents, Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin, and Jean-Marie’s parents, Albert and Monique Villemin, received numerous anonymous letters and phone calls from a man threatening revenge against Jean-Marie for some unknown offence.
On 16 October 1984, around 5:00 pm, 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, Gregory’s uncle Michel Villemin informed the family he had just been told by an anonymous caller 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.
Investigation And Suspects:
On 17 October 1984, the Villemin family received an anonymous letter that said: “I have taken vengeance”. The unidentified author’s written and telephone communications since 1981 indicated he possessed detailed knowledge of the extended Villemin family, who was referred to in the media as Le Corbeau “the Crow” ― it’s French slang for an anonymous letter-writer.
The next month on November 5th, Bernard Laroche, a cousin of Grégory’s father 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.
How Bernard Laroche Became The Prime Suspect In This Case?
According to various statements, including of Murielle Bolle, Bernard Laroche was indeed jealous of Jean-Marie for his job’s promotion, but not only this was the case. Apparently, Bernard has always been comparing his life with his cousin’s. They went to school together and even then, Jean-Marie would have better grades, more friends, have girlfriends, etc. Years after years, living in the same area, Bernard would grow more and more envious of his cousin’s successful life.
Jean-Marie was a young handsome man with a beautiful house, living in a happy marriage, had a well-paying job, and most importantly, an adorable son. Bernard also had a son about the same age as Grégory. Grégory was a healthy and strong little boy, but sadly, Bernard’s son wasn’t. He was fragile and frail (also it is heard that he has a slight mental retardation, but there’s not any source confirming this). Bernard would also often visit his family and friends to talk trash about Jean-Marie, probably influencing them to hate him too. That’s why the investigators believed that Bernard had something to do with the murder, as well as other family members.
Murielle 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.
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The Later Suspects:
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.
According to another track of investigation, Gregory’s great grand-uncle Marcel Jacob and his wife Jacqueline were involved in the killing while his father’s cousin Bernard Laroche was responsible for the abduction. Bernard’s niece Murielle Bolle was in the car with him when he abducted the boy and handed him over to a man and a woman, presumably Marcel and Jacqueline. Murielle admitted this in front of the police only weeks after the actual crime but withdrew her statement a couple of days later.
Bernard had lived with his grandparents as a child, and had grown up with his uncle Marcel, who had about the same age as him. The whole Jacob family had a longstanding hatred for the Villemin clan which their sister/aunt had married into.
On 14 June 2017, based on new evidence, three people were arrested — Grégory’s great-aunt, Marcel Jacob, and great-uncle, Jacqueline Jacob, as well as an aunt — the widow of Grégory’s uncle Michel Villemin, 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 young and inexperienced magistrate Jean-Michel Lambert, who was initially taking care of the case, committed suicide. In a farewell letter to a local newspaper, Lambert cited the increasing pressure he felt as a result of the case being reopened as the reason for ending his life.
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 Bolle in 1984 and pressurized her to 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 June 2019, she was indicted for aggravated defamation after Faivre lodged a complaint with police.
Murielle Bolle, Marcel and Jacqueline Jacob spent months in custody but were released because of insufficient evidence and after a mistake in the court procedure. The local reports stated that Grégory’s father Jean-Marie Villemin was an arrogant person and liked to brag about his wealth, and that had caused a falling out with his cousin Bernard Laroche. It’s quite obvious that the killer must have been some jealous member of the family and the new investigations have put forth the new suspects every time from his family, but still, the whole story remains a riddle.
What a nightmare this family has been through ― the loss of their child in a terrible murder; the mother arrested, jailed and under a cloud of suspicion for years; the father himself driven to murder ― and exactly why all this happened is still a mystery, the actual culprit remains unidentified to this day.