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Dupont de Ligonnès’ Intriguing Case and France’s Most Wanted

The News Reader, Ottawa, Spring 2011

The U.K. and Royalists around the world celebrated the Royal Wedding, the U.S.A finally got “America’s most wanted” and Canada woke up from the federal elections with a hangover—Harper in a majority government, seriously?

Meanwhile, the headlines in France were all about a grisly case that took place in Nantes, my hometown.

In early April, an entire family disappeared—Xavier and Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès and their four children, Arthur (21), Thomas (18), Anne (16), and Benoit (13). The family has the “discreet charm of the bourgeoisie”, living in a townhouse in a posh neighbourhood. The parents are devout believers and the kids are given a relatively strict upbringing at the local Catholic school. The mother teaches kids the catechism in a local private school and the father is a businessman. An old noble family living an uneventful sheltered life, like many others in Nantes.

Except that this family suddenly disappeared mysteriously. Early April, the two young kids’ absence from school is justified by a letter from the father, stating that the family is moving to Australia. Agnès’ employer is told a similar story as she fails to show up for work. The extended family receives another version of that letter, this one explaining that Xavier, the father, was a US secret agent and had to enter the witness protection program.

Notified by close relatives worried about the family’s whereabouts, the police eventually entered the house in late April. Five bodies are quickly dug up—the mother and the four children. They were all shot dead and methodically buried in the yard. Even the family dogs were killed.

But the father’s body wasn’t found and he quickly became the number one suspect. The police then discovered that he spent the night in a hotel but lost his trace in Southern France.

Within hours, the quiet and amicable father of five becomes France’s most wanted fugitive.

The family’s execution seems clinical and methodically organized. Xavier did send letters explaining his wife and children’s absence from work, and the house is empty as if the family had moved. He recently became a member of s shooting club, practicing with a silencer. This is surprising for this kind of case—the execution was planned, and the killer didn’t just snap in a fit of rage or madness.

And little by little, as the investigation progresses, light is shed on the family’s secrets, buried under a respectable appearance. For instance, the couple’s financial situation was catastrophic—Xavier had spent his wife’s inheritance and had borrowed money from a lover in Paris, who was now demanding it back. The oldest son wasn’t his. Both Xavier and his wife were begging for help on various Internet forums—he shared his doubts about his Catholic faith while she was describing a failing marriage plagued by financial issues. The police still don’t understand how the family could afford its way of life considering Xavier wasn’t the successful businessman his relatives thought he was. The mystery is deepening a little bit more every day and leaves France captivated.

Three weeks later, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès is still at large. The number one suspect is still innocent until proven guilty but his escape and the clues point to him. And France is still gripped by the hunt, betting on his motives and on the outcome of the case.

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French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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