Burgundy serial murder trial verdict expected

25th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

AUXERRE, France, Nov 25 (AFP) - A verdict was due later Thursday in one of France's most controversial multiple murder cases in which a 70-year-old former bus driver and convicted sex-attacker is accused of killing a series of mentally-handicapped young women more than 25 years ago.

AUXERRE, France, Nov 25 (AFP) - A verdict was due later Thursday in one of France's most controversial multiple murder cases in which a 70-year-old former bus driver and convicted sex-attacker is accused of killing a series of mentally-handicapped young women more than 25 years ago.

At the end of the three-week trial the state prosecutor on Wednesday asked for a life sentence for Emile Louis, with a guarantee that he serve a minimum of 22 years.

"You Monsieur Louis will one day have a grave around which your children can gather. They will have no grave. May they haunt your sleep, your days, your nights ... the kingdom of emptiness - it is you!" said Didier Seban, a lawyer representing victims' families.

However Alain Thuault, representing Louis, said his conviction would be a grave judicial error. "You have all been conditioned - just like public opinion has been conditioned. It is not your fault, but Emile Louis has been prematurely judged by the man in the street," he said.

Louis, who is already serving a jail term for sexual abuse of his wife and step-daughter, is accused of the murders of seven mentally-disabled young women who went missing in the Yonne department of northern Burgundy in the late 1970s.

Despite being linked from an early stage with the disappearances, Louis escaped investigation because of a series of disastrous institutional failings, and the case - known as the "Disappeared of the Yonne" - took on the dimensions of a major judicial scandal.

In December 2000 Louis confessed to the killings, leading police to two shallow graves on a riverbank. However, he later retracted his confession and claimed to be the victim of a conspiracy. He repeated his denials in court.

The seven, aged between 15 and 25, were all in the care of the social services in the medieval cathedral town of Auxerre - the capital of the Yonne department - when they disappeared between 1975 and 1979.

Louis, who ferried outpatients to a home for the disabled, knew all the young women personally. However despite the persistence of a gendarme who believed that Louis was the link, initial investigations were never followed up.

Meanwhile the social services department recorded all the young women as "runaways" which meant there was no internal enquiry, and it was only thanks to the constant pressure of the victims' families over the next 15 years that the affair was kept alive.

Louis moved to the south of France where in March this year he was convicted of sexual abuse against his family-members. Despite Louis's directions given in 2000, none of the other five bodies has been discovered.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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