French rugby star gets 20 years for wife's murder

6th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

GRENOBLE, France, Nov 10, 2006 (AFP) - Former French rugby captain Marc Cécillon was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in jail for the murder of his wife.

GRENOBLE, France, Nov 10, 2006 (AFP) - Former French rugby captain Marc Cécillon was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in jail for the murder of his wife.

Cécillon, 47, shot his wife Chantal five times in front of guests at a barbecue two years ago.

The ex-international remained impassive when the verdict was read out. His 26-year-old daughter Angélique, who had pleaded with the jury to be lenient, broke down in tears. Her younger sister, Céline, stared at her feet.

"My client is thunderstruck," Cécillon's lawyer, Richard Zelmati, told reporters after the sentencing. "We have 10 days to damn the judges but we will make a decision before that."

On Thursday Cécillon told the Court of Assises in the Isère department, southeastern France, that he had been consumed with resentment towards his wife — with whom he no longer had sexual relations — and was depressed by the emptiness of his life after leaving top-level rugby.

"My wife worked all day. She didn't come home till late. I finished early, I had nothing to do, I was lonely, I needed human contact — so I went to hang out in bars. I was enclosed in a bubble," the former back-row forward said.

On the day of the murder in August 2004, Cécillon went in search of his wife to a party given by a friend in the town of Saint-Savin. In a drunken state he slapped the host's wife and was asked to leave.

"I felt humiliated. I had the feeling no-one was listening to me. I was in despair," he told the court.

Cécillon went home and dug out a Magnum revolver that he had brought back from a tour of South Africa. He then returned to the barbecue and shot Chantal five times. He was immediately overpowered by other guests.

"I wanted my wife to come back with me. I wanted the two of us to leave together. Why did I shoot? It is a question I shall ask myself all my life. I didn't plan anything. I wish I could understand," he said.

Cécillon, who was capped 46 times between 1988 and 1995 and captained the national side five times, had denied planning the murder.

His lawyer argued that it had been a crime of passion, committed under the influence of alcohol and nervous depression.

But the jury, while it did not impose the maximum sentence of life in jail for premeditated murder, nonetheless ordered Cécillon to be put behind bars for longer than the 15 years that prosecutor general Françoise Pavan-Dubois had sought.

There had been high emotion in court on Thursday when Angélique, who had been given leave to speak, sobbed out to the court: "I don't think my father intended to kill my mother."

"I miss both my parents," she cried. "I can't wait 15 years. Surely today, he's been punished enough."

Cécillon, who before the trial started on Monday had not seen either of his two daughters since the murder, asked for forgiveness.

"I know you will always miss having a mother," he said.

Reacting to the verdict on Friday, the president of the French Rugby Federation, Bernard Lapasset, said: "This is a court decision and we must accept it. This is a family tragedy which we will have to live with for a long time to come."

After the verdict had been read out, Cécillon's mother and Angélique hugged him for a long time. But his younger daughter, Céline, walked off towards her lawyer with a smile on her face.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article