Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Émile Louis (born 1934) is a retired French bus driver and prime suspect in the disappearance of seven young women in the département of Yonne, Burgundy, France, in the late 1970s. In 2000 Louis confessed to their murders; he retracted this confession one month later.
Louis is currently (since March 2004) serving a twenty-year jail sentence for the rape and torture of his last wife and of her daughter. He was also twice convicted of sexual attacks on minors: once in 1983 for which he was sentenced to four years in prison, and again in 1989 with a five-year jail term.
The Disappearances in the Yonne
Émile Louis is a prime suspect in the affair of the disappearances in the Yonne département, where 7 young women with light mental deficiencies disappeared between 1975 and 1980. The disappearances initially did not attract much attention as the girls had no close relatives and lived in homes for the handicapped; it was assumed that they had simply run away. Émile Louis confessed to the murder of the 7 girls in 2000 before retracting his statement. However, his statement led police to find the remains of two of the victims. Louis allegedly kidnapped the girls while driving a bus meant to transport them.
The case is highly controversial because of the many intriguing facts surrounding it.
One recurring question is how the justice system could have ignored this string of disappearances for so long, even though suspicions had grown and some official reports indicating probable foul play had been produced. In particular, gendarme Christian Jambert submitted a report in 1984 designating Émile Louis as prime suspect. On August 4, 1997, Jambert was found dead and judicial authorities found the cause to be suicide. However, an examination of the dead gendarme's skull on March 31, 2004, indicated that two bullets had entered the brain, and both should have instantly been fatal. This rules out suicide and indicates murder.
In 1992, Pierre Charrier, the head of the Yonne APAJH association managing the home for handicapped young people where the disappeared girls were staying, was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a 23-year-old handicapped woman. Nine years before, Nicole Charrier, his spouse, had testified in favor of Émile Louis. In 2001, Nicole Charrier was removed from her management position at APAJH.
The lack of reaction on the part of judicial authorities has led to suspicions that the blocking of enquiries was not out of negligence or incompetency, but because of the possible involvement of locally well-connected people in a network providing sadistic prostitution services.
One crucial issue in the legal treatment of Émile Louis's actions is prescription (the statute of limitations). Even if Émile Louis admitted to crimes committed in the late 1970s, it might be impossible to prosecute him. The Court of Cassation ruled that certain acts that before would not have been considered to be interrupting prescription, but in fact interrupted prescription.
Émile Louis's trial by the Yonne assize court for the seven murders started on November 3, 2004. On November 10, the court visited the location where the bodies of two victims, Madeleine Dejust and Jacqueline Weis, were exhumed after Louis confessed their location to the Gendarmerie. Émile Louis has retracted his confession and maintains his innocence.
List of alleged victims
Madeleine Dejust, Chantal Gras, Bernadette Lemoine, Christine Marlot, Martine Renault, Jacqueline Weiss and Françoise Lemoine.
The spousal and statutory rape and torture case
On March 26th, 2004, Émile Louis was sentenced by the assize court of the Var for the rape and torture of his second wife and his step-daughter to 20 years in prison, two-thirds of which are without parole. With this last disposition, the jury went beyond the requests of the prosecution.
- BBC News: French 'serial killer' on trial
- Guardian: Murder trial likely to reveal cover-ups
- Detailed chronology (in French)
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