His mission: to search the past, to reopen the doors that others had closed. For the “cold case” cell, dedicated to unresolved cases, this is a first: one of the first cases it took up when it was created, in March 2022, gave rise to a trial. And not just anyone. Monique Olivier is on trial before the Hauts-de-Seine Assize Court from November 28. The ex-wife of serial killer Michel Fourniret, who died in 2021, appeared for complicity in the kidnapping of Estelle Mouzin, 9 years old, in 2003, as well as in the kidnapping, murder and rape of two young women: Marie-Angèle Domèce, 19 years old, in 1988, and Joanna Parrish, a 21-year-old British woman, in 1990.
For the lawyer for the victims’ families, Me Didier Seban, it is the “errors” made during these investigations which are at the “origin” of the creation of this chamber installed at the Nanterre judicial court. She tackles complex, decades-old cases that have resisted investigators across the country. The idea of creating a specialized center was submitted to the Minister of Justice, in February 2021, by a working group responsible for considering improving the judicial processing of unresolved and serial cases.
82 judicial inquiries opened
At its head, the magistrate Jacques Dallest, then attorney general at the Grenoble Court of Appeal. He started from the observation that “ordinary judges or prosecutors are general practitioners and emergency doctors”, overwhelmed by “cases of flagrante delicto, public delinquency, trafficking”. “Even if they are of good will, they will always have difficulty finding the time to delve into these files of unsolved crimes, which are complex files,” he explains. 20 minutes the magistrate, now retired. You need availability, a desire, a will. And it is incompatible with the daily emergencies that fall on all sides. » However, he adds, the risk, with unresolved cases, is “that an unpunished perpetrator reoffends”.
The creation of the “cold case” center was announced in January 2022 by the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti. And its coordination was entrusted to the investigating judge Sabine Kheris, known for having obtained a confession from Michel Fourniret concerning his involvement in the kidnapping and death of Estelle Mouzin. Since its establishment, this division has analyzed more than 270 files and opened 82 judicial inquiries, distributed between three investigative offices, and 17 preliminary investigations, conducted by the public prosecutor’s office.
Hope for the families of the victims
Among the sensitive files transmitted to Nanterre, that of the Chevaline massacre, the quadruple murder which took place in 2012 in the Alps. That of Marion Wagon, 10 years old, in 1996, in Agen. And that of Lydie Logé, who disappeared at the age of 29 in Orne in 1993, and in which Michel Fourniret was indicted in 2020.
For the victims’ relatives, the creation of the center represents hope. “Their files are no longer sitting in the back of a cupboard, gathering dust while we deal with newer files. They are on the judge’s desk and a priority, that changes everything,” emphasizes Me Seban. If the lawyer welcomes the new “mentality” of the magistrates assigned to this unit, he regrets that the specialized investigation services have not been strengthened. “Locally,” he said, “dealing with unresolved cases is not the priority of investigators from the gendarmerie research sections or the judicial police services. (…) In Grenoble, there are three investigators dedicated to cold cases within the SR. This example should be applied to other police or gendarmerie units. »
“A fantastic tool, which certainly deserves to be strengthened”
France is the first country to have created a national center dedicated to unresolved cases, recalls Jacques Dallest. This sharing aims to contribute to the creation of a national, then European, criminal memory.
The former magistrate underlines the importance of having entrusted these complicated files to magistrates “more involved, who have in-depth knowledge of legal medicine – a subject in constant evolution – and who master interrogation techniques”. The center “is a fantastic tool, which certainly needs to be strengthened,” he believes. We must not hope that 80% of the cases he deals with will be resolved, that would be too good and almost impossible.