July 21, 2004
The Daily Mail
"In August 1997 the body of 57-year-old Christian Jambert was found in the cellar of his home in Auxerre. There was, it was said at the time, a single bullet hole in his throat, a hunting rifle by his side and a suicide note nearby.
"Colleagues of this retired detective quickly concluded that it was an openand-shut case: Jambert had suffered from depression and had clearly taken his own life. So sure was Auxerre's public prosecutor that he didn't bother to order a post-mortem.
"But not everyone was convinced. For, far from enjoying a quiet retirement, right until the day of his death Jambert had dedicated his every waking moment to trying to solve the mysterious disappearances and deaths of young women from the area.
"His interest in the disparu, or disappeared, had first been triggered by the fate of seven women, aged 16 to 27, who had attended the same special education centre in Auxerre before vanishing between 1977 and 1979.
"Then a serving gendarme, Jambert was the first officer to link their disappearances to Emile Louis, a coach driver. Prosecutors, however, dismissed his evidence, shelved his investigation and ignored at least three subsequent requests by him to have it reopened.
"Someone somewhere wanted the disappearances hushed up, he believed - a suspicion reinforced when other similar investigations were inexplicably closed.
"The case for the conspiracy theorists was further strengthened in 1984 when a horribly mutilated woman escaped from a house in a village close to Auxerre and led police to a cellar where she and two others had been imprisoned for up to three months and subjected to appalling abuse.
"A list of 50 people, rumoured to include several French 'notables' who had paid various rates to torture and abuse the women, was discovered by police.
"It would later go missing from a courtroom in Auxerre, and only Claude Dunand, a factory worker and his wife, Monique - who both lived in the house - were jailed.
"For almost 20 years Jambert had battled to solve these cases (he had also studied Jo Parrish's murder in depth) before finally persuading a team of elite Parisian gendarmes to re-examine the cases.
"But just weeks before he was due to deliver his evidence, Jambert was found dead. Given the circumstances, one might have expected a thorough investigation. Instead, the case was closed with indecent haste and, although suspicions existed from day one, it would be almost seven years before they would be acted upon.
"In that time there were some dramatic revelations. First, in 2000, the coach driver Emile Louis was arrested. He confessed to seven murders and led police to two bodies.
"He subsequently retracted his confession, insisting the girls were abducted, abused and killed by a ring of high-ranking local men.
"He was only the chauffeur, he says - a claim that will be tested when his trial takes place in Auxerre later this year.
"Louis was serving time in prison when Jo Parrish died, but the families of the victims suspect that he and Dunand were two of many local sex criminals who procured girls for their important 'clients'.
"But the most compelling evidence for some sort of conspiracy emerged this April, when, after pressure from his son Philippe, Jambert's body was finally exhumed and a postmortem carried out.
"It revealed that he had been shot twice. The pathologist concluded that the entry wounds were caused by two bullets of apparently different types which had been fired from different angles. Either shot would have been fatal, meaning Jambert could not have killed himself. Police are now working on the theory that he was executed by men who feared he was about to reveal damning evidence against them."