Ex-judge in unsolved 1984 French toddler murder case found dead

The French magistrate who first investigated the still unsolved 1984 murder of a four-year old-boy has been found dead just weeks after a dramatic development in the case.

Ex-judge in unsolved 1984 French toddler murder case found dead
Photo: AFP
Jean-Michel Lambert was found dead late Tuesday in his apartment in Le Mans with a plastic bag over his head, according to a source close to the case. He was 65.
Lambert was 32 years old and the only investigating magistrate in the district when he took up — and many say bungled — the investigation of the murder of Gregory Villemin.
“Little Gregory”, as he became known, was found drowned in the cold waters of the Vologne river in eastern France in October 1984, his hands and feet bound.
His murder led to one of France's most notorious post-war murder mysteries, as police sought to untangle a web of family hatred and local jealousies.
But last month, nearly 33 years after the murder, police arrested Marcel Jacob, an uncle of Gregory's father, and Jacob's wife in the Vosges mountains of eastern France.
A neighbour alerted police after discovering Lambert's body Tuesday, media reports said. There were no signs of a break-in.
'Infinitely sad'
Reacting to news of Lambert's death, Thierry Moser, the lawyer acting for the dead boy's parents, told AFP: “I'm devastated. It's infinitely sad … I have no animosity towards him.
“I criticise the conclusions he drew from his investigation but I won't ever criticise the man,” he added.
Lambert is remembered for his willingness to speak to the press during his investigation.
In particular, he revealed the accusations of Murielle Bolle, a 15-year-old girl, against her brother-in-law, Bernard Laroche.
Laroche, a cousin of the child's father, was charged with the murder a month after the boy's death, based on her evidence.
He was released after she withdrew her claims, only to be shot dead in March 1985 by Gregory's father Jean-Marie Villemin, who spent two and a half years in prison for the crime.
Investigators involved in the case today want in particular to find out why Bolle went back on her original accusations, and last month she herself was placed under investigation in the case.
Bolle's lawyer, Jean-Paul Teissonniere, told AFP he was concerned by Lambert's death. He had intended to call him as a witness.
At one point Lambert even charged Gregory's mother with his murder, but the country's supreme court finally dismissed the charges.
The case was eventually put in the hands of another investigating judge, Maurice Simon.
His work contradicted Lambert's early theories, and the latest investigation is based on Simon's conclusions.


French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Police investigating drug-trafficking in south west France have broken up a counterfeit Bordeaux wine ring following an eight-month investigation.

French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Prosecutors said that 100 gendarmes were involved in an operation to arrest up to 20 suspects in seven départements after the fake wine scam was discovered when fake wine labels were discovered by officers investigating a drugs ring. 

During searches, a dozen vehicles and, “a large volume of wine” were seized, they added.

They estimated that several hundred thousand bottles of Spanish wine had been passed off as being from the Médoc wine region of France.

Investigations involving a dedicated police unit revealed “a large-scale fraud organised by the owner of a vineyard in the Médoc”, police said, who obtained wine via “Spanish contacts”, bottled it at night and put fake labels on the bottles.

The fake wines were then sold “by the pallet” in several areas via “a network of official and unofficial distributors made up of companies, pensioners and self-employed people”, according to prosecutors. 

Orders amounting to several thousand bottles were sent abroad, with customers believing they were buying Bordeaux chateau wines at bargain prices, prosecutors said, when the bottles really contained “low-end wines …. from remote areas”.

Three suspects, including someone described as the ‘main instigator’ appeared before an examining magistrate on Wednesday and was charged with a variety of offences linked to fraud.

A source close to the case told AFP that the counterfeiting targeted mid-range Médoc wines, which are easier to counterfeit than the grand crus. 

“If the facts are proven, we hope that the perpetrators will be heavily condemned because these practices harm the image of Bordeaux wines and the image of all those who work well and respect the rules,” reacted the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux Wine contacted by AFP.