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CRIME

Hundreds mourn murdered French schoolgirl

Mourners wept and hundreds of well-wishers laid down white flowers at the funeral on Saturday of Maëlys de Araujo, a French eight year old abducted from a wedding and murdered.

Hundreds mourn murdered French schoolgirl
Crowds watched Maelys de Araujo speak on a large screen erected in La-Tour-du-Pin. Photo: Romain Lafabregue/ AFP
Maëly's body was found in February, six months after the schoolgirl went missing from an August 27 wedding in a case which shocked the whole country.
   
“Nine months are lives have been broken … I spent nine years of happiness with you,” said her tearful mother, Jennifer Cleyet-Marrel, at the funeral in the central eastern town of La-Tour-du-Pin, which was decked out in white 
balloons to symbolise a lost innocent child.
 
Nordhal Lelandais, a former soldier aged 35, admitted in February to killing Maelys, but claimed he accidentally struck her in the face. His testimony led investigators to her remains but the exact cause of death has not been established.
   
The 400-capacity church was full to bursting for the service which was broadcast on big screens in the town square where some 200 people, some who had come a considerable distance, gathered to pay their respects along with members of the media.
   
Among those present were the parents of Arthur Noyer, a young soldier Lelandais has confessed to killing in April last year.
 
Maelys was to be buried at a private ceremony following the funeral in her nearby home village.
   
“This could happen to anyone. They are finally going to be able to lay her to rest,” said Sebastien, 45, a resident of La-Tour-du-Pin who came to pay his respects and sign a book of condolences.

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CRIME

French courts drop rape case against film director Luc Besson

The Paris court of appeal on Tuesday confirmed the dropping of rape accusations against French film director Luc Besson, one of the highest profile controversies of the #MeToo era in the country.

French courts drop rape case against film director Luc Besson

Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy had accused Besson — director of the “Fifth Element” and “Leon” — of raping her over a two-year on-off relationship, and filed a complaint against him in May 2018.

Prosecutors dropped the case in February 2019 citing lack of evidence, but a new investigation was opened later that year after Van Roy brought fresh charges.

A French magistrate then closed the case in December 2021 and prosecutors asked for it to be dropped in April.

Besson had always denied the accusations, describing the case in 2019 as “a lie from A to Z”.

“The court confirmed my client’s innocence… Luc Besson regrets these four lost years,” his lawyer Thierry Marembert said after the verdict.

But Van Roy’s lawyer Antoine Gitton said an appeal would immediately be filed for his client with France’s Court of Cassation.

Besson has admitted having a relationship with Van Roy, who had minor roles in his films “Taxi 5” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”.

She filed the initial complaint for rape in May 2018 hours after meeting Besson, before filing another complaint two months later for other alleged rapes and sexual assaults.

At least three other women have made allegations of sexual harassment against Besson but he has always denied all the allegations.

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