Chambéry (France) (AFP)
A former French soldier who admitted to killing an eight-year-old girl, a case that shook the country nearly four years ago, appeared in court on Monday for also beating a man to death a few months earlier.
Nordahl Lelandais, 38, was brought from prison to the courthouse in Chambéry, a town in the French Alps where the victim, also a soldier, was last seen after leaving a nightclub.
He admitted to killing Corporal Arthur Noyer, 23, in the early hours of April 12, 2017, after picking him up while hitchhiking.
Lelandais also confessed to killing eight-year-old Maelys de Araujo in August 2017 in a case which horrified France and which is due to go to trial next year.
He insisted the two deaths were accidental, but his confession led to the reopening of investigations into dozens of other disappearances to see if he was linked to those unresolved cases.
More than 100 journalists watched him enter under a heavy police escort, wearing a face mask and a dark cap lowered over his eyes.
“Yes, I killed Arthur Noyer, but I never meant to kill him,” Lelandais said in court, where Noyer’s parents and brother sat with an oversized portrait of the victim.
Lelandais’ lawyers also managed to have one of the many psychiatric assessments withdrawn, citing potential bias from one of the experts who discussed the case on a popular TV show.
But Bernard Boulloud, lawyer for the Noyer family, said he was convinced that the jurors would have sufficient knowledge of Lelandais’ personality, “because he will reveal it to us by himself”.
– Body in the trunk –
The trial was widely anticipated, with the mass daily Le Parisien putting Lelandais’ portrait on the front page under the headline “The secrets of a predator”.
He told police that Noyer had hit him in a parking lot where they stopped, sparking a scuffle that ended when Noyer was knocked unconscious.
But prosecutors say Lelandais knew full well he was killing Walnut, then put his body in the trunk of his car and drove it about twenty kilometers to throw it on the side of a road.
They charged him with intentional manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Investigators only linked Lelandais to Noyer’s death after his arrest for the murder of Maelys, who disappeared in the early hours of August 27, 2017, while attending a wedding near Chambéry with his parents.
Police searched for the girl for months before arresting Lelandais, who was also invited to the wedding. He finally led them to his remains in February 2018 after traces of his blood were found in his car.
Both cases have raised concerns that Lelandais may be implicated in dozens of other unresolved disappearances in the region, and investigators have reopened several cases after examining his background and movements over several years.
The trial for the murder of Noyer is scheduled to last until May 12. His trial for Maelys’ death is scheduled for next year.
© 2021 AFP