Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès: Murder, mystery and an 8-year manhunt

A man believed to a French fugitive accused of killing his wife and four children in 2011 was arrested in Scotland Friday only to be later released in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. It is the latest twist to a case that has stumped authorities and gripped the French public for the past eight years.


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Police in Glasgow arrested a man believed to be Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès at the citys airport on Friday afternoon, according to police sources. They had been tipped off after the suspect had been spotted by officers at Pariss Charles de Gaulle airport boarding a flight bound for the Scottish city, a source told the AFP news agency.

Initial media reports said his fingerprints matched those of Dupont de Ligonnès, raising hopes the prime suspect in one of Frances most gruesome murder cases had finally been caught. But on Saturday, French police sources said a DNA test had come back negative.

It is just the latest false lead in a case that has been shrouded in mystery since it first hit headlines eight years ago.

The murders

On April 21, 2011, police made a gruesome discovery at an otherwise ordinary, middle class family home in the western French city of Nantes.

Under the houses patio, wrapped in sheets and covered in quicklime, they found the bodies of 48-year-old Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès and her four children: Arthur, 21, Thomas, 18, Anne, 16, and Benoît, aged 13, along with the familys pets, two Labrador dogs.

Autopsies revealed that Agnès and the four children were all killed by gun shots to the head, fired by a .22 rifle in what was described as a “methodical execution”. The children had also reportedly been drugged with sleeping pills before being shot.

They had been dead for around two weeks, placing the killings at between April 3 and 5. Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, husband to Agnès and father to the four children, was nowhere to be found.

Prime suspect

The alarm had been raised by a neighbour more than a week earlier, on April 13, who had noticed the blinds of the house had been drawn for days, though an official investigation was not launched by police until six days later on April 19, eventually leading them to search the Dupont de Ligonnès family home.

By this time, suspicion has already fallen on Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, a businessman from an aristocratic family then aged 50 with no history of criminal behavior.

Initial investigations reveal that in the days before the killings, Dupont de Ligonnès had bought cement, digging tools and four bags of lime in various locations in the Nantes area. He also owned a .22 rifle, the same type used in the killing, which he had inherited from his father three weeks earlier. He had recently bought ammunition for the gun and had gone for shooting practice at a local rifle club.

Prior to the alleged murders, Dupont de Ligonnès reportedly told his childrens high school that he had been transferred to a job in Australia and told friends he was a US secret agent who was being taken into a witness protection programme.


But Dupont de Ligonnèss whereabouts were unknown with only a handful of mysterious recent sightings providing any clues. On April 12 he had stayed at a luxury hotel in the south of France, where staff said he booked a prestige suite before dining alone, ordering half a bottle of burgundy.

He was spotted again on April 15 in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, a small town on the Côte dAzur after spending the night in a budget hotel there. His car was discovered abandoned in the hotels car park. It would be the last confirmed sighting of Dupont de Ligonnès.

French take part in a search ofr murder suspect Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, southeastern France, on June 28, 2011. Reuters / Jean-Paul Pelissier

In the weeks that followed, police in France conducted a massive manhunt and issued an international search alert for Dupont de Ligonnès.

Five days of searches in and around Roquebrune-sur-Argens involving hundreds of police officers, firefighters and sniffer dog teams failed to turn up any leads. Further searches around France and interviews of 25 of the suspects friends and relatives also proved fruitless.

False leads and speculation

As months passed without any sRead More – Source

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