Threats, insults… For several months, the Villemin family has been harassed by a mysterious crow who multiplies malicious letters and calls, day and night. But the message that Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin receive on October 17, 1984 marks a morbid turning point in this affair, which will experience unprecedented media resonance. “I hope you die of grief, Chief. It’s not your money that can give you back your son. Here’s my revenge, you bastard. »
Written by hand on a white sheet, it was posted the day before, around 5 p.m., in Épange-sur-Vologne, the commune of the Vosges in which the couple and their little boy reside. Four hours later, the body of Grégory, 4 years old, was discovered in Vologne, in Docelles, seven kilometers away. The child, abducted from his parents’ home, was found with his feet, hands and head bound by cords, the hat pulled down over his face.
A regional press photographer is present and immortalizes the scene. The snapshot, which will make the headlines, marks the beginning of the Grégory affair. A criminal case that has fascinated the French for thirty-eight years, who want to understand why a 4-year-old child was kidnapped and murdered, and to know the identity of his executioners. But for the Villemins, the affair began three years earlier. “Jean-Marie and Christine Villemin receive a silent call at their home, in the middle of the night. It is followed, a few days later, by a musical call, someone putting on some music. In this case, it was the song “Chef, a little drink we are thirsty”, says Thibaut Solano, journalist at Marianne and author of the book The Hoarse Voice *. ” Chief “. A way for the crow to designate Jean-Marie Villemin, then team leader in the factory where he worked.
“He tries to find the Achilles heel of his targets”
At the end of the summer of 1981, the Villemin couple received another intriguing call. Always a song. But this time, a woman will sing over it, and start laughing. Very quickly, the crow is threatening. In November, Christine Villemin picks up the receiver and distinguishes a hoarse male voice, which insults her. A few minutes later, she hears footsteps in front of the house. She turns on the light and finds that a pane of the front door has been broken. A hand slips inside. Frightened, the mother of the family lets out a cry, scaring the vandal away. It is then the turn of other relatives of Grégory’s father to be targeted by the crow, who seems to want to sow discord within the clan. He evokes family secrets, reveals the identity of the father of one of Jean-Marie’s brothers – who was nicknamed “the bastard” –, tries to push Albert, the grandfather, to suicide.
The crow attacks Grégory’s grandparents in particular, and asks them not to see Christine and Jean-Marie Villemin anymore. “If you want me to stop, I offer you a solution. You don’t have to associate with the chief anymore. You must consider him a bastard too, set him aside entirely, for you and his brothers and sisters. If you don’t, I will carry out my threats that I made to the chief for him and his little family,” he wrote. “He tries to find the Achilles’ heel of his targets to be sure to be as hurtful as possible, but also to stir up resentment and hatred to wreak havoc in the family, to accuse other people”, continues Thibaut. Solano.
“I’ll take it out on your kid”
A complaint was finally filed on December 1, 1982. Doubt and suspicion slowly crept into the Villemin family, which became paranoid. The crow knows far too many intimate secrets not to be close. In April 1983, the gendarmes put in place a listening system: the Villemins had to stay as long as possible on the telephone with the crow, so that the investigators could identify the location of the call.
“But Grandmother Villemin, a real chatterbox, had told everyone that. It probably came back to the ears of the crow who, precisely at that moment, stopped his calls to the Villemin home, ”notes Thibaut Solano. The investigators also subject the witnesses to dictation, in order to compare their writing with that of the crow. An unscientific method that will lead nowhere.
In April 1983, the crow called the young 26-year-old foreman to his workplace, which was not wiretapped. The threats go up a notch. “I’ll go after your kid, it’ll hurt you more.” Don’t leave him lying around, I’m watching him with binoculars. If I find him outside, I’ll take him away and you’ll find him down in Vologne. “Why is he attacking Jean-Marie Villemin? “I can’t blame the bosses,” the hoarse voice replies. You are full of dough. Jacky earns around seven thousand francs and you a million a month… You’re the one who gets the most money in the family. »
On May 17, 1983, the crow once again spoke to Albert and Monique Villemin, Grégory’s grandparents, whom he seemed to watch discreetly when they were at home. “I see that nothing has changed with you. There’s always something for the same and the chef always comes. (…) Yes, old man, I’m stopping and you’ll never know who pissed you off for two years. I took my revenge because I see that you are brooding, you may not hang but I don’t care because my revenge is done. I hate you to the point of going to spit on your grave the day you die. (…) This is my last letter and you will hear no more from me. You’ll wonder who I was, but you’ll never find out. That crazy next door stop showing off because he takes a punch in the face and he runs away. Farewell my dear idiots. »
For more than a year, the calls and the letters seem to stop. But on March 8, 1984, Liliane Villemin, Jacky Villemin’s wife, received a phone call that evoked her brother-in-law, Jean-Marie: “I’m going to kill him. Especially since it’s the right season. And then I’ll kill his wife. Seven months later, as we know, it was finally the child of the Villemins who was kidnapped and murdered. The identity of the crow and his motivations still remain today (almost) a mystery.
Swiss experts in “stylometry” have compared the letters of the crow with the writings of several protagonists of the file. According to their analysis, there were “at least” five different crows that ruined the lives of the Villemins. They also assure that Jacqueline Jacob, the boy’s great-aunt, is at the origin of several letters, including that of claiming the murder. What she defends herself against.
No conclusive lead
“The last track dug was that of a family machination, involving several people, in particular Bernard Laroche, Jean-Marie’s cousin, and the Jacob couple, Jean-Marie Villemin’s uncle and aunt”, explains Thibaut Solano. But justice was forced to put this working thesis aside because their “indictments were canceled for formal reasons”, specifies the journalist, stressing that “since then, the investigation has been somewhat at a standstill, even if further investigations are carried out. One thing is certain, he concludes: “It was someone who had seen the home of the Villemin grandparents, who therefore lived in the same town, Aumontzey. There are several things that prove it. However, this is precisely where Bernard Laroche and the Jacob couple lived… ”
*“The hoarse voice », by Thibaut Solano. Released September 19, 2019, Les Arènes, 19.80 euros.