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France Murders : The Gaston Dominici Affair

La Grande Terre - Gaston Dominici farm

A crude and brutal man, did Gaston Dominici, the patriarch of Lurs, murder the Drummond family? He will confess before retracting, then accuse his son, and die without ever revealing the truth.

Rarely has the prosecution's case been so thin; rarely, the witnesses will have multiplied so many true or false statements and retractions. The alleged culprit, Gaston Dominici, was 78 years old when he appeared before the judges of the Assize Court. He was denounced by his son Gustav, who later recanted and then returned to his first accusation. Gaston himself confessed. His guilt therefore seems to be true ... except for those who are familiar with the matter. An incredible tangle has indeed grown up, over the two years of the investigation, around a news item that has become a resounding court case.

A man that everything designates

Gaston Dominici

The victims, the president recalled after reading the indictment, were British tourists : Mr. and Mrs. Drummond and their daughter. They were murdered one night in August 1952 using a firearm belonging to Gaston and later found on the Dominici farm. The girl received several hits with the butt. She was found, dying, first by Gaston's son, Gustav, who did not try to help her: for this infamy, the man was sentenced, in 1953, to two months in prison. These known facts do not exhaust the details of the events of the fatal night, which the court, with great difficulty, endeavors to establish. The accused is not much help. He has trouble following the debates, does not understand all the questions; interrogations often resemble a dialogue of the deaf. His wife, used to being silent, does not add any important information. As for the children and their husbands or wives, they contradict each other on several occasions.

A confused trial

With the exception of the main exhibit, the murder weapon, the whole charge rests on the old man's confession and on the testimony of his family. However, notes the defense, how can we believe witnesses who have changed their minds several times? And are Gaston Dominici's confessions credible when he claims he tried to have sex with Ms. Drummond and that she was consenting? Allegation of mythomaniac that the court has a hard time believing. The Advocate General for his part struggles to reconstruct the motives of the crime. For all of these reasons, the defense lawyer has pleaded not guilty. But the jurors stand by the old man's confession, corroborated by the powerful clue of the weapon.

On November 28, 1954, they declared Gaston Dominici guilty of intentional homicide: the old man, prostrate in the box of the accused, was condemned to death ... His lawyers, however, did not admit defeat. Based on the weakness of the evidence gathered and the confusion of the testimony heard at trial, they decided to appeal.

An incredible series of twists and turns

The situation rebounded at the same time, because the accused, going back on his confession, denounces ... his son Gustav and his grandson! A new survey was therefore carried out during 1955; bringing absolutely no conclusive result, it does not give rise to the opening of another trial. President Coty pardoned Dominici in 1957 and commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. Then, in July 1960, the patriarch saw his sentence remitted. He ended his life in a hospice and died in 1967 without the Lurs riddle ever being solved.

In 1997, the American journalist William Reymond published an investigation into the crime of Lurs by presenting Gaston Dominici as the victim not only of a miscarriage of justice but also of a vast conspiracy involving the secret services! His thesis: Jack Drummond had worked for the British secret service during the war, he was shot dead by a commando team in the pay of a foreign power, probably the Soviet Union. Everything is based on the testimony of a certain Wilhelm Bartkowski, a German, a small mobster without stature who would have brought the commando of killers to Lurs. He would have parked his car not far from where the Drummonds were encamped, the three men would have gone to assassinate their victims and then immediately left for Germany.

The controversial espionage thesis

Journalist Reymond's thesis is not lacking in gray areas. The French police knew Bartkowski's confession communicated to him by his German counterparts, and had judged to be dealing with a hoaxer, which is frequent in this kind of news item. As for the membership of prominent nutritionist Jack Drummond in the British intelligence services, it is trivial when one considers that thousands of British scientists, like him, made their contribution to the war effort by using their skills. Finally, it is hard to believe that in the midst of the Cold War there would have been an attempt to cover up a case of espionage and murder in which the Soviets were unmasked, and to have an innocent person condemned.

It took no less for Gaston Dominici's grandson to strive for a review of the trial. President Jacques Chirac has also asked the Keeper of the Seals to see if there is any matter in this case to take legal action in this regard.