Jacques Dallest: “The need for cold case culture” – Cold cases: the center of Nanterre in the search for the truth

The DNA revolution. “I am a magistrate. I am particularly interested in blood and sex crime cases. No DNA expertise yet. The DNA fingerprint file only goes back to 1998! In the years 85-90, somewhere in France, an unsolved crime was closed two years after the facts. Now, you can scream! Fortunately, things have changed.”

The beginning of the Nanterre pole. “In 2006-2007, I participated in a working group at the Chancellery on serial crimes. We created a report to better address this issue. In 2018, I proposed to the Chancellery to think about how to improve the judicial treatment of cold cases. The police and the gendarmerie were organized, not the justice system. We submitted our report in March 2021 to the Keeper of the Seals who approved the Parliament, without difficulty, the creation of a specialized center in Nanterre”.

The weight of an unsolved crime. “At the end of my ten years as an investigative judge in Lyon, I left ten unsolved blood crimes. They still torment me, especially the terrible case, in 1993, of a 17- year-old high school girl who was raped and strangled in the middle of the day on a path that led her from her high school to her bus stop. I moved a year later. I should have, which I forgot to do and blame myself, point it out to the parents, to tell them that the file is still under investigation. The case was followed by three to four magistrates after me, closed in 2012 and reopened in 2015 thanks to the efforts of the ARPD ( 1). Since then, a DNA has been isolated. For the moment, he is not a match”.

First of all, justice should think of families

The families of the victims, the priority. “Justice must think of families first. We just have to think about that. I often say to young colleagues: “Be careful, of course, you have obstacles, but think about the human dimension, and think about something quite simple: if you are worried, if a member of your family is gone, you will not understand if you are not accepted, if you are kept away”.

“400 to 500 cold cases”. “We can have a certain figure in the criminal cases that are taking place. Just go to the 91 French criminal investigation centers. But this number is minimal, because it is necessary to add to it the criminal cases classified as unsolved and which can be reopened. To this must be added the alarming losses, a certain number of which are criminal. I think there are 400 to 500 cases of colds in France”.

A file of the disappearances of children retoqué.
“The creation of a file of missing children has not yet been included in the law, despite three recommendations to this effect. Two other recommendations have been: the notion of criminal history, which makes it possible to investigate, not to the facts, but to the perpetrators. All the work is to reconstruct the past life of a serial killer and see if other crimes can be linked to him. The third recommendation is to include the DNA of crime victims in the DNA file. This is how we found a DNA of Estelle Mouzin on a mattress at a Fourniret property”.

Work and judicial culture. “There needs to be a cold case culture. We are fighting the problem of the work of magistrates: in the courts, prosecutors and judges have so many urgent cases that they are overwhelmed. They have limited time to assign old things. The investigating judge has between 100 and 150 cases to investigate. It is also true that there are some judges who do not want to play the game, do not accept the families and consider the case as hopeless. I also plead with the judges that they feel they own their case. They find it difficult to let go, because of pride, because of self-esteem. For me, I can’t handle it. The passage of time works in the author’s favor”.

Sexual crime, the privileged domain of serial killers. “The two main motivations of serial killers are first and foremost the sexual drive to gratify. The second is money. But the first motive is the most frequent. The sex drive comes back, and that is the most worrying. It is difficult to control the impulse of those this individual until they are arrested. That’s why the fight against serial rapists is so important. One day or another, they can kill. Guy Georges started his career with rapes in the east of France”.

I estimate that the history of France is punctuated by at least 80 serial killers

Serial killers, an eternal plague. “Serial killers have always existed in France, as in Africa, in Eastern countries or in Asia. But we always talk more easily about Americans. However, Gilles de Rais in the Middle Ages, the Joseph Vacher, Landru, Petiot case… I believe that the history of France is marked by at least 80 serial killers. This is a minimum number”.

Fourniret, absolute evil. “Fourniret was sentenced for eight murders. He could have been tried for four others, but he died. Maybe he did something else. It is the most terrible, in the sense of the most wickedness, because he premeditated, and acted on his wife. You can hardly find a worse definition of Machiavellianism, premeditation, violence. In horror, however difficult to establish a classification”.

Jacques Dallest has just published “Cold cases, the magistrate investigates”. Foreword by Éric Dupond-Moretti. Mareuil editions. 22 €.

1. Organization for the aid and search of missing persons.

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