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A century-old French murder remains a mystery after 'animal' bone found

Guillaume Seznec was found guilty of his business partner’s murder despite no body or murder weapon being found.

Guillaume Seznec at the meeting organised in his support at the Salle Wagram in Paris, in May 1950.
Guillaume Seznec at the meeting organised in his support at the Salle Wagram in Paris, in May 1950.
Image: Maurice Zalewski via Getty

A MURDER CASE that has fascinated France for a century appears set to remain shrouded in mystery after bone fragments found at the main suspect’s house proved not to be human – but from an animal.

Descendants and defenders of Guillaume Seznec, who was sentenced to a life of hard labour in 1924 on charges of murdering a Brittany official and business partner, had hoped the bone fragments would lead prosecutors to reopen the case.

But a source close to the inquiry told AFP that investigators had determined two bone fragments found during a private excavation at the house last weekend are “those of an animal”.

FRANCE-JUSTICE-SEARCH-INVESTIGATION An archeologist (l) and members of the searching team get ready to start an excavation operation in the house where the Seznec family used to live in Morlaix, western France. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutor Jean-Philippe Recappe in Brest, near the western town of Morlaix where the bones were found, said he was still waiting for the official results of an anthropologist’s analysis.

Background

Denis Langlois, a former lawyer for Seznec’s family, and author Bertrand Vilain carried out their unofficial dig in the cellar of the unoccupied house on the theory that the victim, Pierre Quemeneur, may have been accidently killed by Seznec’s wife as she resisted his advances.

In May 1923 Seznec, a lumber merchant, travelled to Paris from the western town of Rennes with Quemeneur to buy a stock of cars left by US forces after World War I.

Seznec came back alone a few days later, saying Quemeneur had preferred to return by train, but he was never seen again.

Even though neither a body or murder weapon were ever found, and despite Seznec’s claims of innocence, a jury sentenced him to life in prison in French Guiana.

Guillaume Seznec Guillaume Seznec and his daughter Jeanne, at the meeting organised in their support at the Salle Wagram in Paris. Source: Maurice Zalewski/adoc-photos

During his eight-day trial, nearly 120 witnesses were heard. The death penalty had been demanded but since premeditation could not be proved, he was instead condemned to hard labour in perpetuity.

Released on good behaviour in 1946, he fought all his life to have his conviction overturned, a campaign that continued after his death with the support of family members as well as lawmakers, judges and journalists.

But prosecutors have denied 14 requests to reopen the case since 1924, most recently in 2006.

© – AFP, 2018

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