Transcript: 125. The Sadist of Romont | Switzerland

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Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Some parts are graphic in nature and listener discretion is advised. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones.

This episode contains details of sexual assault of adolescents and my not be suitable for all listeners. Some names have been changed, for privacy.

The 24th of April 1987, was a crisp spring evening in Lausanne. 17-year-old Thomas and his friends had a fun night out at the Lausanne Carnival. But in the early morning hours of the 25th, he found himself in a nightmare. He was running for his life through a field, with blood seeping from wounds on his head.

Earlier, he had accepted a lift from a clean-cut man, driving a station wagon. The man was broody and restless and drove passed the turn-off to Thomas’s house. When the teenager asked where they were going, the driver told him that he had just escaped from prison and needed a place to hide. Thomas knew he had to get out of the car and tried to open the passenger door, but the handle had been removed. There was no way out – Thomas was at the mercy of his captor.

Near the village of Moudin, they drove down a dirt road into a forest, until Thomas could see a river. In the dead of night, the driver climbed out of the car and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door for Thomas – who by this time, knew he was in trouble. The emotionless man pointed a handgun at him and told him to get out of the car. As Thomas was half-way out of the vehicle, the man kicked him, so he fell to the ground. Within seconds Thomas was handcuffed and gagged. The man proceeded to beat the 17-year-old over the head with a hammer – again and again. Then, with Thomas barely conscious, the man raped him.

When he was done, the attacker went back to the car to get a can of gasoline, but it was empty. The man swore under his breath but returned to his victim with a plan. He dragged the semi-conscious Thomas into the river, threw him into the water and watched him sink below the surfacte. He walked away, leaving his victim for dead.

Against all odds, Thomas survived. Adrenalin kicked in, and he started to run. He could see lights in the distance and went as fast as he could, never looking back. What Thomas didn’t know, was that he had been attacked by one of Switzerland’s most notorious serial killers – The Sadist of Romont.

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On the night of the attack, an badly injured Thomas walked two kilometres to the village of Sottens. It took him more than an hour, stumbling and then getting up again. Fuelled by adrenaline and fear, he knew he had to keep going. He managed to make it to the safety of the police station.

Thomas needed thirty-nine stitches to wounds all over his head, but he was determined to help police to find the man who had tried to kill him. Police cars took to the streets, looking for anyone fitting the description of the attacker: a man, about 30-years of age, with short curly brown hair, driving a beige Peugeot 504 station wagon.

Police interviewed Thomas, who was still in shock after the brutal attack he had suffered. He told them that he had gone to Lausanne that night to meet some friends at the Carnival. There was a festive atmosphere in the city, with light shows, parades and music. Thomas had had a couple of drinks with friends, and around 11pm decided to call it a night. He went to the Place de Tunnel to hitch a ride home. It was the 1980s, and it was not uncommon for teenagers in the area to hitchhike.

At first, the man driving the station wagon did not seem threatening at all. He agreed to drop Thomas home Cugy, a fifteen-minute drive from Lausanne, where his parents were expecting him. But the driver had other plans. Instead of taking the off-ramp to Cugy, he carried on driving towards Echallens [ê-sha-lahn]. Thomas said that they had passed the spot, but the quietly jumpy and agitated man did not say anything. Then he turned towards Moudon, still without saying a word.

Thomas told police that the man had said that he was an escaped convict who was looking for a place to hide. By then, young Thomas knew he was in trouble and instinctively memorised everything he could about the man, his accent, the car…

It was an absolute miracle that Thomas survived the attack. His saving grace was that, although he was severely injured, he was able to use his wits to end the torture. As his attacker pulled him to the river, he pretended to be dead by staying under water as long as he could hold his breath, and the man bought it.

From the detailed description, Thomas provided, police were able to make up a composite drawing of his assailant. Thomas was also able to tell police that the beige Peugeot 504 station wagon was an automatic. Another detail was that the passenger side’s door handle had been removed.

Unfortunately, the one thing Thomas could not say was exactly WHERE the attack had taken place. He recalled running through a field and of course the river, but he wasn’t sure which direction. The teenager was lucky to be alive. With 30 hammer blows to the head and suffering from shock, it was a miracle that he could police help at all.

What concerned police was that this was not the first time they had heard about a vicious attack on a teenage hitchhiker. Police considered an incident that took place on 1st of November the year before, when a teen we’ll refer to as ‘Yves’, was attacked near Neuchâtel [Noo-chatêl]. The location is about an hour’s drive to the north of where Thomas was attacked. Yves recalled that his attacker drove a green Citroën, not a beige Peugeot like Thomas’s attacker had.

Yves was 16 when he was attacked in a similar fashion to Thomas. He had been hit over the head multiple times and sexually assaulted. As he was fighting to stay conscious, he became aware that his attacker was pouring a liquid on him – he saw a red jerry can and then the unmistakable odour hit him: it was gas. The assailant tried to light a match, but it was raining, and it didn’t catch fire. The man returned to his car that was a distance away, and Yves wriggled out of his ties and escaped. He was half-naked and badly injured, and only just made his way to a payphone in time to call his parents. The story he told was unbelievable…

Yves said he was hitchhiking when a man with short brown, curly hair, driving a Citroën, stopped and offered him a ride. Police used the media to ask witnesses to come forward, but at the time, no one had any information.

But five months later, when Thomas came forward with a similar description, police knew they had to up the ante. The most significant difference in their accounts was the vehicle. Both Yves and Thomas were shown pictures of the two different types of cars, wondering if one was mistaken, but both were one hundred per cent sure of the information they had supplied. Yves said his attacker drove a dark green Citroën while Thomas was adamant that his attacker drove a beige Peugeot.

Were police dealing with two violent rapists, operating in the same area? The day after Thomas’s attack, every single newspaper in the greater area printed ‘wanted’ notices with a composite drawing of the rapist. Police looked up all registered sex offenders in the area but came up empty-handed. Most previous offenders either did not fit the description, or they had alibis for the entire night.

Then police received information from an unlikely source…

At the end of May 1987, police received a phone call from a man living in Romont. He said that he saw the picture in the newspaper. After reading more about the case, he came to an unsettling conclusion. He was sure the man police were looking for was his brother, a 28-year man called Michel Peiry.

The brother did not believe Michel would have harmed anyone – he had never been in trouble with the law before. The brother felt it was a terrible misunderstanding and thought it was essential to set the record straight. At the time, Michel Peiry was doing his military service in the Swiss Army. He was a quiet and charming man who still resided with his parents in Romont.

Police interviewed the brother, and the more details emerged, the more everyone realised that Michel Peiry was a very likely suspect. His brother said that he had come out to him two years before. He knew Michel was into younger men, but he never thought he would have resorted to violence.

Police raided the Peiry family home in Romont while Michel was away completing a military training exercise at Schangnau [Shun-guh-now] near Bern. Back at his house, police found some peculiar belongings in Michel’s room: handcuffs, rope, nylon ties and a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Furthermore, they learnt that Michel owned a beige Peugeot 504 station wagon. His old car, which was yet to be sold, a dark green Citroën, was also at the family home.

Inside the Peugeot, police discovered that the door handle on the passenger side had been removed – exactly like Thomas described. Police found a red jerry can in the back of the car, as well as the hammer used to attack Thomas.

With all the evidence in their possession, investigators knew they were dealing with a repeat offender. Someone who knew what he was doing and went out to kidnap, torture and rape young hitchhikers and setting them on fire when he was done. He was a sadist of the worst kind and his nickname, The Sadist of Romont was etched into Swiss criminal history forever.

But who was this monster? Michel Peiry was born on the 28th of February 1959, into a blended family who lived in Friborg, Switzerland’s west. By all accounts, he had an unusually close to his mother. But she degraded him and on occasion, blamed his father’s aggressive outbursts on him.

Peiry’s father was a violent alcoholic who had been in trouble with the police for ‘touching’ young girls. His mother suffered many beatings at the hands of his father, which rendered a young Michel angry, helpless, and frustrated. He would later admit:

“I hated my father… and I often wanted to kill him.”

If Michel did something wrong, to punish him, his parents sent him to school wearing girls’ tights. This resulted in him being bullied, and his parents simply laughed it off, feeling that it was a suitable punishment. Peiry admitted that his desire hurt others was born in those days.

When he was a teenager, he found a bondage and torture magazine belonging to his father. This set his sexual urges into a tailspin. Michel was quietly discovering his own sexuality – although he knew he was gay, he did not come out to anyone. In Catholic rural Switzerland, coming out as a gay teenager in the late 70s would not have been received well.

As he festered alone, Michel had dark fantasies about hurting classmates, but never let on what he was thinking. Scenes of sexual torture excited him and made him want to explore sadomasochism. The only thing was, he did not know where to draw the line.

The pubescent Michel had the need to talk to someone but didn’t know who he could trust with his inner-most thoughts. Being brought up in the Catholic Church, he made the bold decision to open up at confession. Trusting the confidential nature of his relationship with the priest, he felt relieved to share his secret. However, the priest – at this point, the only person Michel trusted – ended up sexually abusing him. The vile clergyman gave Michel 50 Swiss Francs to keep his mouth shut.

Michel had nowhere else to turn and knew his parents wouldn’t support him much. So he reported the priest to police. The priest denied the allegation, calling Michel a liar. Police believed Michel and investigated the matter, but seeing as there was no evidence other than the young teen’s statement, no charges were ever brought against the priest.

In 1975, when Michel was 15 years old, the family moved to Romont. Romont is the picture-perfect Swiss village, located on a hill between Lausanne and Friborg. It dates back to the 10th century and charms visitors with its stained glass artwork, old town fortifications and medieval towers. At the time the Peiry family moved to Romont, there were about 3,500 residents.

As he finished high school, Michel Peiry found work waiting tables in his former hometown of Friborg. It was only about a 30-minute commute, so many people lived and Romont and worked in Friborg. Michel was reliable and did what was expected of him, in fact, his employer recalled that he was a ‘model-employee’.

From the outside-in, this charming teen with curly brown hair had a relatively ‘normal’ life. He had many friends, loved socialising and wanted to see the world. But apart from men who had clandestine encounters with him, no one knew he was gay, it was a secret he kept to himself. He also read and re-read Mein Kampf and joined neo-Nazi groups. His friends did not know about this either. There were two sides to Michel Peiry, and he excelled at keeping them apart.

During his twenties, he still lived with his parents in Romont. He saved money he earned from his waiter-job, and whenever an opportunity arose, he travelled. He took road trips to neighbouring countries and even went to America for a while.

But in 1987, his number was up and he was the prime suspect in some of Switzerland’s most heinous crimes. With the assistance of the army, Michel Peiry was eventually arrested at Schangnau on the 2nd of May 1987. When he was arrested, he had a handgun on him, as well as another pair of handcuffs.

Peiry did not resist arrest, on the contrary, he expressed relief to the arresting officers. He said that he was glad they caught him, as he didn’t think he’d be able to stop killing. He even advised the police to make sure he was never released.

His fellow troops were shocked and confused when Michel was taken away by police. He was a relatively nondescript guy who liked to travel and go out for ice cream. During his time in the military, he became an avid cave-climber, an asset for any Alpine rescue team.

With Peiry in custody, police were eager to hear what he had to say. Much to everyone’s surprise, he was ready to confess to the abductions, rapes and attempted murders of Thomas and Yves. However, these heinous crimes were not the only ones… It was only the tip of the iceberg.

Without any resistance, Peiry freely confessed to attacking Thomas near Sottens and Yves near La Chaux-de-Fonds. He confirmed his MO – as reported by the two surviving victims: he would pick up young male hitchhikers, then drove down rural roads to an isolated spot. He would handcuff and beat them to the brink of consciousness. On most occasions, he tied up their feet and then gagged them with whatever there was at hand: sponges, bandages, rags… As a means of torture, he used metal clamps on their nipples. But only sometimes.

Peiry continued his confessions and claimed that two of Switzerland’s most prominent unsolved murders was his doing. Both cases had caused a massive uproar throughout Switzerland: the murders of 13-year-old Cèdric Antilles [un-teal] and 16-year-old Vincent Puippe [poo-weep].

A year before Peiry was arrested, on the 7th of May 1986, 13-year-old Cèdric Antille from Nyon went out with friends in Sierre, the next town over from where he lived. He had a 10pm curfew, and he did not want to miss it. At 9:30pm he hitched a ride home and was never seen alive again.

When Cèdric didn’t arrive home, his parents were worried. They contacted his friends and learnt Cèdric had left at 9:30 as he had promised. Fearing that something must have happened to him, his parents immediately reported his disappearance to police.

At the end of June 1986, a shepherd found charred remains in Albinen, an isolated region of Valais. The clothes on the body belonged to Cèdric Antille. It was not possible to say how long he had been there. The conclusion was that he died the same night he disappeared, 43 days before.

A local judge declared his death a suicide, but this ruling did not make much sense. Cèdric was a happy-go-lucky young boy – why would he take himself to an isolated location and set himself on fire? His parents knew that Cèdric did not take his own life. Three months later, a second autopsy concluded that Cèdric’s death was an accident. His parents were still not convinced and refused to give up before they found out what had happened to their son in the desolate mountains of Albinen.

When Peiry confessed the following year, Cèdric’s family felt vindicated, and they could finally get justice for Cèdric. They never once thought that he had ended his own life. It was also not an accident. The only mishap was meeting one of the most evil people in Switzerland on his way home that night.

The second unsolved murder Peiry confessed to was that of 16-year-old Vincent Puippe. Two months before his arrest, on the 15th of March 1987, a young couple out for a drive near Orsièrer [Ohr-see-er], pulled off the main road and drove into a forest for some privacy so they could be intimate. The headlights of their car revealed a gruesome scene: the body of a young man, burnt beyond recognition. They alerted authorities who came to the scene within minutes.  

It did not take long to identify the victim: it was 16-year-old Vincent Puippe, who was last seen enjoying a night out with friends in Martigny. Vincent had been stripped naked, beaten, gagged and sodomised. Police could not exclude the possibility that Vincent was still alive when he was set on fire.

Vincent’s family and the entire community were devastated – they could not understand how something like this could happen to a carefree teenager who never caused any trouble. Vincent’s body was found only a few kilometres from Cèdric Antille’s home. Despite similarities, nobody thought the crimes were related at the time.

In hindsight, it is easy to criticise law enforcement for NOT connecting the dots. How could they not suspect that Cèdric and Vincent were victims of the same man? But remember, these crimes took place in the 1980s before computerised databases were used by police. Also, Cedric’s death was – on paper – considered to have been an accident, not a homicide. So at this point in the investigation, they did not realise they were dealing with a serial killer.

After confessing to Cèdric and Vincent’s murders, Peiry told his interrogators about murders he had committed while he travelled. There were victims in Italy, France, what-was-then Yugoslavia and Croatia. Even the most hardened police officers struggled to listen to his confessions. He described each murder without emotion, like a hunter who stalked his prey and pounced when the time was right. When he had the urge to torture and kill, it consumed him, and he knew the only way to get out of his state of frenzied desire would be to give in to the urge. After a while, he didn’t try to fight it anymore, seeing as he had grown to like his horrific hobby. These are his words:

“When I had these guys at my mercy, I felt revenge for all these frustrations I had endured. And I loved this feeling of dominance so much that I had developed a taste for it … That for me… It was like a drug.”

Peiry listed his crimes chronologically and told police about his first murder in Miami, Florida on the 1st of September 1980. He was travelling through the States when he met a Canadian man called Sylvestre. They travelled together for a while and had a short fling, but before long, his travel companion would be dead. Peiry continued to tell a story of unimaginable brutality. In the heat of an argument, he bludgeoned Sylvestre to death with a hammer. The murder was a euphoric sexual experience for him. He did not know how to dispose of the body, so he burned it. Sadly, Sylvestre’s body was never recovered.

When law enforcement could not find anything relating to a missing person fitting the description of Sylvestre, Peiry retracted his confession. Eventually, he confessed again, admitting that he was Sylvestre’s killer after all. This was what he did with many of his crimes: he confessed, then retracted confessions in a painful cat and mouse game with the police.

Peiry carried on, saying that after Sylvestre’s murder, he waited for just over two years before striking again. This time, on the other side of the Atlantic, closer to home, this time near Grenoble, France. He picked up his first hitchhiking victim, a young man by the name of Frédéric. Frédéric was never seen alive again. During that same vacation, he claimed to have committed a second murder of someone called Joël in Jura-region of France.

According to Peiry, in June 1985, he killed what would be his only female victim. He could not remember her name exactly but thought it was either Anne-Laure or Anne-Fleur in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Camargue. He claimed that she made sexual advances toward him, and he snapped.

Because Peiry confessed to murders in other countries, law enforcement agencies from all over went to Switzerland to interview him. By this time he had become known as the ‘Sadist of Romont. But his crimes spanned a much larger area than that of his tranquil and idyllic fairytale of a hometown. He had travelled extensively throughout his twenties. By the time he was arrested, he was almost thirty. He often travelled by car around Europe and borders were not always patrolled. He could have committed an infinite number of crimes, and no one would have known.

After killing his only female victim, he waited another year. The following summer, in July 1986, Michel Peiry took yet another murderous road trip through Europe. In Rijeka [reah-kah], Yugoslavia (these days the city is in Croatia), Peiry killed a man named Silvio. Again he confessed, then retracted his confession. Investigators were able to confirm that Peiry did indeed vacation in Rijeka, but no one by the name of Silvio was ever reported missing. His body was also never found.

Investigators were wondering if the man in custody was perhaps a fantasist? Did he commit these murders he confessed to? The problem was that in most cases, he only had a first name for his victims and very little additional information because he didn’t spend much time in conversation with them. So if missing person’s cases did not match his description or timeline, and with no body found, it was near impossible to prove a murder even occurred. The conniving Peiry soon caught on and retracted all confessions where they could not find the bodies.

But then one of his confessions DID check out… On the night of 14 to 15 August 1986, 18-year-old Fabio Venetti disappeared in the vicinity of Ticino. It was the night before Ferragosto, an annual public holiday throughout the whole of Italy. Peiry told police where he had disposed of Fabio Venetti’s body in the woods next to a river. Italian law enforcement went to the location he described the very same day as the information came to light and found Fabio’s charred remains. It was close to the river, at the precise spot Peiry said it would be.

Peiry said that he returned to Italy two weeks before his arrest where he picked up a 20-year-old French hitchhiker. According to Peiry he disposed of his victim’s body in a forest near Como. No body was ever recovered.

Michel Peiry was brought to trial on 31 October 1989, at the Court of Sembrancher. During the trial which lasted only 30 minutes, he was asked if he confirmed the confessions and Peiry said, with a raspy voice:


Peiry also mumbled that he was ashamed of what he had done and apologised to the families of the victims. Michel Peiry was found guilty of the murders of Cèdric Antille, Vincent Puippe and the kidnap, rape and attempted murder of Thomas and Yves. He was sentenced to life, which in Switzerland is 26 years. Inside the high-security prison in Bochuz, Peiry was placed in solitary confinement, seeing as the danger of attacks by his fellow prisoners was a real threat.

As the people of Switzerland learnt more about the man police had in custody, the community shuddered to think that there had been a serial killer on the loose for many years. Michel Peiry was a clean-cut, law-abiding citizen in all aspects of his life, except for this one. How could the ‘boy-next-door’ turn out to be a monster?

His ex-partner spoke to the media without revealing his own identity, and recalled one night in particular… Michel had cancelled a date, saying that he had the flu. The partner knew he was being lied to, but would never in his wildest dreams have guessed what the man he loved was actually doing that night. Michel had ‘the urge’, and on that very night, he went out to find a victim to kill.

Prison psychologists have concluded that Peiry is an ‘OrganisedOrganised psychopath’. This kind of psychopath is tough to identify because they function very well in society. They are charming and persuasive but adhere to the rules for the most part. Psychopaths have no conscience or empathy. In Michel Peiry’s case, it is interesting that he freely confessed to the crimes. But then again, what did he honestly tell law enforcement? Giving them partial clues about heinous murders and then retracting statements would be a way for him to maintain the upper hand.

Police knew that the number of victims could be countless. Peiry liked moving around near military bases in northern France and was often seen around the Valdahon camp in Doubs (near the border to Switzerland). For a long time, he was the prime suspect in the disappearance of 19-year-old Patrick Gache, who was in the 4th regiment of Dragoons Mourmelon. But due to a lack of evidence linking Peiry to Patrick, investigators abandoned that line of investigation in 1990.

In the 1980s, an astounding number of 12 children disappeared from Isère, France. Only the remains of some victims were found, and only three cases were ever solved. Peiry is a suspect in two of the unsolved cases: the murder of six-year-old Ludovic Janvier in March 1983, and the attempted murder of Grégory Dubrulle, January of the same year.

Another sexual predator who was active in Europe in the 1980s was French national, Pierre Chanal. Like Peiry, Chanal served in the military. Chanal was arrested in Dijon in 1988 for raping a Hungarian hitchhiker. Between 1980 and 1988, an unknown number of young men disappeared in the area around Mourmelon. Police discovered some items in Chanal’s van that could have belonged to one of the victims, but could not prove it. In the time that Chanal was out of the country, the strange disappearances stopped. Chanal committed suicide while he was on trial, and if he knew anything, he took it to his grave.

In a tragic twist of fate, one of Michel Peiry’s surviving victims, a man only known to the media as ‘Thomas’ was charged with the sexual abuse of three children in 2014. The victims were his son from his first marriage, as well as his second wife’s daughters from a first marriage. Thomas denied sexual wrongdoing but admitted that he was a tyrant at home. He verbally abused his wife and children, and sometimes he became physically violent too.

His defence team highlighted the fact that Thomas was a product of a failed system. After being attacked by The Sadist of Romont, he received no psychological help. He was suffering the bloody curse of his attacker, and his life went into a downward spiral of evil, perpetuating the aggression and violence he had experienced. Thomas said he was plagued by night terrors for years, waking up at night screaming. He appeared In court with a confronting look. Thomas had shaved off his hair, and his skull was riddled with scars from his attack by The Sadist.

Peiry was ordered to pay him 75,000 Francs in damages, but he was bankrupt, and Thomas never saw a cent. Thomas, like Peiry, also ended up feeling alone and let down and took his frustration and anger out on innocent people around him.

The judge considered the fact that Thomas had been a victim in the past. However, he felt it did not excuse his actions. It did not take away from the gravity of the trauma he had caused his own victims.

According to an article in ‘Le Temps’, victims of sexual crimes do not all become sexual predators, but it is often the case that sexual predators were abused when they were young.

Despite his own opinion that he should never be released, Peiry requested parole in 2002 and 2009. Both times his requests were denied, as he was still considered to be too dangerous. He suffered a heart attack in prison in 2003 but survived.

Peiry has become a symbol of the worst kind of offender in Switzerland, and the public continues to appeal to prison authorities to keep him locked up and throw away the key. Michel Peiry himself said that he would have continued his crime spree if police had not caught him. He has served his time, more than the required 26 years, but would someone like Peiry, today 61 years of age, ever be able to control his urges once he is free?

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