You are listening to: The Evidence Locker.
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.
Warning: this episode contains details of a violent sexual assault and may not be suitable for all listeners.
Brittany, in the northwest of France is a popular location for music festivals. Les Recontres Trans Musicales, or Les Trans as most people call it, has been attracting music lovers since 1979. The festival has an eclectic mix of genres and artists like Nirvana, Daft Punk and Björk have all graced the stage at some point or another.
So, when the proposal came to host a teknival, local council in Rennes kept an open mind. They knew festivals brought a large influx of visitors to the area, which was great for local business and tourism. The green light to host a rave on farmland outside of the small village of Carnoët [Cār-noo-êt] saw the birth of Tek’Noz 2005. It was a festival, that combined the concepts of a ‘teknival’ and a ‘fest-noz’. A teknival, as the name hints, is a techno music festival. Fest-noz, on the other hand, is a traditional dance festival in Brittany, that dates back to Medieval times. Translated, it literally means night-fest. Typically, it was held to honour traditional dancing, folk music and local food culture.
The surrounding towns prepared for this mid-summer’s feast with gusto, anticipating the arrival of 40,000 festivalgoers. The towns of Carnoët and Plourac’h – each with less than a thousand residents – braced themselves for the three-day festival starting on the 24th of June. In the end, 43,000 people attended the massive event; the rave to end all raves.
On the Friday, busloads of ravers arrived from all over France and the rest of Europe., ready to leave reality behind and immerse themselves in a weekend of music, lights and of course, to indulge in alcohol and recreational drugs.
Right from the get-go, law enforcement officers faced some challenges. But they were ready for it, knowing that raves and drug-use went hand-in-hand. Large amounts of ecstasy, speed, cocaine and LSD were confiscated, but attendees were rather creative when it came to smuggling their drugs inside. Rumours were doing the rounds of various methods employed, and police followed up. One story included animal cruelty: they said a dog had ingested cocaine and that the ravers gutted the dog to retrieve it. However, Gendarmes could not find any dead or injured animals, and felt that the story was probably not true.
That’s how it continued throughout the weekend, reports came in and could not be substantiated. Paramedics assisted some who took things to far and injured themselves or those who over-indulged. It was all part of the expected, organised chaos, and for the most part the event seemed to run smoothly.
On Sunday morning two young women informed police that they had found a dead body in the woods. The Gendarmes sensed the urgency from the witnesses and knew this was not just another false report.
Next to a stream, at the edge of the woods lay the half-naked body of an 18-year-old girl, covered in blood. She was only a couple of yards away from the soundstage and had not expired too long before. As the music thumped and the crowd mulled around, investigators realised there was no time to waste. The pool of possible suspects consisted of more than 40,000 people. A mammoth task stood before them, they had to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
On Saturday morning the 25th of June, a group of friends from Perros-Guirec were excited when they set off on the one-hour journey south to go to Tek’Noz 2005. There were six of them, all in their late-teens and early twenties: Mathilde Croguennec [Krog-en-neck], her boyfriend of six months, Adrien, her two cousins Marie-Aude and Sophie Provost and three other friends.
18-year-old Mathilde just finished high school and lived with her mother, sister and stepfather. Her parents divorced when she was little; but were on good terms. Mathilde had a good relationship with all her parents and made sure she spent enough time with her dad. She loved horses and went riding whenever she had the opportunity. Her passion was so strong, she hoped to be a riding instructor one day.
When Mathilde told her parents about Tek’Noz, they were reluctant to let her go. But she was 18 and could make her own decisions. She was a confident young lady with a good head on her shoulders, and they trusted her judgement. Besides, she was going with her cousins and friends. Mathilde’s parents had also read in the newspapers that organisers had taken great measures to ensure security of all festivalgoers.
When Mathilde and her friends arrived around mid-day, the teknival was in full swing. It was chaotic and exhilarating and they were eager to catch up. With such a large crowd, it would have been easy to get lost, so they made a plan to keep an eye out for each other. In the middle of the field was a large inflatable of a smiley face. The group agreed that two or more of them would stay in the area near the inflatable at all times, and the others would check in sporadically.
As night fell, Matilde called her parents and left a message saying she was having a blast. She laughed and said she was a bit tipsy, but that the party was cool. Mathilde and her friends went through the night, dancing and partying. A couple of hours after sunrise, around 8:30am, Matilde and Adrien told the rest of the group they were tired and were going to sleep for a while.
They had a sleeping bag and planned to have a short nap on the grass near the parking area. Once they had settled on a spot, they snuggled up, shared a joint and fell asleep. When Adrien woke up at 11am, Mathilde was gone. She had left her backpack and shoes, so he waited a little bit. But when she didn’t return, he gathered her belongings and decided to hitchhike back to Perros-Guirec.
Meanwhile, Marie-Aude and Sophie grew concerned when they could not find their cousin or her boyfriend anywhere. Mathilde was outgoing and easily struck up conversations with others, so at first, they thought she was off somewhere socialising with another group of friends. But when Mathilde didn’t show up at their pre-arranged spot, they grew concerned. No one had seen her in quite a while, so they reported her missing. Then they heard someone mention that a girl had been killed, and they could not leave it any longer. They went to report Mathilde missing.
Among the Gendarmes on duty, there was a sense of panic. The story of the murdered girl had reached them too. Two friends, Aurélie Stellini and Laurianne Lhyuleri, went into the woods at 10:30am because they urgently needed the toilet. The portable toilets were filthy at this point, and it was better to answer nature’s call behind a tree.
As Aurelie and Laurianne reached the edge of the woods near a stream, they noticed two muddied feet. Thinking that someone had passed out, they went closer to see if the person was okay. When they saw her upper body covered with blood, they realised she was no longer alive. It was unthinkable that a deceased person laid only 150 metres from the sonic installations, and that nobody had noticed her until then. Shocked and traumatised, the two girls raised the alarm.
Gendarmes arrived at the scene – and it didn’t take an expert to see that the victim had suffered a violent attack. Her battered body was half-naked, with her pants and underpants removed. Because festivalgoers used the woods as a toilet, the area surrounding the body was littered with faeces, scraps of toilet paper, used condoms and syringes. The girl had no purse or cell phone with her, only a set of car keys with a silver fish keyring.
When Marie Aude and Sophie Provost reported their tall, slender, dark-haired cousin Mathilde missing, gendarmes knew the description fitted the murder victim. However, they did not want to take them to the scene. Instead, they asked the girls if Mathilde had any items with her that would identify her. They said she had her cell phone and her car. The keys found on the murder victim was already in an evidence bag. Marie Aude and Sophie mentioned that Mathilde’s keys had a silver fish keyring, but police had to be sure. They asked the concerned cousins to show them to Matilde’s car. When the key unlocked the vehicle, they knew who their victim was… 18-year-old Mathilde Croguennec.
Mathilde’s cousins told police that the last time they saw Mathilde, she was with her boyfriend, Adrien. But when they saw him a couple of hours later, he was alone and said he did not know where Mathilde was. Marie Aude and Sophie told Gendarmes they found it strange that Adrien left without her. When they saw him, he had Mathilde’s backpack and her sneakers, tied to the bottom. He knew they were going to report her missing, but said he didn’t want to go with them, because he was too tired.
As crime scene investigators arrived at the teknival, ravers learnt about the murder and realised the party was over. Most of them wanted to leave, but law enforcement needed to identify everyone first. Fortunately, because of the rave, more than 1000 officers were at the site, and everyone was called to come and assist. Between Sunday and Monday Gendarmes checked the identities of 23,424 festival attendees. Helicopters hovered over the four entrances, making sure no one got out unchecked. However, it was possible that the killer had left before the checkpoints were put in place. With every check, officers asked if anyone had seen or heard anything near the woods between 8:30 and 10:30 that morning. But the problem was, most of the people leaving the festival were in bad shape after a weekend of partying – they were either drunk, high or hungover. No one saw a thing.
Crime scene technicians set out to examine the area around Mathilde’s body. At first glance, it looked like the murder was sexually motivated, because of the position of her naked legs. Her bloodied jeans and underwear were crumpled into a bundle and found right next to her body. The jeans were inside-out, which to the forensic investigator indicated that it was forcefully removed – she had not pulled them down by herself. She was barefoot and her feet were relatively clean. She had only walked a short distance without her shoes on. Yet, they could not find it anywhere. If killer took her shoes, it could be an invaluable clue to find, a smoking gun.
There was an interesting element to the scene… Despite multiple stab wounds, there was not a lot of blood in the immediate area surrounding the body. It was likely that the attack happened somewhere else and that she was dumped where she was found. They had to broaden their search. But remember, the woods were the unofficial toilets of the festival, so there was a lot to work through.
Five metres away from where she lay, was a blood-stained condom wrapper. Forensic analysis could verify if it was related to the crime or not. Someone could have left it there earlier. But then they found something that could provide an answer… Further along the edge of the woods, under a tree, they found an unbranded knife, covered with blood. It was a small hunting knife with a retractable blade. Blood on the knife, proved to be Mathilde’s. Skin cells from the handle of the blood had the same DNA profile as the blood on the condom wrapper. All they had to do, was find a suspect…
Investigators could not locate Mathilde’s cell phone or ID anywhere near the crime scene. Then, five hours after her body was found, police tracked her cell phone to Châteauneuf, in Ille-et-Vilaine (120km away). They raced to the immediate area, but by the time they arrived, the phone had been switched off. They scoured the area surrounding the cell phone tower and looked for the phone with a metal detector. But nothing turned up.
The mayor of Langueux [Lahn-guh] accompanied local Gendarmes to break the news to Mathilde’s mom and stepdad, Jeanne and Patrick Bolloré at their house at 2am the following morning. Two gendarmes from Perros-Guirec went to Thierry Croguennec to inform him of his daughter’s murder. They promised all of Mathilde’s parents that they would leave no stone unturned, and that no efforts would be spared in catching their daughter’s killer.
When an 18-year-old girl is murdered at a music festival for no apparent reason, people want answers. There was a lot of pressure on police to bring the perpetrator to justice. Investigators had an unthinkable task ahead of them. They fine combed 80 hectares of ground, searching through 100 tonnes of waste. They took everything in the immediate area where Mathilde’s body was found but agreed that used toilet paper could be excluded.
They had taken and tagged everything in the immediate area, but they were still unsure about the location of the murder scene. The lack of blood around Mathilde’s body suggested she was attacked elsewhere. Searchers tried to follow a trail of blood to the murder location, but it was challenging, seeing as oxidised blood blended in with the dirt and undergrowth of the forest. They had to wait till it was dark so they could use Blue Star, a blood visualising agent like luminol, to show up blood evidence. Blue Star lit up a significant trail of blood, which ended on the bank of the stream, opposite to where Mathilde was found. Her killer must have he dragged her through the stream, washing off most of the blood on her body.
Back at the police control room, intelligence officers sifted through communications made during the teknival by 43,000 festivalgoers. More than 485,000 threads of communications had to be analysed.
The forensic investigation was well on its way, as the pathologist concluded the autopsy. When Mathilde was found, she was still wearing a T-shirt, but it had been torn to shreds, slashed with a knife. Her throat was slit (which caused her death) and in total, she had 28 stab wounds. 15 of these wounds were very deep – about 7cm, made by a sharp, but small knife. The wounds matched the blade of the knife found near her body. Mathilde had multiple defensive wounds on her hands and arms, indicating that she faced her killer as he stabbed her to death. Even though her pants and underwear had been removed, her body showed no signs of rape.
Blood analysis showed that Mathilde had consumed alcohol (0.85g per 100 litre – note, ypically it’s measured as mg/ml). There were also traces of cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine in her system, but in small amounts. According to the pathologist, Mathilde may have been less vigilant, but not to the degree that she would follow a stranger into the woods against her better judgement.
A dedicated task Force called Homicide 22, that consisted of 22 Gendarmes, was established. In one year, they questioned more than 20,000 people in their efforts track down Mathilde’s killer. It was like a game of Clue on a mammoth scale. The first thing to do, was to trim down the large list of names generated by the gate ID checks. Festivalgoers with criminal records were placed on a separate list, with violent and sex offenders at the top of the list.
From the onset of the investigation, people questioned the actions of Mathilde’s boyfriend, Adrien, on the morning of her death. He claimed he woke up and she was gone, so he left the festival, hitching a ride back home. Why did he not look for her or any of their friends? Why did he take her bag and shoes? And did he know where her cell phone was?
On Tuesday the 27th of June, Adrien’s parents took him the police station at Saint-Brieuc, where he was taken in for questioning. Adrien said he had no memory of the morning in question. The last thing he remembered was going to sleep next to Mathilde on the grass, and when he woke up, she was gone. He took their stuff and all he wanted to do was to go home.
He denied that he had her phone and could prove he was at his parents’ home in Langueux, 140km away from Châteauneuf when the phone pinged. When police asked him why he left without Mathilde that morning, he said he didn’t know. Police asked if he killed his girlfriend, he was vague and said:
“To the best of my recollection – no.”
It was strange indeed. Why did he not simply say ‘no’? Under pressure, Adrien admitted that he was stoned that morning and that his memory about events was sketchy. In fact, he thought that he had blacked out. This made him doubt his own innocence. If police believed he had killed his girlfriend, maybe he did. He provided a DNA sample without hesitation, distraught at the idea that he could have harmed someone he loved. However, Adrien’s DNA did not match the DNA on the knife and condom wrapper, and he was released.
Another person of interest was a Polish man who was stopped at Tek’Noz by patrolling Gendarmes. He was covered with blood, so much so that people who saw him moved away in horror. When asked where the blood was from, the man said that he was busy injecting himself with heroin, and when he saw police, he pulled out the syringe and blood sprayed everywhere. He agreed to give a DNA sample, which exonerated him. He was also not their guy.
Another festivalgoer had a pair of women’s underwear in his pocket when stopped for the ID check. He was not innocent, but he did not kill Mathilde. The man admitted that he had committed more than one sexual assault the night before. Two witnesses confirmed his statement. However, his victims never came forward, so he was never charged with anything. His DNA sample did not match the DNA found in connection with Mathilde’s murder.
As one suspect after the next got crossed off the list, investigators had to consider the evidence they did have. The DNA profile found on the unbranded knife, matched the DNA from the condom wrapper next to Mathilde’s body. Neither Adrien, nor the Polish heroin user nor the rapist’s DNA matched, they had no feasible person of interest at this point in the investigation.
Investigators hoped that the knife itself could yield information that would lead them to the killer. The small hunting knife, made in Taiwan, was somewhat unique. Only 221 units of this type were ever sold in France. The search was narrowed down to Brittany, and the closest store to where Mathilde’s phone last pinged. This led police to a shop at the Grand Bazaar in Mont-Saint-Michel, where they went through all transactions since they started selling the specific type of knife. The store had kept all records, but receipts only reflected the price of items – there was no description or item code. So, working their way through thousands of receipts, they only marked items costing the exact price of the knife.
The hope was to narrow down their pool of suspects. All purchases of EUR52, paid for by credit card were followed up. However, none of the leads attended Tek’Noz, so the killer most likely paid for the knife in cash or bought it elsewhere. It was a dead end.
Investigators knew it was essential to find out as much as they could about Mathilde’s last hours alive. They sent out a request to everyone who attended the festival to send their photos to police. They scoured hundreds of thousands of photos, looking for Mathilde and her group. Fortunately, her boyfriend Adrien had taken about forty photos on his cell phone throughout the night, so it gave them a good starting point in mapping out her movements. With help from Mathilde’s cousins and friends they were able to identify most of the people in the photos with Mathilde.
On one snap, taken just before midnight, she was with two unknown guys. One, a fire-breather, had a recognisable tattoo on his chest, which read: ‘Georgette Forever’. The man was located, and a DNA sample taken, but again, it did not match the sample found on the condom wrapper and knife.
The second man in the photo, wearing a red sweater, was unknown to Mathilde’s group. Neither Adrien, who took the photo, nor Mathilde’s cousins recalled ever seeing this man before. He was just a random guy that floated in and out of their group throughout the night. They had no idea what his name was or where he came from. At 6:23am he appeared on another photo, this time with one of Mathilde’s friends.
Two hours later, Adrien and Mathilde went to sleep, wherever they could find a spot to lie down. Around 9:30 Mathilde woke up, busting for the toilet, which is why she found herself at the edge of the woods. The attack was a swift and ferocious one and forensic experts concluded it could have lasted as little as five minutes. She perished between 9:30 and 9:45 and her body was discovered less than an hour later.
The photo of the man in the red sweater was sent to all law enforcement agencies in France. Police also distributed the picture to all media outlets, yet, despite the wide reach, no one came forward with information. It looked like the case was going cold…
Just when it felt like the investigation was making no progress, Mathilde’s phone was turned on. It was the 10th of September, almost three months after her murder. The sim card had been replaced and investigators contacted the service provider to obtain the name of the person who bought the sim card.
Investigators located the phone in Châteauneuf and found it in the hands of a man who had attended Tek’Noz. He told police that he went to the festival with three of his friends. One of them was a convicted rapist, and police were optimistic they were on the right track.
Two months later, they arrested all four men connected to the cell phone. According to the suspects, they saw the discarded phone lying on the ground at the teknival and, instead of turning it in, decided to take it. They were guilty of theft, nothing more. None of the suspects’ DNA matched the sample police had on file, so they were released.
Judge Pierre Mesnard then gave the green light for a mass DNA probe to be carried out – costing close to one million Euros. The plan was to test as many of the 24,000 male festivalgoers as possible to narrow down the pool of possible suspects.
But this did not bring the break in the case they were so desperate for. Instead, vital information came from a surprising source… At the end of May 2006, a man was arrested for theft and voucher fraud. He was taken in for questioning by Gendarmes in Rennes [Ren], when he saw the photo of the guy with the red sweater on a notice board inside the police station. The man immediately recognised the gue and said that they had served together in the NAVY. As far as he knew, the man worked as a contract sailor. However, his name eluded him…
Fortunately, being stared down by agitated officers jolted his memory: the man in the red sweater was called Alain Kernoa [Car-noah]. Task Force Homicide 22 was informed immediately. The informant was able to provide some additional information too. He said that they had served on the Joan of Arc helicopter carrier in Brest. Investigators contacted the military, who told them that Alain Kernoa was no longer in the NAVY. He had only completed his two years of service and then left – they did not know where he was.
The informant had a photograph of the Joan of Arc crew and pointed out who Alain Kernoa was. At first glance there were some similarities, yes, but it was impossible to say for sure if he was the man photographed with Mathilde on the night before her murder. Forensic experts did a morphological comparison of his face in both photos. They looked for identifying features like a mole or a scar. Then they measured the distance between the eyes and analysed the shape of the mouth and nose. The report found nine similarities, a strong indicator that he was indeed one and the same person.
To secure an arrest, investigators needed more than a matching photograph. They had another look at the receipts from the shop in Mont-Saint-Michel and found that Alain Kernoa had made a purchase of 82 Euros and fifty cents and paid with his credit card. This had slipped through the cracks, because analysts were only looking for the amount of 52 Euros. When police went back to the store, they established that Kernoa bought various items, of which one costed 52 Euros. The net was tightening, and it was time to pay their person of interest a visit.
Alain Kernoa lived with his mother in Marseille. However, when police were looking for him, he was in Poland, vacationing with his girlfriend. All they could do was to wait for his return.
Meanwhile back in Brittany, organisers were preparing for Tek’Noz 2006. The venue was changed to an aerodrome at Vannes-Morbihan, trying to move away from the tragic events of the previous year. In the end, the teknival had fewer attendees than the year before, peaking at 37,000. Fortunately, the event passed without any major incidents.
For two weeks police waited for Alain Kernoa to return from Poland. The day after he was back in France, on the 22nd of June 2006, police made a pre-dawn arrest at his mother’s house, charging him with the murder of Mathilde Croguennec.
Once in custody, a DNA sample was taken and processed with the highest priority. While they waited for results, police searched his home and found a collection of hunting knives. They also discovered a hand-written recipe for homemade ‘Liquid GHB’, a date-rape drug.
Things were not looking great for Alain Kernoa, yet he did not seem to grasp the seriousness of his situation. Instead of talking about his movements at Tek’Noz or asking why he was charged with murder, he asked if he’d be able to attend his sister’s wedding two days later. He was also concerned about his Polish girlfriend’s visa application and what his arrest would mean for her. When he was given food, he ate heartily – clearly the stress of the situation did not affect his appetite.
It was time to up the ante with the interrogation and Gendarmes presented him with the murder weapon. Alain confirmed that the knife belonged to him and openly admitted that he had purchased it at a shop called The Grand Bazaar in Mont-Saint-Michel, a year ago – five days before the teknival in Carnoët. He said that he went to the festival with some friends he had bumped into on the beach in Brest. Kernoa admitted that he had a lot of alcohol on the Saturday night and carried on drinking the next morning. He recalled having sex with about four or five women; some in the forest, and then there was one in a van… He denied that he was the guy in the red sweater on the photo, taken by Adrien.
Alain’s attitude astounded investigators – he admitted that the murder weapon was his and that he was at the location of Mathilde’s death. Yet he avoided talking about the crime, it was as if he genuinely had no knowledge of it. So, either he did not kill Mathilde, or he had blocked it out of his memory somehow.
At the end of a long day of questioning, Alain finally confessed that he was the person wearing the red sweater in the photographs with Mathilde. He said that they had gone into the woods to have consensual sex but were attacked by a group of thugs. He tried to defend Mathilde, but there was too many of them. Then police showed him the blood on the condom wrapper and said that DNA tests proved it was his blood. He was confused for a minute. Then he gathered his thoughts and said that he had cut his hand when he reached into his pocket for the knife, to fend off the gang of assailants. He also had the wrapper in his pocket from earlier that night and used it to wipe the blood off his hand.
At 4am, interrogating officers took him to a holding cell, where he was allowed to sleep for a couple of hours. When he woke up, Alain Kernoa had a different story: he said that he recalled a nightmare he had once… It was of a woman covered with red marks. As he recounted his dream, he suddenly dried up… Speaking quietly, he admitted that it was all coming back to him and that he realised that it was not a dream after all. By mid-day, he was ready to tell gendarmes everything they wanted to know.
According to Kernoa, Mathilde joined him into the woods of her own free will. He claimed that she was the one who wanted to have sex, he knew that because she smiled at him. He then pulled out his knife and stabbed her. She pushed him away, and he fell backwards. He did not know why he attacked her, but once he started, he couldn’t stop. He recalled the first stab wound he inflicted on her, and the second… She screamed “Stop! Stop!” but he couldn’t. Mathilde managed to free herself from his grip and ran away, but he caught up with her. When he reached her, he slit her throat and continued his frenzied attack, causing his victim to collapse. He described his ferocious attack:
“It was just me, the knife and the girl. There was no longer the forest, the music … I had hatred, fury, anger. I felt strong, strong. I could have smashed a stone with one hand.”
Kernoa admired his work; it was almost as if he was proud of the deep slashes he made on his victim’s body. When he talked about it, it was clear that he was detached from reality:
“It was very deep, like my finger. It was like plastic.”
Only when he cut his little finger did he snap out of his trance. Horrified to see what he had done, he kicked into action to conceal Mathilde’s body. He dragged her through the stream, to the edge of the woods where he posed her on her back. A compulsion to continue his attack took over – he stabbed her again and again. Mathilde was losing a lot of blood, but she was still conscious, trying in vain to fend off her attacker.
He then removed her bra from underneath her T-shirt and took off her jeans and thong. While Mathilde was fighting to stay alive, he tried to rape her, but could not get an erection. He then penetrated her with his hand. Kernoa’s account of the assault was chilling: he went into detail describing how much pleasure it gave him and even said that he did not feel the slightest tinge of empathy. Mathilde was an object to him, nothing more.
Just as forensic investigators had concluded, Kernoa said that the entire event did not take longer than five minutes. When he was done, he snapped out of his frenzied daze. He threw the knife into the woods and quickly made his way back to the main area of the festival where he joined his friends again.
But the question remained: why did he kill Mathilde? What was his motive? He could not say. Police believed the attack was sexually motivated and never believed that Mathilde, who was at the teknival with her boyfriend would have willingly followed Kernoa into the woods to initiate sex. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, nothing more.
After Tek’Noz, Alain Kernoa returned to Brest with his group of friends. As Mathilde’s family and friends were reeling in the shock of learning about her brutal murder, he simply carried on as if nothing had happened. The very next day after killing her, he met Polish student Katarzyna on a beach and within days they were a couple.
Investigators were stunned by the emotionless confession of the 25-year-old sailor. If he had the ability to distance himself from the most heinous of crimes, it was possible that he had done it before. It was time to look into his background and learn who the man they had in custody was.
Alain Kernoa grew up in the port city of Marseille in the south of France. His mother was an executive at La Poste postal service and his dad, a retired sailor, worked as a driving instructor. They were a tight-knit family and Alain had three siblings.
He was intelligent and well-spoken and always got on well with his siblings. His only set-back in life was his height: standing only 160cm tall (that’s 5ft2), he was much smaller than his peers. As a teenager he was prescribed growth hormones. He developed somewhat of an inferiority complex. He was an avid gamer, who preferred spending time indoors, exploring virtual worlds.
After high school, qualified in Electronic Audiovisual Maintenance. He received a special commendation for his efforts and ended with the second highest average in his class. Once qualified, he did his military service in the NAVY. He boasted that he was part of the Beryx rescue operation who cleared corpses from the beaches in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami. He was there, yes, but seeing as Kernoa had the tendency to exaggerate the truth, his friends always wondered what his actual role in the operation was. Kernoa sometimes told people in confidence that he worked for the mafia, but no one believed him.
Kernoa told police in Rennes that it was during his time in the NAVY that he developed a distaste for women. He saw them as ‘pieces of meat’ and referred to them as ‘bitches’. He claimed that, along with a sailor friend of his, he sexually assaulted women in a military hangar in Marseille – on more than one occasion. Working on the Joan of Arc helicopter carrier, he frequented sex workers while he was on shore leave. His crew mates called him a paedophile, because he always preferred younger girls. Because of his derogatory view of women, some of his crew mates felt there was something wrong with him.
In February 2006, eight months after killing Mathilda at Tek’Noz, Alain Kernoa was arrested for indecent assault. He was caught masturbating outside of his car, in front of a girl. Of course, no one realised that he was the teknival killer, and he was given a six-months suspended sentence.
Although he got off lightly, this offense helped Task Force Homicide 22 to gain a better insight into their main suspect. On the 6th of October 2006, the magistrate arranged for a re-enactment of Mathilde Croguennec’s murder on the farmland outside of Carnoët. Alain Kernoa walked them through it – he mimicked the murder, showing how he stabbed his victim again and again. During the re-enactment, Kernoa became confused and switched gears, like he was seeing himself inside a video game. He described his actions in 3D view, controlling the camera to show what he wants to see.
Two years later, on September 22nd, 2008 the trial finally began at the Assizes Court of Saint Brieuc. Kernoa’s lawyer, Béatrice Dupuy, told the court that, immediately after his confession, the accused claimed that he did not remember the crime. She pointed out his fragile mental state and called on psychiatrists to shine some light onto the psyche of Alain Kernoa.
The psychological report concluded that Kernoa was a pathological liar who claimed that he had slept with more than 200 women in his life. He admitted that he never spent much time in fourplay or seduction, he could not see the point. To Kernoa, women were objects that existed to give him pleasure. He is called ‘complex, capricious and perverse’.
Although he admitted killing Mathilde, he pleaded not guilty. In his statement about Mathilde’s murder, he said:
“I felt like I was an observer, looking at the scene as if it were a video game.”
Psychologists warned that there was a high risk Kernoa would re-offend. He was a master manipulator who had the ability to develop pseudo-amnesia when needed. Kernoa never provided a motive for his horrendous crime, and never showed any remorse.
In court, the defence tried to explain his addiction to video games, which explains his inability to grasp the seriousness of his crime. Kernoa vehemently denied being addicted or taking any responsibility for getting addicted in the first place. His defence blamed his video game addiction, a combination of drugs, alcohol and loud music and noise from the crowd for his actions on the morning on June 25th, 2005. It was a melting pot of circumstance, and the odds of it ever happening were slim.
The court did not agree. Alain Kernoa was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 18 years. When the sentence was handed down, he remained emotionless, frozen for 20 minutes, then he cried.
Sadly, Mathilde’s dad, Thierry Croguennec died of a heart attack on January 21st, 2006 – five months before his daughter’s killer was arrested, and never saw him brought to justice.
Kernoa appealed his sentence – but was unsuccessful. In fact, in 2010, the Court of Appeal of Rennes commuted his sentence to 30 years in prison with a minimum of 20 years. Today Kernoa is serving his sentence in the Roane Detention Centre, Loire
To Alain Kernoa, killing Mathilde Croguennec was no different from killing a character in a video game. Somehow, he felt that this fact would make the court more lenient towards him, but quite the opposite transpired. They did not take pity on him for his psychological state at the time of the murder, instead, they were more certain than ever that Alain Kernoa has yet to realise playing god over life and death is very definitely NOT a game.
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