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.
The summer breeze was cool on the morning of 24 June 1991 on the Côte d’Azur. La Chamade, a luxurious stone villa in the hills of Mougins was quiet, but somehow the silence did not feel as tranquil as one would expect.
Well-liked socialite, Ghislaine Marchal, who usually resided in Switzerland, was visiting her summer home that June. But on the Monday in question, there was no sign of her. When she was not home for a lunch date with a friend, concern for her safety grew. A bustle of worried neighbours and friends scoured the area, and called everyone who knew Ghislaine, but no one had any idea where she could be.
Meanwhile, in a subterranean cellar, her body lay, waiting to be discovered. On the door, written in the victim’s own blood, was the name of her killer…
Omar Raddad was born in Beni Cheikh Ben Tayeb, Morocco, in July 1962. He was one of six children, and the family members always looked out for each other. When Omar was still a baby, his father relocated to Europe, where he found work as a gardener in the south of France. He sent the lion’s share of his paycheck home and visited whenever he could.
Omar never went to school and could not read or write. Even in his home country, he was not a man of many words, so when he moved to the Côte d’Azur in August 1985, he only spoke limited French. His father had been working as a gardener for a charming socialite, madame Francine Pascal for more than twenty years. When madame Pascale met Omar, she agreed to give him a part-time gardening job.
Omar was married to French-born Latifa Cherachini, and the couple decided to reside in France. They lived with her parents in Toulon for a while, but it was more than an hour away from Mougins.
While working in Francine Pascal’s garden Omar met her neighbour, the equally charming and engaging Ghislaine Marchal. She asked if he could work in her garden on his days off, and Omar agreed, thankful for another source of income.
In the years that followed, Francine and Ghislaine were generous to Omar and Latifa, helping them whenever they could. Latifa worked as a housekeeper at Ghislaine Marchal’s villa, La Chamade, and Ghislaine suggested the young couple lived in a studio on the property. When Latifa fell pregnant, however, they politely decided to find their own place. With Francine Pascale’s help, the young couple found a studio in Le Cannet where they could start their family. Once the baby was born, Ghislaine Marchal invited them over for tea to meet their child. Omar felt that madame Marchal was like a second mother to him.
At the age of 27, Omar Raddad loved his life – he had a meagre income, but he enjoyed the same Mediterranean sunshine as his wealthy employers, and jet set visitors to the Côte d’Azur. He had a loving wife, a toddler and a newborn baby – life was good. Omar did have one vice though… He was perhaps not the most responsible man when it came to spending his money. He loved the excitement of casinos and played slot machines on a regular basis. He never told Latifa about this, but then again, he also never really lost big money – only playing five-franc machines. Most of the time he only gambled with his winnings, but sometimes he lost a bit.
Omar loved working as a gardener – he took a lot of pride in his work. Most of the French words he knew were names of plants or gardening equipment. But his limited knowledge of the local language didn’t matter. His employers were happy with his work and left him to his business.
The Moroccan gardener’s background could not have been more different to that of his boss, Ghislaine Marchal’s. Her parents were part of the resistance during World War II and were deported. Separated from her family, she married young, and had a son. The marriage didn’t last, and eventually she remarried. Ghislaine’s second husband, Jean-Pierre Marchal, came from a wealthy family, whose business supplied parts to all major automotive companies in the world. When Jean-Pierre passed away, Ghislaine became heir to the Marchal dynasty.
In 1991, the well-to-do 65-year-old widow split her time between her home in Switzerland and her holiday home in the Côte d’Azur. Her summer house was a luxury villa she had built in the hills of Mougins, just north of Cannes. She named it La Chamade, after the 1965 novel by Françoise Sagan.
Like Lucille, the protagonist in Sagan’s book, Ghislaine wanted to enjoy life and all that is beautiful. She had many close friends in Mougins and spent her days having lazy lunches and champagne by the pool. She was an attractive woman, and her friends often wondered if she had a romantic interest in her life. But it would have been inappropriate to ask, because Ghislaine valued her privacy when it came to personal matters. During the summer of 1991, there was a rumour about her spending time with a man on his boat. Some friends remembered he was Greek, others guessed he was Italian. Either way, no one ever met him.
On Sunday, June 23rd, Ghislaine had a lazy morning. She had breakfast in bed, read the newspaper and had a shower. Then she called her friend, Erika, inviting her to lunch at La Chamade the following day. Ghislaine mentioned to Erika that she was expected at friends for a birthday lunch at 1pm, and had to get a move on, otherwise she’d be late. The call ended at 11:48, and this was the last time anyone ever spoke to Ghislaine Marchal.
Her friends were expecting her at 1pm, so when she was not there by one-thirty, they called her home, but there was no answer. Ghislaine’s friends were confused, seeing as she had called that very same morning at 10:30 to confirm she would attend. They tried calling several times throughout the afternoon but could not get a hold of her. At 6pm, they drove to La Chamade, but she was not home. Although it was unusual for Ghislaine to be a no-show, she was a very discreet person, so her friends thought perhaps something came up and she had to leave town. Still uneasy about her absence they called it a night.
The next morning, Erika showed up at Ghislaine’s villa at 11:30 as they had arranged the day before. But there didn’t seem to be anyone home. It was unlike Ghislaine to forget about a social commitment, and Erika walked around the house, calling her name, just to be greeted with silence.
Erika contacted a second friend, Colette and together they alerted Ghislaine’s neighbour and best friend, Francine Pascal. Francine immediately called Ghislaine’s security company and asked if they could do a welfare check. When the security guard showed up sometime later, he found the gate to the property was unlocked, as was the front door. The keys were in the lock, on the inside.
The house was quiet and dark. On a hallway table was a small present, wrapped and ready to take to the birthday party which took place the day before. In the kitchen, was a breakfast tray with unwashed crockery. The only blind in the house that was open, was the one in the main bedroom. Ghislaine’s bed had not been made, and on the sheets were a pair of reading glasses and her diary.
There was no sign of Ghislaine, anywhere in the villa. The alarm was not activated and there were no signs of forced entry. At first glance, it looked like she had woken up, had her breakfast in bed while going through her diary, then returned the breakfast tray to the kitchen before vanishing into thin air.
By the afternoon, the security company, Ghislaine’s friends and her doctor were all at her house, looking for her. By nightfall, there was still no sign of her, and her concerned friends informed local gendarmes.
The gendarmes did a walk-through and found the peculiar scene as Ghislaine had left it. They searched the entire house and also came up empty. It did not look like there had been a robbery, seeing as many valuables, including jewellery were still in place. Her handbag was in her bedroom, with no cash inside.
In a cigar box in the main bedroom, the gendarmes found a key, and felt it was a good starting point… They extended their search to the outbuildings and the rest of the property. Adjacent to the house, was a stairwell that led down to a cellar. And the key from the cigar box unlocked the metal door.
However, when they opened the door, it wouldn’t open more than 2cm. Something was blocking it from the inside. The two gendarmes forced their way in, bit-by-bit, kicking and pushing the door. Eventually it opened enough for one of them to enter. They found a fold-up metal bed inside, leaning against the door. A metal rod on the floor must have been wedged up against the hinges to prevent it from opening further.
As they entered the cellar, they saw a large puddle of blood. They carefully made their way from the doorway, towards the boiler room in the far corner of the cellar. The light was off and it was dark inside. When they located the switch, they tragically found what they had been looking for: the body of Ghislaine Marchal.
She was wearing a dressing gown, and it was pulled up to her waist. She lay face-down on the cement floor, with her arms stretched out in front of her, facing the door. Her legs were pointing towards the wall. Sadly, they were too late to save her.
On a metal door, leading to a wine cellar, officers made a chilling discovery – a well-formed inscription read ‘Omar m’a tuer’ – Omar killed me. There was also a second inscription – on another door. It was the same phrase, but only a partial version: Omar m’a t… Followed by a vertical smudge of blood, as the hand of the writer slipped down to the floor. Curiously, Ghislaine Marchal’s body lay 1.5 metres away from the door.
Investigators quickly established that Ghislaine’s gardener was a 29-year-old Moroccan migrant, named Omar Raddad. They saw the inscription on the door as damning evidence, and it set the focus of the investigation on a single suspect from the very start.
On the morning of June 25th, Omar was celebrating Eid el-Adha at the home of his wife’s family in Toulon, when gendarmes showed up and arrested him. Omar did not resist arrest and assured his wife that he would be back soon, as he thought there must have been a misunderstanding.
Shortly after his arrest, police examined Omar’s entire body, and found no scratches or injuries. Ghislaine Marchal’s murder was a vicious struggle, and her killer would not have escaped unscathed.
During his interview in police custody, Omar spoke broken French with a heavy Berber accent, and it was obvious that he was a simple, polite man who did not openly speak about himself. Police showed him photos of the crime scene at La Chamade – and he was shocked to see the bloodied body of his employer. Although he was illiterate, he recognised his name written in blood.
It dawned on Omar why he was being questioned by police, and he was immediately confused. He assured them he had a good relationship with madame Marchal and would never have harmed her. He insisted that he did not have anything to do with her murder and agreed to co-operate in any way he could.
Struggling to communicate in French, Omar went through his movements on the day of the murder. He explained that he was working at Francine Pascal’s house that Sunday. Although he did not usually work on Sundays, he had offered to work that day, so he could take the Monday and Tuesday off to celebrate Eid al-Adha with his wife’s family in Toulon.
Around mid-day, Omar left Francine Pascal’s house on his moped. He stopped at a bakery at Val de Mougins at 12:05, where bought some bread. From there, he went to his home in Le Cannet (about 5.5 kilometres away). When he arrived at his apartment complex, he noticed a neighbour, who was the manager of a local supermarket, but they did not greet each other. Omar went into his home, sliced some cheese onto his baguette and ate his lunch while watching TV. Around 12:40, he headed back to work. By ten-past-one, Francine Pascal’s daughter and son-in-law noticed Omar was back at work. On his way home he called Latifa to inform her that he’d join them the next day.
Police followed up on Omar’s movements on the day of the murder. No one at the bakery in Val de Mougins recalled serving him. The neighbour had no recollection of seeing him arrive at lunchtime either. They could also not find any evidence of the phone call to Latifa late that afternoon.
Omar was puzzled and insisted that he was telling the truth. Then he remembered that he actually made the phone call during his lunch break, not on his way home. Omar estimated that was around 12:45 and directed police to the phone booth he used. France Telecom (as it was still called at the time) provided phone records, confirming that a phone call was made to Omar’s in-laws in Toulon at 12:51pm on Sunday June 23rd.
However, by this time, police were convinced that Omar had killed Ghislaine Marchal. The only exonerating evidence was the phone call, placing him near his own home at the time of the murder, and yet he somehow forgot about this?
Two days after his arrest, Omar Raddad took police to his apartment to find the clothes he was wearing on the day of the murder. It was unwashed and had no blood on it. His shoes were also clean, except for some grass, after mowing the lawn at madame Pascal’s.
Madame Pascal refused to believe that Omar was a killer. She said that he was a ‘good worker and a nice boy’. She also confirmed that he was back on the job after his lunch break, with no stains on his clothing and nothing about his composure was on par with someone who had just committed a brutal murder. He also had not changed his clothing as police had theorised.
The autopsy revealed that Ghislaine Marchal had received five blows to the head, inflicted with a wooden beam. There was no clear pattern to the blows and Captain Georges Cenci stated that the killer was…
“…determined, but also clumsy and awkward in his movements.”
It was clear that her attacker did not simply want to knock her out – he struck with the intention to kill her. Ghislaine had defensive wounds on her hands and one of her fingers had almost been severed. All-up, she had ten stab wounds to her thorax, abdomen, and thighs, inflicted with a 15-20cm double-edged blade. The murder weapon was nowhere to be found.
Scrapes on Ghislaine’s feet and the back of her knees indicated that she had been dragged on the ground. Traces of dust and cement were found on her robe, so she was dragged into the boiler room from elsewhere in the cellar. None of the injuries caused immediate demise, and she lay injured in the basement for a period of 15 to 30 minutes before succumbing to her injuries. Her time of death was placed around 12pm, Sunday the 23rd of June – moments after she ended her phone call to her friend, Erika.
A couple of after the autopsy, on July 3rd, Ghislaine Marchal’s body was cremated. This prevented an independent examination by the defence. And this was not the only controversy: the official autopsy report was issued, claiming that the time of death was between 12 and 1pm on 24 June. That was the Monday. At that particular time, Omar Raddad was in Toulon with his family, more than an hour away. However, police claimed that it was a typing error, and that the time of death was indeed on Sunday the 23rd.
The defence attorneys pressed the issue, insisting on a re-assessment of the findings. However, looking at the case again, it is plain to see that Ghislaine was on the phone until 11:45am of Sunday, and failed to pick up her ringing phone at 1:30pm the same day. In a broader sense, it is safe to conclude that she met her killer during this timeframe.
When Omar’s shoes were re-examined, investigators found particles matching the concrete floor of the cellar at La Chamade. During his first interview, he said he had not been in the cellar for about two months before the murder. However, presented with the evidence, he recalled that he had been in the cellar two DAYS before, to store flowerpots. Investigators found the pots, which supported his story. However, the fact that he could not remember being in the cellar in the days before the murder, made it appear as if he was being deceitful.
The case seemed like a slam-dunk: the victim had named her killer in her dying moments. However, on closer examination, the writing in blood raised many questions… Firstly, she wrote that she had been killed, even though she must have been alive to write it. Also, what was curious was a grammatical error in the phrase: it should have been ‘Omar m’a tuée’. ‘Omar m’a tuer’ was– and many people felt it was unlikely the victim would have written it. She loved reading, doing crossword puzzles and was known to be a good speller.
French natives take a lot of pride in their language. One’s accent or one’s use of the language signifies sophistication, or the lack thereof. It was strongly implied that someone of Ghislaine Marchal’s social status, would only use the highest level of French.
Detectives had to consider the possibility that Ghislaine did not write the note, or that she was coerced. The wrongly conjugated phrase made them wonder why she made such a mistake in her dying moments. Could it have been because of her head injury? No one was able to say for sure. Investigators collected letters and other writings made by Ghislaine, and realised she sometimes did use the wrong conjugation, making the same past participle mistake. Her niece also reckoned Ghislaine, like many women of her social standing and generation, did not go to college, and had her own way of using language. The niece did not find it odd that the language error occurred.
An absurd notion surfaced that Omar himself, with his limited knowledge of French, wrote it. This made no sense whatsoever – for staters he was illiterate. And why would he name himself as the killer. This theory was abandoned as quickly as it had surfaced.
Another question that no one could answer was: why would a dying person write the same phrase twice? Was it possible that the killer – someone who wanted to frame Omar – had manipulated her hand to write, but the first inscription wasn’t clear enough, so they made the second inscription, ensuring Omar’s name was legible?
Because the letters of the blood-written phrases were so well-formed, experts were able to conduct hand-writing analysis. They came to a curious conclusion: only two-thirds of the letters matched Ghislaine Marchal’s handwriting. Of course, being severely injured, she would not have written as one would with a pen on paper.
When Omar’s defence team tasked an independent handwriting expert to analyse the evidence, he concluded that there were no similarities and that it was highly unlikely that Ghislaine Marchal was the writer.
Some people wondered if there could have been someone else named Omar in Ghislaine’s life. Or could she have mistaken her killer for her gardener? Was it someone who strongly resembled him?
Another contemptuous issue was the fact that the victim was barricaded into the cellar. The metal door was the only way in or out of the cellar. Police concluded that she placed the metal bedframe and rod against the door to prevent her killer from returning. But could someone else have done it? The killer could have leaned the bedframe against the inside of the door before closing it, perhaps, but what about the metal rod that blocked it? There is a gap at the bottom of the door, but investigators were not convinced that someone could have raised the metal bar from the outside, so as to jam the door. Of course, the metal rod could have fallen from the bed when gendarmes forced the door open. Still, on the inside of the door was a large amount of blood, supporting the theory that it was a dying Ghislaine who had barricaded herself in.
Interestingly, there were no traces of blood found on the stairs outside, leading away from the cellar. Journalist Ève Livet established that there may have been another way out of the cellar. In the boiler room was the door to the wine cellar. When Ghislaine’s body was found, this door was closed. There is no record of police ever opening the door and searching the wine cellar. A stone mason told police that, in the summer of 1990, he had repaired two windows in the wine cellar, to allow them to open for ventilation. This was clearly an alternative exit route – but with no forensic examination of the windows at the time of the murder, there was no way of knowing if this was how the killer escaped. Either way, whoever barricaded it… The metal door was locked and the key was found in its place – a cigar box in Ghislaine’s bedroom.
If Omar was framed, who would frame him? Firstly, it was very unusual for him to work on a Sunday. Only Omar, Francine Pascal and her family knew he was working that day. Francine, who had spoken out in Omar’s defence since the murder, was arrested for the obstruction of justice. She had neglected to tell police about a phone call she received on Monday, 24 June – hours after Ghislaine’s body was discovered. An anonymous man called and reportedly said:
“He did a good job, your gardener. She wrote it with her blood.”
Francine Pascal was released and she was as determined as ever to support Omar Raddad. Investigators were equally determined to keep him behind bars. He was named by a murder victim, and that was that. On November 18th 1991, while on remand, Omar set fire to a blanket in his prison cell. He was taken to hospital and refused to eat for 36 days – a desperate protest to make himself heard. It was only because his father insisted, that he broke his hunger strike.
After many months in prison, Omar Raddad realised police had gone to the wrong bakery to confirm his alibi. Later on, journalist Ève Livet tracked down a retired baker, from the bakery Omar had described: the first bakery on his route that had steps at the entry. The retired baker remembered Omar and said that he was a regular customer, who usually came in between 12 and 12:30. He also stated that the gendarmes never questioned him about Omar after the murder.
Despite many gaps in the investigation, authorities felt that Raddad had been deceitful about the phone call to his wife as well as his presence in the cellar, which brought his entire account into question. In April 1992, after being denied provisional release a fifth time, Omar Raddad started another hunger strike. This time it lasted 35 days. In March 1993, he was moved to a prison in Nice, with unbearable conditions. Here, he tried to commit suicide by swallowing a razor blade, but it did not work. Guards found him and he was taken to hospital in time to save him.
When his trial commenced in January 1994, there was an obvious lack of evidence. Omar insisted that he was innocent. According to Omar, had he known he would have been accused of murder, he would have taken note of the small details to support his alibi, and to prove his innocence. However, in shock and confusion, he did not recall things that were insignificant to him at the time.
But the prosecution was confident they had the right man. They claimed that Omar had spent all his money playing slot machines and was desperate for cash. He had fallen behind with his rent – he was one month in arrears. Then he killed his employer because she refused to pay his wages in advance. Her purse was found inside the house, with no money inside – it was as good as a smoking gun. It was reported that she had withdrawn 5,000 francs two days before her murder, and no trace of the cash was found inside the home. The money, like the murder weapon, has never been located.
Ghislaine Marchal had made a note of an advance she paid to Omar at the beginning of June. Omar told police about this advance during his first interview. The maid told police that he also received an advance on the 14th. However, there was no record of the alleged advance in Ghislaine’s financials, and Omar vehemently denied the second advance. In fact, he stated that the maid was not to be trusted, as Ghislaine was suspecting her of stealing her jewellery.
The prosecution believed that Ghislaine went to the cellar that morning to turn on the pool cleaning system, seeing as she was expecting her friend the following day. This is where she bumped into Omar, on his lunchbreak, asking her yet again for an advance. She refused and in a fit of rage, he attacked her, using a hedge trimmer. He left her for dead, and she barricaded herself in, fearing that he would return. The 12kg bed had wheels and was easy to manoeuvre. She returned to the boiler room, and kneeling down, with her last remaining energy, she wrote her killer’s name on the door, using blood from her wounds. She moved to the second door and wrote a partial phrase, Omar m’a t…, before returning to the boiler room, where she lay down facing the door. In the position she was found the following day.
However, the defence refuted this: she was found 1.5 metres away from the door, her limbs spread out and her robe over her head, like she had been dragged. If she was lying in wait, why would she not have adjusted her robe? Also, a trickle of blood on her inner thigh was perpendicular to the floor. It would take seven minutes to coagulate, meaning she did not get up after receiving this particular stab wound. When she was found, her wounds were so severe, she was partially disembowelled – how would she have been able to barricade herself in, write on two separate doors, in pitch darkness, and then move to the position where she was found?
Both doors with the writing on, were taken out of the evidence locker and brought into the courtroom during the trial. It had a dramatic effect on everyone, to see the much-discussed inscription, on the actual door, written in blood – red on white, by the victim’s ‘dying hand’. Henri Leclerc, lawyer for the victim’s family said:
"To say that she did not deliver this message is to deny the ultimate manifestation of the infinite courage of this dying woman.”
Omar’s defence argued that if Ghislaine Marchal did – in fact – write the accusation herself, she could have done so on the command of her killer, someone other than Omar. Or more likely – the killer held her hand in his while writing it.
The defence insisted that there was no motive for Omar to kill his employer. Omar always felt madame Marchal treated him well and he had nothing but respect for her. By his own admission: if he was so desperate for money, he could have stolen from either of his employers. There was no need to escalate to murder.
They defence also pointed out neither Omar’s DNA, nor any of his fingerprints were found inside the basement. He had no previous convictions and everyone who knew him described him as an honest family man. In court, Omar’s wife, Latifa, told the court that her husband was "incapable of hurting a fly," to which the magistrate, Armand Djian, replied:
"Yes, but that does not prevent him from knowing how to slaughter a sheep."
Many people were shocked at this sentiment and saw the comment as a ‘snide’ to the killing of an animal for food during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Omar would later comment on this, saying that the magistrate…
“…seemed to have forgotten that he had to judge whether or not I killed Madame Marchal and not whether I was a good or a bad Muslim.”
A forensic pathologist also testified in court, that the hedge trimmer could not have caused the wounds on the victim’s body. It was clearly a double-edged blade, about 15-20cm in length. The maid told police that a letter opener was missing from inside the home. Experts agreed that this was more likely to have caused the injuries, however, no murder weapon has ever been found.
Despite the lack of physical evidence, Omar Raddad was convicted of Ghislaine Marchal’s murder and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The general public believed that Omar was wrongfully convicted, and his lawyers kept up the fight to have him exonerated. However, the victim’s family insisted that he was the right guy, and they believed that justice had been served.
Omar’s lawyer, Jacques Vergès, was openly critical of the investigation and reckoned the court was quick to convict his client, not because they felt he was guilty, but because he was an Arab. He highlighted the underlying racial and anti-immigrant sentiments in France, by rehashing a wrongful conviction for treason of Captain Dreyfus in 1894:
“Like the Jewish officer wrongfully condemned because of his religion, the gardener’s only wrong was being Maghreb.”
Novelist, Jean-Marie Rouart, formed a group to support Omar Raddad’s cause and wrote a book, “Omar, the Making of a Culprit.” Rouart, also literary editor of Le Figaro, fell out of favour with more conservative members of his class, because he became an advocate for Omar.
In 1996, in response to a request from Moroccan King Hassan II, French president Jacques Chirac bestowed a partial pardon on Omar Raddad. Two years later, in 1998, after four years in prison, the Moroccan gardener was released. It is significant to note that he only received a partial pardon and was not acquitted of the crime.
Omar Raddad was allowed to remain in France but prohibited from working as a gardener. Although he was physically free, he was well-aware of the fact that his name had not been cleared. In 2002, he requested a review, but it was rejected.
In France, the misspelled sentence ‘Omar m'a tuer’ (Omar killed me), has become a commonly used phrase used when people refer to the miscarriage of justice.
Two private investigators were hired by Omar’s defence to re-investigate the entire case. This investigation was funded by a wealthy Moroccan and close friend to King Hassan II. The investigation found that Ghislaine Marchal, who was always very secretive about her personal life, knew another man named Omar. However, he lived some distance away and had no apparent motive to murder Ghislaine. Although the lead looked promising at the time, it was another dead-end.
Forensic expert, Dr Jean Pagliuzza, studied the injuries on the victim’s body and concluded that it was inflicted by a strong person, most likely male – and for certain a left-handed person. The doctor also doubted that Ghislaine Marchal would have been able to get up after being attacked – bringing into question if she would have been able to write on the doors. According to Dr Pagliuzza, the blood pattern proved that once she fell to the floor after the first blow, she did not get up again. If she did in fact stand up, the haemorrhage of the liver would have filled the abdominal cavity – this was not observed during the autopsy.
In an interview with the French weekly Journal du Dimanche in 2010, Omar Raddad said:
"How an elderly woman, knocked out and gravely injured with 16 stab wounds, could drag herself from one end of the room to the other to write, 'Omar killed me' – twice – is something I’ve tried to visualise in my prison cell a thousand times in the dark. It's impossible!"
In September 2012 another interesting story surfaced in the media. A detainee of Clairvaux prison told a Moroccan newspaper that a fellow inmate had confessed to the crime. This inmate was the boyfriend of Ghislaine Marchal’s maid.
It is curious to note that the maid had told police that madame Marchal received a phone call at 10am on the Saturday before the murder. She did not know who her boss had spoken to, but after the phone call, she told her she did not have to come to work on Monday and Tuesday. She only mentioned the phone call months into the investigation, and police wondered why she didn’t tell them during her first interview. The maid was also the one who identified a letter opener missing from the home, an item that was likely used it murder Ghislaine Marchal. The maid has never been a person of interest. But the story told during the alleged jailhouse testimony was quite chilling…
The prisoner at Clairvaux alleged that the maid madame Marchal did not give the maid time off that Saturday, she fired her after discovering a large sum of money had disappeared. The maid’s boyfriend went to La Chamade that Sunday with the intention to burglarise her previous employer’s home in an act of vengeance. He was surprised to find Ghislaine there, seeing as the maid had told him she would be at a birthday party. He killed her in a panic, and it was HIM who wrote on the door, implicating Omar, because he believed Omar had informed madame Marchal about the maid stealing from her.
This story was compelling, as it entailed a strong motive for murder. However, the boyfriend was quickly ruled out as a suspect, seeing as he was in hospital after a motorcycle accident on the day of the murder. Also, there were no signs of burglary that day, so police wrote the alleged confession off as a hoax.
In 2015, new DNA tests found traces of four unknown males from blood evidence in the cellar. None of the DNA profiles marched Omar Raddad’s. 35 traces of DNA from one unknown male, mixed with the victim’s blood was identified in the writing of the second message.
Ghislaine’s family believed the samples had been contaminated during the initial investigation and stood firm in their resolution that Omar Raddad was the killer.
In June 2021, 59-year-old Omar Raddad requested a retrial yet again. The retrial was granted in December 2021 and should take place sometime this coming year. In France, reviews of criminal convictions are rare, with only 10 defendants being acquitted by retrial since 1945.
The Omar Raddad affair is one of the most prominent and equally polarising cases in French criminal history. We will keep an eye on how this case unfolds and let you know as soon as we know. For now, the question remains: did Omar Raddad kill Ghislaine Marchal? And if he did not – who did? And will justice ever be served for an innocent women, who died alone in the cold and dark cellar of her own home?
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