Transcript: 26. The Phantom WHO Doctor (Jean-Claude Romand) | France

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It was a Saturday morning like any other in the Romand house in Prévissin-Moëns, a town on the French-Swiss border. 7-year-old Caroline and her brother, 5-year old Antoine woke up to a quiet home. They snuck downstairs and snuggled up on the sofa to watch TV as they were waking up. Caroline turned the volume down low, as she didn’t want to wake her parents. 

On the table was a box of Lego, wrapped and ready for their friend, Nina, whose party was later in the day. Caroline and Antoine had made birthday cards and were looking forward to the celebration.

It wasn’t long before their dad, Jean-Claude, joined them. He made them some Coco Pops for breakfast and put a video in the VCR before snuggling onto the couch between them. They laughed and giggled as they watched The Three Little Pigs for – what must have been – the hundredth time.

This was the perfect way to spend a lazy Saturday morning. The only person missing, was their mom, Florence. Jean-Claude had told his kids that she was sleeping and that they shouldn’t be too loud, as he didn’t want to disturb her.

What they didn’t know, was that their mother wasn’t asleep at all. Florence Romand had been bludgeoned to death in the early morning hours of the cold January night. And before the day was out, both Caroline and Antoine would be dead too.

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Jean-Claude Romand was born in February 1954 and grew up in the French village of Clairvaux-les-Lacs. His parents were foresters, simple people with good values. Their family had lived in the area for generations and it was commonly known that a ‘Romand’ was good for his or her word. Honest and hard-working, they had the respect of everyone who knew them.

His mother was a rather fragile person and his father would protect her by telling white lies or half-truths. Jean-Claude was an only child and he grew up without much support. His  father was always concerned that Jean-Claude’s problems would upset his mother too much so he was encouraged to keep his worries to himself.

Although Jean-Claude loved the forest and respected his family’s life’s work, he did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a forester. His grades were good at school and he always thought that he was destined to be something greater.

When he was 16-years-old, he met a cousin-by-marriage, 14-year-old Florence Crolet and he was smitten. At family gatherings he would follow her around like a love-sick puppy. She wasn’t much interested in him, but tolerated his attention. 

At his local school, Jean-Claude was known to be an intelligent, hard-working student who was always at the top of his class. But when he started high school at Lycée du Parc in Lyon, he was hovering somewhere in the middle. He wasn’t anything special and he had to work much harder to achieve anything. He could not handle the pressure and dropped out at the age of 17. His parents were happy to take him back into their home again. Jean-Claude studied via correspondence and spent most of that year cooped up inside his parental home. He did, however, manage to qualify to enter university.

When he heard that Florence was heading to Lyon to study medicine, he enrolled too. His parents were surprised that he did not want to carry on the family tradition of forestry, but proud of him and supported his choice. Aimé and Anne-Marie Romand bought him a studio apartment and also supported him financially during this time, so that he didn’t have to take a part time job. His parents wanted him to focus on his studies instead.

Jean-Claude latched onto Florence and became a part of her extended circle of friends. They weren’t in a relationship at this point, as Florence wasn’t too keen on him. Most of Florence’s friends were medical students too and they had an active social life and supported each other whenever necessary. 

One of Florence’s closest friends, a young man from a long line of doctors, called Luc Ladmiral, took the shy and somewhat awkward country boy, Jean-Claude, under his wing. Luc knew that Jean-Claude was in love with Florence and did what he could to put in a good word for him. 

Eventually Jean-Claude’s patience paid off, when on the 1st of May 1975, he told Florence that he loved her. Florence’s heart melted and she gave in to him. Their friendship transitioned into a relationship, but it didn’t take long before Florence needed a break. She told him they should cool things down and that she wanted to focus on her studies. But it was clearly an excuse, the old ‘it’s-not-you-it’s-me’ excuse to let him down easy. Florence’s social life was as vibrant as ever and Jean-Claude had to come to terms with the fact that he had blown the chance he had with her.

It was coming up to the end of his second year studying medicine and Jean-Claude only had one exam left to sit. His results had been good all year and he was on track to pass. But on the day of his exam, Jean-Claude never showed up. He would later say that he overslept and when he saw the time on his alarm clock realised he would not make it to the exam hall on time. 

He never told any of his friends about missing the exam, he was embarrassed that he could have made such a simple mistake. But instead of rescheduling or at least discussing his options with his lecturer, he did nothing. His inaction in this situation became the catalyst for how he would live the rest of his life.

Instead of fessing up, Jean-Claude waited for results to be posted, then lied to his friends and his parents and said that he had passed the exam. There was no reason for them not to believe him – he had never failed, so why would he now?

Realising what he had done, Jean-Claude became a hermit and hardly left the studio apartment his parents had bought for him. He gained weight and began to look unkempt. His place was full of food wrappers and dirty dishes. He realised that he could have come out with the truth at any point, but his friends and Florence would probably have thought that he was insane. He did not want to risk it. He was 22 years old and had no idea what the future held for him.

Luc found Jean-Claude at his studio and was shocked to find him in such a state. He assumed that he was depressed after the break-up with Florence. Jean-Claude did not see a way out of this situation and made up an even bigger lie to win Luc’s sympathy. He told Luc that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He carefully chose the kind of cancer too: a lymphoma, a disease with an uncertain outcome. It is not necessarily fatal, but still serious. 

The fake cancer was the perfect scapegoat. Not only would Jean-Claude receive sympathy and compassion from everyone who knew him, but if his lie was ever to be exposed, he would use the cancer as an excuse. He would blame his lie about failing to show up to the exam on the shock of being diagnosed.

It wasn’t long after that that Jean-Claude (conveniently) declared that he was in ‘remission’. The cancer would become his best ally in a lifetime of lies, he would take the cancer-card off the shelf, dust it off and play it whenever needed. He lived the role of someone with a ticking time bomb inside and people admired his quiet bravery.

Jean-Claude was so entangled in the lie he came up with that he took all kinds of measures to ensure he could continue living the life of a medical student. The university allowed him to re-register for his second year course, which meant he obtained registration papers and student card. So, for all anyone else knew, he was still on track to graduate.

Jean-Claude Romand continued doing this for the following 12 years. He kept re-enrolling for second year medical studies. Every year over exam time, he obtained medical notes excusing him from regular duties. The notes stated he had to stay home for a week or two and it was signed by various medical practitioners. All the while, his friends were not aware of the fact that he never actually sat his exams.

Most of Jean-Claude’s fellow medical student friends were either a year above him or one below him, so it was easy to deceive them. He did still attend lectures and kept up the façade of being a medical student. He went to the library like everyone else and pretended to study or made photocopies. He was known as someone whose notes were always neat and well-written and he didn’t mind sharing it with other students. But because he never sat any exams, he never qualified. 

Florence had failed her second year exam (ironically the same one Jean-Claude said that he had passed without ever writing it). Florence saw the fail as an opportunity to rethink her future. She decided to fall back on pharmacology and give up her dream of becoming a doctor. She also stepped back into her relationship with Jean-Claude. Some of their friends thought she took him back because she pitied him for suffering from cancer. Others thought she had her sights set on being married to a doctor one day. Either way, the couple reconciled and were closer than ever.

The two of them often studied together for tests and exams – exams Jean-Claude had no intention of ever sitting. Florence was committed to supporting her boyfriend in becoming a doctor and devoted many hours in helping him prepare for the bar exam. 

When it came to exam time, Jean-Claude had perfected a way of giving it the slip. Because of his quiet demeanour and unassuming personality, it was easy to sneak out of the exam halls unnoticed. Practical exams were carried out in various hospitals throughout Lyon, so he would simply say that he was at a different hospital to whoever questioned him about it.

After he announced that he had passed his final exams and was a qualified medical doctor, he proposed to Florence. They married in 1980 at her parents’ home in Annecy. Florence’s family loved Jean-Claude like he was one of their own. They were happy that Florence had chosen a life partner whom they had known since childhood. The fact that he had such a bright future ahead of him was an added bonus.

Florence seemed happy too. She qualified as a pharmacist and now she was married to a doctor. Life was good.

Soon after they were married, Jean-Claude had good news. He told Florence and his parents that he had been accepted as a researcher at INSERM (the National institute of Health and Medical Research) in Lyon. From there, it didn’t take long before the World Health Organisation became aware of him. According to Jean-Claude’s fabrication, he was offered the position of “Research Master” at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.

Back home in Clairvaux, he was the hero of his small hometown – a rags to riches success story and people treated him like a God whenever he visited his parents. His mother had a poster of the WHO building on her wall with an ‘X’ marking Jean-Claude’s office window. 

With the new job in Geneva, Jean-Claude and Florence had to leave Lyon and moved to Prévissin-Moëns on the French side of the Swiss border. Their close college friend, Luc Ladmiral had just taken over his father’s medical practice in the same area and there was a part time job for Florence at a pharmacy. Her parents lived an hours’ drive south and Jean-Claude’s parents an hour to the north. 

Prévissin was the perfect spot for them to start their life together. It was a 20-minute drive to Geneva and many people lived on the French side of the border and worked in Switzerland due to the close proximity. Yet the two cities had distinctive characteristics: a well-known member of the community from Prévissin or Ferney could very easily blend into the anonymity of Geneva when they went to work every day.

Jean-Claude was godfather to Luc and his wife Cecile’s daughter Sophie. He absolutely adored her and doted on her. All their friends were encouraging Jean-Claude and Florence to start a family of their own. And the time was right, they were ready. Their daughter Caroline was born in May of 1985 and their son, Antoine two years later, in February 1987.

Jean-Claude was present when both of his children were born and felt they were the most significant moments in his life. He loved being a father and was always thoughtful and patient with his kids. Jean-Claude wasn’t the only one who spoiled the kids, his fictional colleagues who supposedly worked with him at the WHO, never forgot either of his children’s birthdays. Every year the kids would receive gifts from Jean-Claude’s bosses. Florence, who had never met any of his work colleagues, wrote thank-you notes which Jean-Claude promised to pass on.

Jean-Claude was a reliable, loving, trustworthy, good husband, who took photos of every event, big or small. He called his wife Flo, his daughter Caro and his son Tito. He was animated and playful at home. They had friends and were close to both Florence’s parents and his own. Jean-Claude stayed in daily contact with his parents and went so far as to say that he had turned down a job-offer in the US, because he wanted to stay close to them.

Florence and the kids never wanted for anything and Jean-Claude himself would arrange family holidays and other gatherings that would be normal for a family of their social standing. It was always on the modest side, so no one ever felt he was being a show-off or flashy. He seemed like a good, grounded family man who provided well for his loved ones.

Jean-Claude was very much considered as a head-in-the-clouds intellectual. He did not like to talk about his work and kept his family and supposed ‘work life’ in two separate compartments. He would only ever give a short answer if asked about his work, but people simply felt he was being discreet. People knew he didn’t like talking about work, so they didn’t ask him about it. When Jean-Claude ever did talk about his work to friends, he would ask them not to repeat what he had told them to anyone. The nature of his research was confidential and he was not really at liberty to speak about it. Well, so he said.

He also did not give out his work number to family or friends. If Florence ever needed to reach him during the day, she would send a message to his beeper, using a number from one to ten to indicate the urgency. Jean-Claude would always call her if she tried to reach him, so she never questioned why he didn’t give her a work number. 

But Jean-Claude COULD not give her a work number, because he did not have a job. He wasn’t a qualified medical researcher and nobody at the WHO knew him as a colleague. 

Every morning, Jean-Claude Romand, dropped his wife at the pharmacy where she worked part time and then he took Caroline and Antoine to school. The other parents knew him as a loving father who always stayed on the school grounds for a chat.

Like so many other professionals living in Prévessin, Jean-Claude, would drive into Geneva across the border in Switzerland, where the WHO’s headquarters were. He passed customs every morning like other commuters, said his hellos and appeared like any other middle-aged man going to work.

He would park in the general parking lot of the WHO building and gain access to the building as a day visitor. He would use all of their free information services and facilities. If there was banking to be done, he used the bank at the WHO-building. He booked family holidays at the travel agency, used the post office to post any correspondence. If he found any documents bearing the WHO letterhead, he would take them and leave them, strewn in the trunk of his car. 

Jean-Claude would pretend to have ‘quiet days’ at the office, which allowed him to join Florence for lunch. He didn’t have a strict schedule – his importance at work, meant he was above clocking in and out. He created the illusion that he made his own hours. The pretend doctor would say he worked all night, so could afford walking around the streets of Ferney in the morning, should he bump into anyone he knew. 

On Thursdays, as an excuse to spend time with his parents, he made up a story about giving a weekly lecture in Dijon. He would stop on his way to Dijon and have lunch with Aimé and Anne-Marie. Because there was no lecture, he would drive to the forest after lunch and go for a long walk in the woods. 

Other days would be spent in bookshops in Lyon, about a two-hour drive from his home in Prévessin. Jean-Claude would park his car at high way rest stops, buy a coffee and sit in his car for hours, reading books and sometimes even sleeping. The books he chose to read were all medical journals. He had a vast medical knowledge to support the lie of being a medical researcher. Luc Ladmiral and other friends who worked as doctors never doubted that he was a qualified phD.

What is interesting is that Jean-Claude Romand did not live a double life. He lived a very solitary life. He didn’t have another, secret family nor did he go gambling or frequented strip clubs. He simply waded through solitary days, waiting for time to pass. He did not spend large amounts of money and for the most part, was in the vicinity of where he had told his wife he was. Although he didn’t work at the WHO, he could honestly say: I was at the office today. Perhaps it’s these half-truths that helped him keep it up for as long as he did.

From time to time, Jean-Claude would mix things up. As the character he had created: the world-renowned medical researcher, Doctor Romand, he would have been expected to travel internationally. He would tell Florence about international conferences he had to attend, but he would never leave. Dr Romand would book himself into an airport hotel in Geneva, which was only about a 20 minute drive from his home, and spend a couple of days inside his hotel room.

He would spend his time reading travel guides about his supposed destinations, like Japan and Mexico, so he could tell his family and friends something about his work travels. Before he headed back home, he bought his kids gifts from the airport in Geneva. 

It was in the 1980’s, so nobody carried cell phones. Jean-Claude never told Florence where he was staying, but she never really wondered. He dutifully called home to say that he had arrived safely or to see how Florence and the kids were doing. She had no reason to worry or doubt what he was telling her.

Florence knew Jean-Claude was secretive, but thought that was simply his nature. She was even somewhat amused by him. She once joked to a friend: 

“It would not surprise me to be told one day that my husband is a communist spy.” 

He may have been discreet, but everybody felt that Jean-Claude Romand was harmless. Because of his status as a renowned doctor, people trusted him and had no idea about his lifelong deception. He lived completely above suspicion.

The biggest question surrounding the fake life Jean-Claude Romand had constructed is: how was he able to provide for his family if he did not have a job? Where did the money come from?

Although he never completed his medical degree, Jean-Claude Romand was no fool. But he was no saint either. Firstly, he tapped into his parents’ finances. He had full access to their accounts and they never questioned him if money would vanish out of their savings accounts. He told them that he was investing their savings in a Swiss hedge fund with a 16-18% annual return. In fact, his parents were so impressed with his initiative, the convinced Jean-Claude’s uncle, Aimé’s brother, to invest as well.

His parents and uncle never put pressure on him to provide bank statements or investment reports. They felt that he was so important and busy, that they did not want to bother him. The mere fact that he helped them with complicated issues like investments, insurance and such, made him a very good son in their eyes.

When Jean-Claude and Florence moved from Lyon to Prévessin, he sold the studio apartment his parents had bought for him and pocketed the money.

When Florence’s father, Pierre Crolet retired, he received a pay-out of around 400,000 francs. Discretely, Florence told her mother that Jean-Claude had helped his own family with investing their life savings and he would be able to help his father-in-law too. So, as it happened, Pierre went to Jean-Claude and asked him for a favour. 

He was all too happy to help and once Pierre had handed over the money, Jean-Claude told him that he had set up a Swiss account and that the money was safely invested. But he never produced any statements or proof, and nobody ever asked for it either. They trusted him one hundred percent.

When it came to declaring tax, the family Romand only declared 100,000 francs – all of it Florence’s income. Jean-Claude said, that as an international civil servant, he did not have to pay tax in France. In fact, his salary was paid into a Swiss account and Florence did not know much more about it.

On his tax return, Jean-Claude stated that his occupation was a ‘student’, which was technically correct, because he had continued to register for his second year of studies at the University of Leon for 12 years. When this fact came to light some years after the fact, the university was under scrutiny for their poor administration of the phantom student.

But in 1988, everything in Jean-Claude Romand’s world was still functioning in the way he had constructed it to. But no amount of lies or deception could shield one from tragedy.

It was October and Jean-Claude accompanied Florence’s dad, Pierre Crolet, to his weekend-home at Sévrier. Pierre had a terrible fall down the stairs of the attic. When an ambulance arrived, Pierre was still alive, but unconscious. He died in hospital after being in a coma for a week.

Jean-Claude was the only other person on the property on the day of Pierre’s fatal fall. There was nothing to prove that Jean-Claude had anything to do with the accident, but a shadow of discreet suspicion would cloud Pierre’s death forever. When Jean-Claude called Florence’s mom to tell her the news, he had said that Pierre had a stroke, which had caused him to fall down the stairs. Yet the doctors at the hospital never said anything about a stroke.

Florence’s brothers recalled that their father wanted to withdraw some of the retirement money he had invested through Jean-Claude, but his untimely death meant that Jean-Claude could leave the money where it was. 

In fact, because Jean-Claude was so entrenched in the family’s affairs, he was the logical one to handle the sale of their weekend-home after Pierre’s death. The family gave him power of attorney and asked him to invest the money from the house in Switzerland along with the rest of Pierre’s retirement money. But there was no Swiss bank account, and Pierre’s money had been spent. With the money from the Colet’s house, Jean-Claude bought a beautiful house for himself, Florence and their children.

This wasn’t to be the last time Jean-Claude swindled Florence’s family out of their savings. When one of Florence’s uncles was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jean-Claude told them about a miracle drug that had just been invented – it was still under trial, but he said it would be able to either cure or halt the spread of the cancer the uncle was suffering from. 

Jean-Claude told the family that one of these miracle tablets cost 15,000 francs. If they wanted to go ahead with the treatment, he could source it. The only thing was… The initial dosage for the treatment was two tablets. 

Florence’s uncle refused to pay that amount of money and decided that he would rather not gamble his wife’s inheritance on his cancer. His wife and other family members were desperate and persuaded him to give it a go, and in the end, he paid for two rounds of medication supplied by Jean-Claude for 60,000 francs. Jean-Claude cleverly covered his own back by telling the family that – because the medication was still in trial phase – it was not a definite cure. He provided placebo tablets to the uncle. The uncle died a year later.

Between the late 1980’s and early 90’s Jean-Claude Romand had swindled three million francs (equivalent to o 450,000Euro) from his closest family and friends.

Luc introduced his neighbours to his friends: Remy and Corrine Hourtin. Corinne was flirtatious and there were rumours about her having affairs behind her husband’s back. Remy and Corrine eventually split up and Corinne moved to Paris. 

Their circle of friends sided with Remy but Florence Romand felt that it wasn’t their prerogative to judge and kept in touch with Corrine after she had moved away. One time during a visit to Paris, Jean-Claude and Florence met up with Corinne for a dinner – and Jean-Claude could not get her out of his mind.


A couple of weeks later, Corinne received a bunch of flowers from Jean-Claude, inviting her to meet him for dinner, as he was in Paris for a conference. Of course, there was no conference, Jean-Claude had gone to Paris with the intention of seeing Corrine. During the dinner he boasted about his accomplishments, dropped some important names and opened up about his alleged career. 

Corinne saw a different side to him and thought there was more to him than the somewhat conservative bookworm that she thought he was. In the following months, the illicit affair developed. Jean-Claude told Florence that he was involved in a research project in Paris to explain his frequent trips. 

He also went to Russia and Italy with Corrine, always pretending he went away for work. But his relationship with Corrine was quite tumultuous and after a disastrous trip to Rome, Corrine called it off. 

When Jean-Claude returned from his trip he could not hide the fact that he was depressed from Florence. She was concerned about his constant dark mood and he had to come up with a story to appease her. So, he told her that one of his bosses from work had died from cancer and that upset him greatly. With his own latent cancer, he was fearing his own mortality. Florence understood and supported him through his dark days, completely unaware that Jean-Claude wasn’t mourning a colleague’s death, but rather the death of his affair with Corrine.

Besides deceiving his wife about his mistress, he was also running out of money. The affair with Corrine had cost him a fortune. On their travels they stayed in luxurious hotels. He also flew to Paris regularly and took her to expensive restaurants and he stayed in an upscale hotel – all to keep up the appearance of being a wealthy, world-renowned doctor.

When Jean-Claude was with Corrine, he did not feel alone anymore. As Emmanuel Carrère observed in his book “The Adversary”: although Corrine did not know about the lies about his career, at least for a while, he felt like he was sharing a secret with someone else, he wasn’t completely alone anymore.

The relationship was over, but the two remained friends. When Corrinne had some money to invest, she asked for Jean-Claude’s advice. She trusted him to invest 900,000 francs, but explained that she wanted access to the funds whenever she needed it. Jean-Claude put her at ease and promised the money was safe. 


In June 1992, Corrine needed cash and asked Jean-Claude for access to her account. He said she needed to give three months’ notice before she could withdraw anything. Corrine was furious, that is exactly what she had told him NOT to do. Realising she was completely at the mercy of red tape, she backed down. Jean-Claude was relieved, he had bought himself three months to figure out what to do next. 

The truth was: he had already spent most of her money and was reliant on the rest. Corrine’s nest egg was pretty much keeping bread on the Romand family’s table. In September, after the three months’ notice period, Corrine could not get a hold of Jean-Claude. When he eventually returned her calls he told her that he had suffered a relapse with his cancer and could not make to the bank to make the withdrawal on time. So, they had to give notice yet again, which meant the money would only be available just before Christmas.

Corrine was not happy with the situation, but there wasn’t much she could do. Her ex-husband, Remy, who still lived near Jean-Claude, promised her that he would keep an eye on Jean-Claude and help her to retrieve the money in December.

When December rolled around, Corrine was not going to let Jean-Claude forget about her money. She put significant pressure on him and he did what he could to assure her everything was on track. 

Then his mother called and told him that they had received a letter from the bank, stating that their account was 40,000 francs in overdraft. This was one of the accounts that Jean-Claude had access to. The faithful son calmed his mother down and said that there had to be a mistake with the bank. He promised her that he would follow up. But the jig was up. He had bled his parents’ finances dry and he had no way of repaying them.

The wife of a man who worked at the WHO asked Florence if they would be attending the family Christmas party at Jean-Claude’s office. Florence did not know anything about it. Whether she ever asked Jean-Claude about the party, would forever remain behind the closed doors of the ill-fated Romand-home.

The pressure was building. The thought of admitting the truth to Florence and his parents was unbearable and the only way out was to end his life. 

As the festive season of 1992 ended, Jean-Claude Romand told his ex-mistress, Corrine Hourtin, that he had the money she had invested through him and they arranged to meet. He said that the Minister of Health, Bernard Kouchner, had invited him to dinner at his home in Fontainebleu – an hour south of Paris. If Corinne would accompany him to the dinner, he implied that he would bring the money. 

Corrine agreed and they set the date for Saturday, January 9th, 1993. 

Jean-Claude had set his plan in motion. But before he could meet Corinne, he had to take care of something else. The Friday night before the fake dinner at the Health Minister’s home, Jean-Claude and Florence had a heated conversation. In a recount, Jean-Claude would later refer to it as a discussion, not a fight. He followed Florence into the bedroom – after which he was not sure what happened. But when he woke up the next morning, Florence was lying in bed next to him, covered with blood. He saw a rolling pin and realized that she had been bludgeoned to death. Although he knew that he had done it, he could not remember the act of killing his wife.

He went to the bathroom and mechanically washed the blood off the rolling pin.

When he went downstairs, Caroline and Antoine were already watching TV. They were quiet as they did not want to wake their parents on a Saturday morning. Jean-Claude went about the morning routine and served his children their last meal of cereal.

Once the cartoon ended, he pretended to suddenly be concerned about the kids. He felt their foreheads and said that they were warm. Caroline had to follow him upstairs where he would check her temperature with a thermometer. He told Antoine to wait until he was called up.

In Caroline’s room, he told her to lie down on her bed. He covered her head with a pillow, pretending to play a game. As she laid waiting in amusement, her father took a 22 rifle and shot her in the head. The pillow stifled the noise, so Antoine did not know what had happened. 7-year-old Caroline Romand died instantly.

Next it was her 5-year-old brother, Antoine’s turn. Jean-Claude followed the same routine as he had done with his daughter and told his son to hide under a pillow. Antoine laid down on his stomach and covered his head with a pillow. A second shot cut through the morbid silence of the Romand family home. Florence, Caroline and Antoine were all dead. 

But Jean-Claude was not done. He picked up the receiver of the telephone in the living room, where half-eaten bowls of Coco Pops were still on the coffee table in front of the TV and called his parents. He told them that he was coming over for lunch at 1:30. Then he hung up, had a shower, packed a bag for his night in Paris with Corrine and left his once happy family home with the horrific scene behind him. 

When Jean-Claude arrived in Clairvaux, the table was already laid out for lunch. He ate with his parents, knowing that this would be their last meal. After lunch, he prompted his father to investigate a possible gas leak in his childhood room. 

The two men went upstairs, Jean-Claude with his rifle in his hand. Theirs was a country home with guns, so it wouldn’t be completely crazy for Jean-Claude to take a weapon upstairs. Perhaps he wanted to shoot at targets from his bedroom window. Neither Aimé nor Anne-Marie were alarmed by the weapon – why would they have been?

As father and son entered the bedroom, Aimé knelt down to the floor to look at the thermostat. Jean-Claude simply lifted his rifle and shot his dad in the back. 

He then called his mother and said that they needed her help with the thermostat. Anne-Marie was shot as she was looking at her only son, her pride and joy. Confusion and the shock of betrayal were the last feelings Anne-Marie would ever experience. 

Hearing the gun-shots, the family Labrador ran upstairs too, yelping as he went from Aimé’s body to Anne-Marie’s. Jean-Claude lifted the rifle again and killed the dog too. He would later say he killed the dog so he could join Caroline in paradise. She was very fond of him and they would be happy to be reunited in eternity.

Jean-Claude covered his parents’ and their dog’s bodies with blankets and started the four-hour car trip to Paris in order to pick up Corrine. She was the last person on his list. He knew she would meet him, because she was concerned about her money. Jean-Claude picked her up and set out to drive to Fontainebleau. Once in the forested area, he pretended to be lost. They drove around in circles for a long time, then he pulled the car over and said that the directions were in the trunk.

When he didn’t return to the car, Corrine got out and asked him what was taking so long. Jean-Claude answered by spraying tear gas in her face and attempting to strangle her. Corrine put up a huge fight and eventually Jean-Claude gave up. He crumbled, apologized, even blamed his cancer medication for causing his strange behaviour.

He drove her back to Paris, dropped her at home and then set off south to Prévessin, where the bodies of his wife and children were still waiting, undiscovered.

Corrine did not get her money from Jean-Claude and was in shock after he attacked her. He called her and somehow convinced her not to tell anyone what had happened. Corrine was desperate to have her money back and promised that she would keep the incident to herself, as long as he would see to it that her 900,000 francs were returned to her.

Jean-Claude spent the night watching television, skipping channels and recording on the VCR as he did so. This showed the erratic actions of his last moments, before pouring petrol all over his house and taking a handful of expired sleeping pills. He padded himself into a room by closing the internal doors and jamming clothes below the opening to the floor to prevent the fire from spreading. As the fire came closer, he went to a window and opened it – that is when emergency services saw him and rushed to his aid.

Jean-Claude was transported to hospital in Geneva, where he was placed in an induced coma to recover from his injuries.

Family and friends were in total shock and quietly hoped that Jean-Claude would not recover, as they could not imagine his despair when he learnt that his whole family had died. 

His uncle was tasked with the grim job of informing Jean-Claude’s parents of the incident. When he arrived at Aimé and Anne-Marie’s home in the Jura, a scene of horror awaited him. He found the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law, along with the family dog upstairs, where Jean-Claude had left them.

Back at the Romand home in Prévessin, investigators examined the scene of the fire. The house was situated in a beautiful area, and the horror of what was inside the house was at odds with the tranquil surrounds. Throughout the home were tell-tale signs that the Romand-family was a happy one: photos of smiling kids and parents on the walls... One of the first responders remembered seeing a card that one of the children had made for Jean-Claude, with the words “Daddy I love you”.

It did not take investigators long to figure out that the fire was deliberately lit. They found two empty jerry cans and evidence of accelerant. It was also evident that Jean-Claude Romand, the only survivor had taken precautions to protect himself from the fire. The first seeds of suspicion started to grow. Then, they found a handwritten note in Jean-Claude’s BMW, which read:

 "A banal accident and an injustice can cause madness. Sorry.”  

The tablets Jean-Claude had taken were long expired. A local pharmacist told police that Jean-Claude had obtained more effective barbiturates from him in the weeks leading up to the fire, but none of that was found in his system. Road cleaners would typically pass the Romand home around 4am. The fact that Jean-Claude had set the fire only moments before, indicated that he had orchestrated his own, inevitable rescue.

The post-mortem examinations on Florence and the children confirmed law enforcements greatest concerns: the family did not die as a result of the fire – they had been murdered. Florence had received four blows to the back of her head and one to the side. Her cause of death was skull fracture.

As for Caroline and Antoine… Traces of small calibre bullets were found inside their heads.  It was sent to ballistics experts to compare to bullets found in the bodies of Jean-Claude’s parents. It was a match: the same rifle that was used to kill Aimé and Anne-Marie Romand, was used in the murder of their grandchildren. 

With his wife, children and parents murdered, suspicion fell on the only survivor: Dr. Jean-Claude Romand. Three days after he was rescued from his burning home, the hospital released a statement that he would survive. 

Police wanted to learn more about Jean-Claude and Florence and their family. But they soon they realised that none of Jean-Claude’s friends or family knew any specific details about his life outside the family. That is when they came across his ex, Corrine Hourtin, who told them about the attack on her in the forest of Fontainebleu. 

French police asked Swiss police to follow up on Romand’s professional background and found that he did not work at the WHO. When they contacted INSERM, they found the same answer: there was no Dr Romand associated with them. In fact, Jean-Claude was not a registered Doctor in France OR in Switzerland.

When he regained consciousness, Jean-Claude refused to talk to police. It was initially believed that he was too traumatised to speak. When he did eventually opened up, he denied any involvement in the murders. He told the story of an intruder and painted a picture of himself, a victim of a senseless crime, unable to protect his family from the brutal attack. 

Police simply heard Jean-Claude out, let him speak until he became tangled up in his own lies. Investigators then presented him with all the evidence against him. It was over: they knew about his fraudulent claims about being a doctor, about the embezzlement and ultimately: the murders of his family.

Jean-Claude broke down and confessed everything. He was taken in for psychological evaluation, in which he was found to be a pathological and malignant narcissist. He was able to maintain constant relationships in his life and stuck to the same lie for many years. In a way, he almost convinced himself that he was the world-renowned Dr Romand – and not a college drop-out who stole money from his parents and friends in order to support his family. 

At his trial, Jean-Claude Romand stated that he had lied “just to see some joy in others”. His parents and Florence were happy that he was successful and for all the recognition he claimed he had received.

In the course of the trial, he collapsed on the stand, to the point that court sessions had to be postponed. When asked about his dog on the witness stand – he convulsed and made a strange sound before throwing his body onto the floor. On that day, Jean-Claude had to be removed from court. It was the first time since the deaths of his family that he had shown this level of emotion.

In the end, Jean-Claude Romand was given a sentence of life imprisonment with possibility of parole after 22 years. 

When incarcerated in 1996, he was all but forgotten. His son, Antoine’s kindergarten teacher reached out to him and a brief love affair eventuated. This is something that the woman tried to deny at first, but the story was confirmed by prison guards and she ended the relationship.

Jean-Claude Romand has been eligible for parole since 2015 and has applied for it as recently as September of 2018. The court has yet to make a decision. Although he has been a model prisoner, judges are concerned about his ability to manipulate and are not convinced that he is fit to function in society without posing a danger to those around him.

Today, in prison in Saint-Maur – he advises prisoners on medical issues. Although he never qualified as a doctor, his years of studying journals and procedures gave him a good understanding of the field. 

He admits that his whole life was a lie, but the emotion of his family life was all true: he did love them. He loved them so much, he could not let them live through the shock and humiliation of who he really was and all the money he had stolen. In an interview with a psychologist he admitted:

 “I killed everything I love – but I am finally me…”

If you’d like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. We can also recommend the feature film, L’Adversaire, based on Emmanuele Carrère’s book by the same name.

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