The Dominici affair was the criminal
investigation into the triple murder of three Britons in France.
During the night of 4/5 August 1952, Sir Jack Drummond, a
61-year-old scientist; his 44-year-old wife Anne Wilbraham; and
their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth were murdered next to their
car which was parked in a lay-by near La Grand'Terre, the farm
belonging to the Dominici family, located near the village of Lurs
in the département of Basses-Alpes (now Alpes-de-Haute-Provence).
Family patriarch Gaston Dominici was convicted of the three
murders in 1957 and sentenced to death, though it was widely
believed that his guilt had not been clearly established.
President René Coty commuted the sentence to life imprisonment,
and on 14 July 1960, President Charles de Gaulle ordered Gaston Dominici's release on humanitarian grounds due to his poor health,
but he was never pardoned or given a re-trial. Gaston Dominici
died 4 April 1965. The affair made international headlines at the
Timeline of events
On the evening of 4 August 1952, while they were holidaying in
France in their Hillman car with registration number NNK686, the
Drummond family made a stop along National Highway 96, 165 metres
from La Grand'Terre, a farm in the municipality of Lurs. They
stopped by the mile marker 6 km south of Peyruis and 6 km north of
La Brillanne. A bridge spanned the railway 60 metres from the
road. A path winds down both sides of the railway line to the bank
of the Durance river.
The Grand'Terre farm was inhabited by the Dominicis, a family of
farmers comprising patriarch Gaston (75), his wife Marie (73),
nicknamed "The Sardine" (1879–1974), their son Gustave (33),
Gustave's wife Yvette (20), and their baby son Alain (10 months).
The family was of Italian origin: Gaston's great-grandfather moved
from Piedmont to Seyne in 1800 to work the land. Clovis Dominici,
older brother of Gustave, also became involved on the day of the
That evening, the Dominici family were having a party to celebrate
the end of the harvest. Several family members travelled back and
forth between the farmhouse and the fields, passing the Drummonds
on several occasions. The Dominicis irrigated their alfalfa field
using water from the Manosque Canal, which crosses over the
A few days earlier, Marie Dominici forgot to close off the
irrigation pump for the night, causing the pump's ballast to
collapse. Since then, several family members had gone regularly to
check that the damage was not obstructing the railway track, as
the SNCF may have demanded that they pay repair costs if such an
obstruction occurred. In the early hours of 5 August, six or seven
shots were heard at approximately 1.10 am.
A lorry driver, Marceau Blanc, passed the location at 4.30 am. He
noticed a camp bed in front of the Drummonds' car, as well as a
canvas that covered the car's windscreen and right side windows.
At 4.50 am, a Joseph Moynier passed the scene and did not notice
any of this. At 5.20 am, a Jean Hébrard noticed a camp bed leaning
against the car. The crime scene appeared to have changed
throughout the early morning, contradicting the briefly held
theory that the murders were part of a contract killing.
Gustave Dominici claimed to have got up at 5.30 am and to have
discovered Elizabeth Drummond's body at around 5.45. Her skull had
been smashed in as a result of several blows from the stock of a
carbine (a long firearm similar to a rifle). She was found 77
metres away from the family car, on a slope leading down to the
At around 6 am, Gustave flagged down Jean-Marie Olivier, a
passing motorcyclist who was on his way to work. Gustave asked
Olivier to ride to the nearby village of Oraison to inform the
police of the discovery. Investigators later noted that Gustave
himself owned a motorcycle and were curious as to why he had not
simply travelled on it to tell the police himself, rather than
waiting for a passer-by to arrive on the scene.
At around 6.30 am, Faustin Roure, who was travelling on a moped
from the direction of Peyruis, overtook Clovis Dominici and his
brother-in-law Marcel Boyer, who were riding bicycles. Roure went
directly to the railway bridge to check on the state of a
landslide that Gustave had informed him of during a visit to
Roure's home at around 9 pm the previous day.
At the same time as Roure arrived at the railway bridge, the two
brothers-in-law arrived at the Grand'Terre, where Gustave told
them that gunshots had been heard at around 1 am that morning and
that he had discovered the body of a young girl on the slope
leading to the river.
The two brothers-in-law went to the scene,
where they met Roure, who was climbing back up the railway
cutting. They spotted Elizabeth's body 15 metres from the start of
the bridge over the railway. Boyer noticed that Clovis seemed to
know the precise position of the body, and Clovis prevented the
other two men from going any closer to it.
When they got back to
the road, the three men discovered the bodies of Elizabeth's
parents. They found Lady Anne Drummond lying on her back,
completely covered by a sheet and lying parallel to the left side
of the car. Sir Jack Drummond was also lying on his back,
underneath a camp bed on the other side of the road. They had been
shot to death.
Unnerved by what he heard of a hushed conversation
after everyone had returned to the farm, Marcel Boyer later denied
to the police that he had stopped on his bicycle ride when he was
interviewed at his workplace by an Officer Romanet on 16 August.
During questioning on 20 August with police chief Edmond Sébeille,
Faustin Roure revealed that Boyer had indeed stopped and was
present when the bodies were discovered. Boyer stated that he
couldn't explain why he had lied. The suspected reason for Boyer's
lie was eventually discovered on 13 November 1953, when Clovis
Dominici revealed that Gustave had told him about the Drummonds
screaming in pain and terror in the presence of Marcel Boyer and
Between 6.50 and 7 am, Jean Ricard, a tourist who had been camping
the previous night on a plateau in the nearby village of Ganagobie,
passed the crime scene on foot. His attention was drawn to the car
due to the apparent disorder around it. He walked around the car
and saw an empty camp bed lying on the ground alongside it.
Two metres to the left, parallel to the camp bed, he saw the body of
Lady Anne Drummond, covered by a sheet from her head down to her
knees, with her feet pointing in the direction of the Grand'Terre.
At around 7 am, Yvette Dominici, who was pregnant with her second
child and had not seen the police arrive, got on her bike and rode
towards Sylve Farm, passing through Giropey in order to phone the
police. Up the hill at Guillermain Farm, 350 metres to the south
of the Grand'Terre, she met Aimé Perrin, who told her that Gustave
had found the body of a murdered girl on the riverbank.
also mentioned that Gustave had seen a woman dressed in black with
the Drummonds the previous evening. Yvette asked Perrin to phone
the police. Perrin headed back towards the crime scene. On the
way, he met Officers Romanet and Bouchier, whom he accompanied to
the crime scene.
At around 7.30 am, the two police officers and Aimé Perrin arrived
at the crime scene, which had already been contaminated multiple
times. According to Perrin, Gustave arrived on the scene on foot
and not on his bicycle: he came up behind the police officers, who
had just found Lady Anne Drummond’s body.
The officers found a 4
cm² shred of skin from a human hand hooked on the car’s rear
bumper. This evidence was passed to police chief Edmond Sébeille
as soon as he arrived on the scene.
The car's front doors had been
closed, while the double boot door had been pushed in, with the
key left in the lock on the outside, dismissing the theory that
Elizabeth Drummond had locked herself in the car from the inside.
6.4 metres behind the rear of the car was a drainage sump. Behind
the sump, the police officers noticed a large pool of blood
covering about 1 square metre. The blood was never tested, and it
was never established whose blood this was.
The police found two
cartridge cases and two full cartridges, lying in pairs (one
cartridge case and one intact cartridge). One pair was found 3 metres behind the car, while the other was found 5 metres
perpendicular to the front-left of the car and 1.5 metres away
from Lady Anne's body. The two pairs of cartridges/cases were
approximately 9 metres away from each other. The cartridge cases
were marked "LC4", and were different from the full cartridges,
which bore the mark "WCC 43" and "WCC 44".
Gustave drew the police
officers' attention to the body of Sir Jack Drummond on the other
side of the road, and pointed them to where Elizabeth Drummond's
body lay on the riverbank. The two officers discovered shoe prints
from crepe shoes. It appeared that the wearer of these shoes had
walked away from Elizabeth's body and back again several times.
These shoe prints were protected by placing twigs around them and
Officer Romanet borrowed the bicycle of Mrs Perrin (who had come
to the scene to join her husband) to go and phone Sylve, a local
merchant, and ask for reinforcements. Sometime after 7.45 am,
Faustin Roure – returning from Peyruis, where he had gone to
inform his employer, stopped once more at the farm. He saw Gaston
Dominici bringing his goats back from the pasture, and witnessed
Gaston and Yvette talking about the murder. Roure – who had hidden
behind a trellis when he heard the two talking, but had been
noticed by them anyway – could not confirm whether it was a
serious discussion or just a vague conversation.
At around 8 am, Officer Bouchier, who was alone by the camp bed,
saw Roger Perrin cycling past towards the Grand'Terre. Shortly
afterwards, Perrin returned by foot, carrying his bicycle,
accompanied by his grandfather and Gaston Dominici. Meanwhile,
Gustave asked the officer for permission to go and cover
Elizabeth's body using a sheet that was on the camp bed; he was
therefore aware that her body had not yet been covered.
At 8.15 am, Captain Albert arrived on the scene with Officers
Crespy, Rebaudo and Romanet, whom he had collected from in front
of the Perrin home in Giropey. As soon as they arrived, Captain
Albert noticed a bicycle at the foot of a bush. The identity
plaque on it indicated that it belonged to Gustave Dominici. When
Gustave was asked about this, he said that he had gone to look for
some chalk at the request of the police, and had taken his bicycle
so as to do it as quickly as possible. This account was refuted by
Officers Romanet and Bouchier; furthermore, the bicycle
disappeared without anyone noticing who had left on it or when.
At around 8.30 am, Henri Estoublon, the mayor of Lurs, arrived on
the scene along with a local doctor, Dr Dragon, who began
examining the bodies of the Drummond parents. When he inspected
Elizabeth's body at 9.15 am, he noticed that her limbs and torso
were still supple but her feet were stiff.
At around 9.15 am, Mr and Mrs Barth, Yvette's parents, arrived at
the Dominici farm. Yvette herself had already left the area,
getting a lift from Mr Nervi, the local butcher, to the market in
Oraison. She didn't return until after 4 pm, this time driven back
by her parents. Ordinarily, she did her shopping in Forcalquier
and returned by lunchtime.
At 9.30 am, prosecutor Louis Sabatier, judge Roger Périès and his
clerk Emile Barras arrived from Digne-les-Bains, the regional
capital. At around 10 am, Officer Legonge, the police dog handler,
arrived with his dog Wasch.
Gaston and Gustave Dominici and Roger
Perrin watched as the bitch, picking up Elizabeth's scent,
followed the path towards the river for about 50 metres
northwards, before going down to the railway track, which she
followed for 100 metres in the direction of the farm. The dog then
climbed back towards the RN 96 road, crossed it and climbed up
towards the irrigation canal 30 metres above the road, where she
stopped. No one could work out what this circuitous route meant.
By this time, dozens of onlookers had gathered, while
investigators had trampled on and disturbed the now large area of
the crime scene. It is possible that some evidence was tampered
with – either accidentally or deliberately – or even stolen as
For lunch, Gustave, Clovis and Paul Maillet, a neighbour, gathered
in Gaston's kitchen. During the meal, Gustave said that he had
found Elizabeth still alive. Maillet claimed to have been shocked
that no one tried to help her.
The investigation begins
The investigation was officially assigned to Superintendent Edmond
Sébeille of Marseille's 9th Mobile Brigade. At 3 pm, Judge Périès,
who had not seen the Marseille police arrive, decided to have the
bodies removed. While removing Elizabeth's body, Mr Figuière, the
gravedigger (in that era, gravediggers were regularly called upon
to remove bodies from crime scenes), found a chip of wood from a
rifle stock about 10 cm from Elizabeth's head. This piece of
evidence was passed around by hand amongst various people, who
were not aware of where it had been found.
When the police arrived, an altercation ensued between
Superintendent Sébeille, Judge Périès and Captain Albert – the
latter was reproached for not having contained the crowd of
onlookers and journalists who were walking around and
contaminating the crime scene. According to Sébeille, he and his
team arrived in Lurs at 1.30 pm. However, numerous journalists,
including André Sevry from French daily Le Monde, claimed that the
Marseille police did not arrive until after 4.30 pm.
At around 6 pm on 5 August, Inspectors Ranchin and Culioli
recovered a Rock-Ola M1 carbine from the river Durance. It was
broken in two and had clearly been in very poor condition even
before being thrown into the river. Several pieces were missing
and repairs had been made using makeshift knick-knacks: the sight
had been replaced by half of a 1-franc coin, while the wooden
forearm covering the barrel was missing. The lever had been
replaced by a Duralumin ring taken from a bicycle's identity
plaque, which was fixed to the wood by a screw. The safety strap
was missing and the bolt stop was broken. Therefore, it was more
of a DIY handyman's weapon than that of a seasoned killer.
On the same day, a lorry driver, Ode Arnaud, reported to the
police in nearby Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban that he had seen a man
sitting in the rear-left seat of the Drummonds' car when he passed
the scene at 11.15 pm on the night of the murders; and that around
midnight, 3 km north of Manosque (to the south of the crime
scene), he had overtaken a motorcycle with a sidecar on the
left-hand side (indicating that it originated from a country where
traffic drives on the left, such as the UK).
Later on in the
investigation, the Dominicis claimed that this motorbike and
sidecar had stopped at their farm at around 11.30 pm.
Investigators believed that this claim was intended (i) to
discredit the anonymous witness who reported having seen Gustave
outside the farm in the company of an unknown man between 11.30 pm
and midnight; and (ii) to deflect suspicion towards Ode Arnaud.
At around 7.30 pm on 5 August, Superintendent Sébeille met Gaston
Dominici for the first time, close to the spot where Elizabeth had
been found that morning. Gaston's tattoos, as well as the manner
in which he spoke, led to Sébeille forming a bad impression of
The Dominicis were formally interviewed for the first time on 6
August, and inconsistencies quickly arose. The Dominicis claimed
to have heard gunshots but not the victims' screams and calls for
help. Gaston claimed that he (and not the gravedigger) was the
person who found the chip of wood from the US M1, stating that he
found it 30 cm from Elizabeth's head while he was covering her
body with the sheet.
He also claimed that he gave the chip to
Officer Bouchier. Inspectors Culioli and Ranchin discovered girl's
underwear in some undergrowth on the railway embankment, some 450
metres south of the Grand'Terre and close to Lurs railway station.
In contrast, the crime scene itself was located to the north of
In a letter to Captain Albert dated 25 August
1955, during the second investigation, Inspector Ranchin confirmed
that Francis Perrin, the postman in Lurs, told the police that he
had followed the Drummonds' car southbound from Lurs between 11.30
am and midday of 4 August 1952. He originally reported this to
Superintendent Constant on 3 October 1952.
On 6 August, Lucien Duc, a lorry driver from La Roche-de-Rame, a
village 150 km (95 miles) away in the Haute-Alpes département,
reported to his local police in L'Argentière-la-Bessée that he and
his brother, Georges, had passed by the crime scene at 12.20 am on
the night of the murders.
They reported seeing an unknown man
"with a disturbing facial expression" who froze on the spot when
they approached. He was reportedly standing 100 metres from the
Drummond's car in the direction of the Dominici farm. This unknown
man was described as being about 40 years old, overweight, about
1.8 metres (5 ft 11) tall and with a thick head of hair.
On 6 and 13 August, Superintendent Sébeille took witness
statements from Henri Conil, an estate agent, and Jean Brault, a
medical student who was on holiday in Peyruis. Conil, who was
giving Brault a lift, reported that they drove past the Drummonds'
car between 1.30 and 1.35 am. Both men reported seeing a
silhouette moving in the shadows near the car, indicating that the
killer or an accomplice was still at the scene.
On 7 August, a search warrant was executed at the Dominici farm.
Investigators found a 12 mm calibre hunting rifle, an old Fusil
Gras service rifle that had been rechambered for hunting large
game, and a 9 mm carbine. Gustave refused to answer the police
officers' questions, presenting them with a falsified doctor's
note. The Drummonds' funeral was held at 5 pm that day in
Forcalquier, and they were buried in the cemetery there, a few
miles from where they were murdered.
On the morning of 8 August, Gustave was questioned for four hours
by Superintendent Sébeille in Peyruis. He stuck to his previous
statements. Sébeille interviewed Lucien Duc, who reasserted his
statement of 6 August. Roger Roche, who lived in Dabisse, a hamlet
connected to the village of Les Mées on the other side of the
river from the crime scene, went to the police station in Malijai,
claiming that he had been in his garden at the time of the murders
and had heard four or five gunshots coming from what sounded like
the direction of the farm. He said he may have heard screams, but
could not be sure.
He reported that he remained outside for 15
minutes and neither heard the sound of an engine nor saw any
vehicle lights on the road where the murders took place. On the
afternoon of 8 August, Superintendent Sébeille showed the US M1
carbine to Clovis Dominici, who reacted by collapsing in apparent
shock. He was brought to Peyruis and questioned for two hours, but
denied being familiar with the weapon.
Officers Romanet and Bouchier went to Jean-Marie Olivier's home
(the motorcyclist who passed the crime scene at 6 am the morning
after the murders and went to inform the police). Olivier told
them that Gustave had waved him down from behind the Drummonds'
car. Surprised, Olivier was unable to stop instantly and stopped
30 metres down the road. Gustave ran towards him and asked him to
go to Oraison to alert the police.
Gustave allegedly said to him:
“There’s a dead guy on the embankment by the side of the road.”
Gustave himself claimed that he merely said: “There’s a dead
person over there,” gesturing towards the river. Investigators
interpreted from Gustave’s own version of the phrase that he knew
that Elizabeth was still alive.
On 9 August, daily newspaper France-Soir published a picture and
details of Elizabeth Drummond's travel diary. In reality, it was a
mock-up made by journalist Jacques Chapus.
On 12 August, Aimé Perrin was interviewed at his home in Giropey
by Officer Romanet. The questions revolved around his meeting with
Yvette Dominici on the morning of 5 August. Perrin told Romanet
what Yvette had told him, i.e. that there had been a woman dressed
Perrin said that he was informed that a crime had taken
place by Mr Bourgues, a platelayer, before 7 am on the morning of
5 August. This assertion was not credible because Mr Bourgues was
not in the area that morning, and would in any case not have been
working at that hour. Daily newspaper L'Humanité published a
photograph from early May 1945 of Sir Jack Drummond wearing a Home
Guard officer's uniform, in discussions with Wehrmacht officers
behind German lines in the Netherlands.
The French Communist Party
promoted the theory that the Drummonds were murdered due to fierce
battles being fought at that time in the Basse-Alpes area between
the British and American secret services.
On 13 August, Yvette was interviewed at the Grand'Terre by
Officers Romanet and Bianco, but she did not mention the woman
dressed in black that Gustave had allegedly seen.
On 16 August, Superintendent Sébeille took a witness statement
from Raymond Franco, a Marseille leather merchant who had been on
holiday in Les Mées. He reported what he thought at the time were
two hunting shots, followed by three of four shots with longer
intervals between them. He had heard this from the open window of
Superintendent Sébeille also interviewed Yvette, who
claimed that Gustave, having returned from the Girard family farm,
told her that the Drummonds were camping on an easement that the
Dominicis held on a piece of government-owned land. When asked
about this again in 1955, she denied having said it. She
maintained that she did not leave her kitchen that evening, and
that no one came to the house to ask for food or water, nor did
anyone come to ask for permission to camp.
Her statement repeated Gustave's statement of 8 August word for word, suggesting that the
couple had colluded in advance on what to say to the police.
Gustave added that when he was driving back in the opposite
direction at 8 pm on 4 August, he noticed the Drummonds' car and
assumed that the family were planning to sleep there without
setting up a tent.
When Marcel Boyer (Clovis Dominici's brother-in-law) was
interviewed by Officer Romanet, he stated that he did not stop at
the Grand'Terre on the morning of 5 August and that he went
directly to Lurs railway station.
But on 20 August – and later on
25 June 1953, when interviewed by Superintendent Sébeille – Boyer
reneged on this assertion. Boyer claimed to have been so unnerved
by a conversation that he had heard between Gustave and Clovis on
the farm that he had decided to categorically deny that he had
been on the farm at all that morning. Then, when he eventually
admitted to stopping by there, he denied having heard anything
other than the word "body" in reference to Elizabeth Drummond.
On 17 August 1952, a Mrs Jeanne Christianini from Marseille
reported to the Marseille-North police station that she had passed
the crime scene at 8.30 pm on 4 August and had seen a fairly tall
man, possibly Sir Jack Drummond, looking underneath the car's
bonnet. This would explain why Lady Anne and Elizabeth may have
gone to the farm to ask for some water to fill the car radiator,
whose cooling system, designed for the British climate, was
totally inadequate in the face of the Provençal heatwave that was
occurring at that time.
On the night of 17 to 18 August, a police
reconstruction was organised at the crime scene. There was no moon
on the night of the reconstruction, whereas there had been a full
moon on the night of the crime. The reconstruction involved the
Duc brothers (who had seen an unknown man 58 metres from the farm)
and Marceau Blanc, the lorry driver who had passed the crime scene
at 4.20 am on 5 August.
On 19 August, Jean Garcin, a farmer from Ribiers, about 40 km (25
miles) north of the crime scene, went to his local police station
to report that he had passed the crime scene at 3.45 am on 5
August and seen cushions arranged around the Drummonds' car.
On 20 August, Gustave went to Peyruis to give Superintendent
Sébeille a letter that he had received from his brother Aimé, who
lived in Eygalières, in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, some 100
km (60 miles) west of the Dominici farm. Through the letter, Aimé
explained that the initials "RMS" found on the stock of the US M1
carbine corresponded to René-Marcel Castang, a resident of Lurs
who had died in 1946.
However, in reality, these initials may also
simply stand for the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation, one of
the manufacturers that produced this type of carbine. Aimé wrote
that on the day of Castang's funeral in 1946, some weapons had
been stolen from his farm, which bordered Paul Maillet's farm.
Also on 20 August, Superintendent Sébeille received an anonymous
letter stating that Maillet had stolen the US M1 from Castang's
farm on the day of Castang's funeral.
Still on 20 August, a Giovani Colussel reported to the police in
La Saulce, 70 km (45 miles) north of the crime scene, that he had
passed the location at 5 am on the morning after the murders, and
he saw a sheet that had been laid out flat about 1.5 metres in
front of the Drummonds' car.
Also on 20 August, Germain Garcin, a
lorry driver from Laragne (85 km (50 miles) east of the crime
scene), who coincidentally happened to be a relative of Jean
Garcin (the farmer who had made a witness statement the day
before), reported to the police in Laragne that he had passed the
location at 3.50 am on 5 August and had seen one of the car's
doors open and a fairly tall man standing over the raised bonnet,
holding a lamp in his hand.
On 21 August, a letter to the editor was published in Le Monde: Mr
Garçon, a Parisian lawyer, condemned Superintendent Sébeille's
"ill-considered gossip" to journalists and accused him of trying
to cheaply achieve fame.
On the same day, Joseph Juliany, a coach
driver, reported to the police in Manosque that he had passed the
crime scene at 11.30 pm on 4 August on a return journey from Corps
(130 km (80 miles) north in the Isère département) to Manosque,
and he saw a fairly tall man leaning over the Drummond car's open
bonnet, holding a lamp in his hand.
By now, thanks to the numerous
independent reports of a man looking under the bonnet of the
Drummonds' car, the investigators confirmed that the Drummonds had
experienced a mechanical problem with their car.
On 24 August, the police identified the writer of the anonymous
letter: it was a female lavender farmer who stated that she had
visited the Maillets in the summer of 1950 and had seen the murder
weapon hanging up on a nail in their kitchen.
Another anonymous letter was sent to Superintendent Sébeille. It
was dated 25 August and sent from Sisteron, a nearby larger town,
and stated that Gustave had been outside the farm with an unknown
man between 11.30 pm and midnight on 4 August.
On 18 August and again on 27 August, a Mr Panayoutou told the
police that he had taken part in the triple murder. However, his
claims turned out to be false. It has never been established
whether he was trying to distract the police's investigation for
criminal motives or whether he was a pathological liar tempted by
the reward of 1 million francs offered by newspapers the Sunday
Dispatch and Samedi Soir.
On 29 August, a search warrant was executed at the home of Paul
Maillet, where two Sten guns with loading mechanisms and
ammunition were found hidden in his kitchen stove. Maillet was
questioned in Forcalquier until 7 pm about the origin of his
weapons, to which he provided no credible answer.
remembered that on the afternoon of 4 August, he heard the sound
of gunshots coming from the direction of the bushes on the
riverbank while he was working on the railway at the station in Lurs. Following a deal with the prosecutor's office, Maillet was
not prosecuted for unlawfully possessing weapons of war, in
exchange for providing assistance to the investigators.
Still on 29 August, Paul Delclite, a boss at the local mine in
Sigonce – who occasionally slept at the Guillermain farm, 350
metres south of the Dominici farm – provided a witness statement
to Officers Romanet and Bouchier.
He reported that at around 10 pm
on 4 August, he cycled to his allotment in Saint-Pons, about 1 km
north of the Grand'Terre. He said that when he passed the
Drummonds' car, he noticed a pile of sheets to the left of the
car, but saw neither a tent canvas nor a camp bed.
Gaston Dominici is arrested and charged
On 1 September 1952, radiesthetist Jean-Claude Coudouing visited
the crime scene. With the permission of a police officer, he
surveyed the railway with his pendulum, returning at 4.10 pm with
a crushed bullet that he said he had found at the bottom of the
railway embankment, 100 metres to the north of the bridge.
Analysis later revealed the bullet to have been fired from the US
On 2 September, a search warrant was executed at the farm of
François Barth, Yvette Dominici's father. Nothing of any
evidential value was found.
On 3 and 4 September, Gustave Dominici was questioned at the
police station in Forcalquier, where he contradicted the statement
made by motorcyclist Jean-Marie Olivier. Olivier had previously
taken part in a police reconstruction at the crime scene, where
the police had had to dispel groups of former Francs-Tireurs et
Partisans (FTPs – from an armed communist resistance organisation
active during World War II) who were attempting to prevent the
reconstruction from taking place.
According to Olivier, on the
morning after the murders, Gustave had emerged from in front of
the Drummonds' car. Gustave claimed that he had emerged from a
path about 15 metres further away, on the other side of a
blackberry bush, and that he had already once returned to the farm
without approaching the camp bed.
Olivier and Gustave were both
adamant that their own respective accounts were true. Gustave's
questioning lasted for seven hours. Superintendent Sébeille
eventually handed over to his colleague Superintendent Constant,
who was joined by Superintendent Mével, the deputy to Chief
Gustave eventually admitted to having
intercepted Olivier from next to the front of the car and not from
the other side of the blackberry bush. He also admitted to having
seen the two camp beds but not the bodies of Sir Jack and Lady
Gustave and Yvette continually disputed Olivier's account during
From 5 September until the end of December 1952, Superintendent
Constant led the investigation, in place of his colleague Sébeille.
On 16 September, L'Humanité, which at that time was the French
Communist Party's official daily newspaper, reported on a notebook
belonging to Sir Jack Drummond. The notebook, which was partially
burnt, was allegedly found by schoolchildren on a rubbish heap in
Long Eaton, near the Drummonds' Nottingham residence.
newspaper reported that on one unspecified day in July 1947, a
note was written "6 pm, meeting in Lurs with …". The rest of the
line had been burnt. The source of this information was deemed by
the British press to be unreliable.
On 29 September, Henri Chastel, a lorry driver from Orpierre, a
village about 50 km (30 miles) north of the crime scene, informed
Inspector Ranchin that he had passed the area on the night of the
murders at around midnight and had seen a thin man of average
height, wearing a shirt with rolled-up sleeves, his hands pressed
against one of the car's rear doors and looking into the car. This
man is unlikely to have been Sir Jack Drummond, who was
overweight, and the description matches the one of the man seen at
11.15 pm by Ode Arnaud on the night of the murders.
On 30 September, Paul Maillet was suspended from his duties as
secretary of the local Communist Party branch in Lurs by the
departmental federation. The party, which had long been suspected
of preparing an armed uprising and active support for the Việt
Minh in Indochina, did not want to risk being compromised by a
potential obscure provincial militant whose war weapons had been
seized and who had a previous conviction for stealing electricity.
Professor Ollivier, a weapons expert, filed an initial report on
the lubrication of the Rock-Ola carbine. The report formally
confirmed that the lubricant from the carbine was totally
different from that from the weapons belonging to Gustave Dominici
and Paul Maillet.
On 2 October, a gun (either a Springfield or a Garand) belonging
to Aimé Perrin, who lived in Giropey and was the brother of Roger
Perrin's father, was confiscated. Aimé Perrin was confirmed as
being the person who fired a shot that was heard by Maillet on the
afternoon of 4 August: he claimed to have been shooting at some
crows that were pecking at his vineyard.
Also on 2 October, Superintendent Constant took a witness
statement from Germain Chapsaur, a radio-electrician from Peyruis
and the owner of a travelling cinema that toured the local area.
He claimed to have passed the Drummonds’ car at 12.50 am on the
night of the murders. He was travelling northbound, on the
opposite side of the road to the lay-by in which the car was
parked. He noticed nothing out of the ordinary: there was no sheet
to the right of the car and no lamp was lit. He added that he did
not pass any other vehicles until he arrived in Peyruis.
On around 15 October, Paul Maillet informed Superintendent
Constant that Gustave had heard Elizabeth’s cries, which led him
to find her. According to the file, Maillet confided this to Emile
Escudier, a greengrocer from La Brillane, a month after the
murders. He also confided to Escudier that Gustave had witnessed
her murder. Escudier urged Maillet to tell the police. Although
Superintendent Constant did not mention the name of the Communist
Party member to the Digne-les-Bains police department, it is
possible that it was Escudier who provided this information.
On 15 October, Gustave was taken to Digne-les-Bains, where he was
questioned along with Clovis and Maillet, who both confirmed his
account. Gustave admitted to having heard Elizabeth Drummond make
an unusual “humming” noise before her folded left arm relaxed, but
he denied having told Maillet this during lunch at the Grand’Terre
on 5 August.
He stated that Elizabeth’s cries had drawn him to the
other side of the bridge and that he then returned to the farm to
tell Marie and Yvette, who did not go to look themselves. Gustave
maintained that he did not go out that night and that he got up at
5.30 am. This assertion was later found to be untrue.
admitted telling his brother to say nothing. Superintendents Sébeille and Constant went to the Dominici farm to question the
rest of the family. Sébeille questioned Yvette and then Gaston,
while Constant questioned Marie. All three denied knowing that
Elizabeth had still been alive when she was found.
On 16 October, Gustave, when questioned by Superintendent
Constant, refused to admit to having been by the camp bed when
Olivier passed the scene, as well as denying having seen Elizabeth
still alive and struggling.
He later said that he made these
denials for fear that his parents may have murdered Elizabeth and
would lash out at him. He said that while he was waiting for the
police, he had been located at the top of a small set of steps
leading to the Grand’Terre’s southern courtyard, on the lookout in
case the Drummonds’ car drove off so that he could catch its
When Officers Romanet and Bouchier arrived on the
scene at 7.30 am, they did not see Gustave when they passed these
steps, and were surprised that he was not present. It is unknown
at what time Gustave realised that Elizabeth was still alive since
there is no evidence that he indeed found her shortly after
Olivier passed the scene, as Gustave had claimed. Gustave later
alternatively provided and retracted other contradictory versions.
Therefore, Gustave’s true movements at this time remain unknown to
ustave Dominici was taken into custody at Saint-Charles Prison in
Digne-les-Bains in the late afternoon of 12 October 1952. He was
formally charged by Judge Périès of failing to assist a person in
danger of death, after he admitted that Elizabeth Drummond was
still alive when he found her at around 5.45 am on 5 August 1952.
Superintendent Constant interviewed Dr Dragon about his
post-mortem of the three victims. Dr Dragon stated that Elizabeth
had not been chased to the place where she was found, but rather
that the killer had carried her there, as her feet exhibited no
grazes or dust. Dr Dragon also stated that she would have died
three hours after her parents.
On 20 October, Gustave, accompanied by Mr Pollak, his lawyer,
retracted his previous statements. Holding him in custody had not
had its desired effect but his request for bail was refused.
On 29 October, Superintendent Constant received new information
from the intelligence agency in Marseille: a month after the
murders, Clovis Dominici and Jacky Barth (Yvette Dominici's
younger brother) were allegedly seen in the Grand'Terre's sheep
pen in the company of a man known as 'Jo'.
apparently insisted that the family pay Jo off as soon as possible
so that he would not cause a nuisance for them. Mr Pollak and his
girlfriend, Nelly Leroy, also allegedly saw Jo. The only
description given of Jo was that he had very bad teeth.
On 5 November, Gaston and Marie Dominici, François Barth, and her
daughter Yvette, were questioned by Superintendent Constant. The
all denied any knowledge of Jo's existence and of his presence on
Meanwhile, the police tracked down the "unknown man with a
sinister look on his face" whom the Duc brothers saw when they
passed the location at 12.20 am on 5 August. On 6 November,
Superintendent Constant questioned the man, Marcel Chaillan, all
day but the questioning did not result in any progress being made
in the investigation.
Chaillan's nephew, Fernand, and brother,
Louis, were also questioned, with no further action taken against
them. Unlike his colleague Sébeille, Superintendent Constant
believed that Marcel Chaillan was the man seen by Ode Arnaud at
11.15 pm on the night of the murders, then by Chastel at around
midnight, and then by the Duc Brothers at 12.20 am, about 105
metres from the Drummonds' car. Constant's belief in this implies
that Chaillan was also the unknown man seen with Gustave between
11.30 pm and midnight, and possibly also the man seen by the
anonymous caller from Sisteron.
Gustave was questioned in prison on 7 November. He was evasive on
the topic of Jo. Having returned to the crime scene with his
lawyers, Mr Pollak and Mr Charrier, he claimed to know nothing
about what allegedly happened in the sheep pen and denied knowing
On the other hand, he stated that François Perrin, the postman
in Lurs, had come to the farm that day. When questioned, the
postman stated that he saw the lawyers and a journalist, as well
as his father Louis, but not the Barths.
Louis Perrin stated that
he passed the Grand'Terre and went through its southern courtyard.
He claimed to have seen Nelly Leroy (lawyer Pollack's girlfriend)
and her daughter at the entrance to the sheep pen, in the company
of Jacky but not her father, François Barth. Louis Perrin also
denied that his nickname was Jo. He had some metal teeth, some of
which were partially broken.
On 12 November, Nelly Leroy was questioned by Superintendent
Constant. According to her, they visited the farm on 8 September.
Besides the Dominicis, she only remembered seeing Jacky Barth: she
remembered that at one point, a man with metal teeth approached
from the direction of the sheep pen before immediately going back
towards it. The two lawyers themselves were not questioned.
Still on 12 November, Gustave Dominici was sentenced to two
months’ imprisonment for failing to assist a person in danger. His
past as a member of the FTP spared him from the maximum five-year
sentence. He was released on 15 December.
On this same day,
Wilhelm Bartkowski, who had been detained at Stuttgart prison in
West Germany since 9 August 1952, claimed that he had been driving
the car of the commando of a contract-killing squad recruited in
West Germany by a secret East German mission whose aim was to
execute the Drummonds. Bartkowski retracted this statement later,
following questioning by a Superintendent Gillard.
Following Gustave's imprisonment, Paul Maillet began to receive
several death threats in the post. On the morning of 17 November,
he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life: in an attempt to
decapitate him, an iron wire had been tied across a track along
which he was travelling on his moped. Then, shortly before
Christmas, unidentified people were seen loitering close to his
house and farm.
On 17 November, a Dr Morin provided a witness statement of the
events of 6 August. He had apparently been camping nearby, and at
the invitation of Gustave Dominici he had changed the location of
his camp to a raised piece of land on the approach to the bridge
over the railway.
He said when he left this location, he went to
stay at the Grand'Terre itself, but that he wasn't sure if he had
stayed on Gaston's or Gustave's land. Gustave allegedly gave him
two hunting rifles, one of which was used to hunt wild boar. This
gun's sight had been replaced by half of a one-franc coin, which
Gustave had welded into place.
When Morin was shown the photograph
of the US M1, he did not recognise the carbine with no loading
mechanism that Gustave had shown him – the latter was different
from the US M1, which did have a loading mechanism. At this stage
of the investigation, Dr Morin's testimony was considered vague
and was not taken on board.
On 30 November, Paul Maillet was expelled from the Communist Party
by local secretary Roger Autheville for "collaborating with the
police". Autheville was a former FTP boss and a friend of
On 4 December, Professor Ollivier filed a new expert report about
the lubrication of the Springfield weapon seized from Aimé Perrin.
The spectrum of this gun's lubricant was very different from that
of the Rock-Ola.
On 20 January 1953, Superintendent Sébeille officially took charge
of the investigation. He was warned not to make any ill-advised
statements to the press.
Paul Maillet told the local police in Forcalquier on 23 January,
followed by Superintendent Sébeille on 27 January, that Gustave
Dominici had viewed the Drummonds' murders from the alfalfa field.
On 27 January, Aimé Perrin learned from Sébeille that Gustave and
Yvette had seen a mysterious woman dressed in black on the evening
of 4 August 1952 standing by the Drummonds' car. Yvette allegedly
informed Perrin of this when they met on the morning of 5 August,
and claimed that Clotilde Araman, a member of the Dominici family,
also knew of this.
On 14 February, Clotilde Araman confirmed this
under questioning, and claimed that she had also been informed of
the sighting by Yvette. However, she also reported that Gustave
denied having seen the woman. Clotilde believed the woman could
have been Marie Dominici, but the police did not believe this, as
Gustave would not have failed to recognise his own mother.
On 29 January, Roger Perrin Jr, Gaston Dominici's grandson,
repeated this story to Superintendent Sébeille, before telling the
same account to the local police in Forcalquier the following day.
On 2 February, Superintendent Sébeille questioned Officer Bouchier
from Forcalquier. Bouchier claimed to have seen Roger Perrin pass
by on his bicycle at around 8 am on 5 August 1952.
insisted that he saw Roger return a few minutes later on foot with
his bicycle in his hand, accompanied by his grandfather (Gaston)
and Gustave, all three of whom had left the farm to go to where
the Drummonds were camped. Despite this account seeming
insignificant, Gaston and Gustave jointly contested it in front of
Judge Batigne on 19 November 1955. Questions were asked as to why
they were so determined to hide the fact that they had left the
In his first statement to the court, Gaston claimed
that Gustave had informed him of the murders, but as Roger's
version threatened Faustin Roure's testimony, Gaston and Gustave
issued denials. Roger had stuck to his version since telling
Sébeille of it on 29 January 1953. The investigation's waters were
muddied by Roger's return to the farm at around 7.45 am and by the
confusion regarding who owned the bicycled used by Roger.
reported that he had asked Roger to hold a measuring rod. Gaston
was furious at this request and sent Roger back to the farm. Roger
only grudgingly obeyed, staying at the scene for a minute or two
before returning to the farm with his grandfather; they both
returned to the scene at around 11 am. Gaston therefore brought
his grandson to Prosecutor Sabatier, though Gaston fiercely denied
this at his trial.
On 19 March 1953, Captain Albert took witness statements from
Officer Émile Marque from the local police in Valensole, a town a
short distance south of the crime scene. He reported that he saw
the Drummonds arrive at the Hôtel l'Ermitage at around 6.15 pm on
4 August 1952 and leave about an hour later.
Marque claimed that
an hour after the Drummonds left the hotel, another British couple
arrived, the woman of whom was dressed in black. The man asked
Marque if he had seen an English car. Marque replied that he had,
upon which the man went into the hotel to use make a telephone
call, while the woman stayed by the car. The couple left about 15
This is the second time that a woman dressed in
black had been mentioned during the investigation. Even though
this testimony was provided by a police officer, the statement was
given little credence due to how long Marque had waited before
reporting it, and it was not retained by the investigators.
Officer Marque was not called to court as a witness.
On 3 May, Superintendent Constant provided his final report to
Chief Superintendent Harzic. He went out of his way to make the
point that the local communists had been entirely cooperative with
the investigators. The Basse-Alpes branch of the Communist Party
organised committees dedicated to defending the Dominicis around
August 1953 and scheduled an anti-police protest for the beginning
of September 1953. Both of these initiatives had been prohibited
by prefectural order (a decree issued by the prefect of the
On 7 May 1953 in Digne-les-Bains, Roger Perrin (who had by that
time been working as a butcher there for a while) informed
Superintendent Sébeille of the existence of a canvas water bucket
that the Drummonds had used to bring water to the farm. The
following day, Roger's mother Germaine – in whom Yvette had also
confided – confirmed to Sébeille that the Drummonds had come to
Furthermore, the Drummonds' money, as well as a few of
their personal items, including a camera, were not present at the
crime scene and have never been found.
On 13 May 1953, Superintendent Sébeille travelled to Marseille to
take a witness statement from Jean Ricard, who had been camping on
the night of the murders in Ganagoble, a village located on a
plateau above the west bank of the river near the crime scene.
Ricard stated that he passed the crime scene at around 7 am on 5
August 1952 and saw Lady Anne Drummond lying on her back parallel
to the left-hand side of the car, with her feet facing south
towards the farm, and her body partially covered by a sheet down
to her lower legs.
However, when Officers Romanet and Bouchier –
accompanied by Aimé Perrin, whom they had met on route – came
across her body at 7.30 am, she was lying on her front, entirely
covered by the sheet, and in a diagonal position in relation to
the car and several metres away from it, with her feet facing
north-east towards the river. Gaston Dominici could not have moved
her body, as he had returned to the farm at 7.45 am, herding his
goats, who had been grazing since sunrise in Giropey, 2 kilometres
to the south.
On 21 August 1953, Superintendent Sébeille took a new statement
from Jean-Marie Olivier, as his original statement provided on 5
August 1952 had only been noted partially by Officer Gibert in
Oraison. Olivier had spoken to Captain Albert, who had directed
him to Officer Gibert. Olivier had told Gibert that the Yvette and
Marie Dominici were at the entrance to the farm, watching Gustave.
Olivier's new statement also revealed the following information:
The man seen on four occasions roaming the
area between 11.15 pm and 12.20 am (unless this was several
different people) resembled neither Sir Jack Drummond nor Gaston
Dominici: Gaston had been seen in the company of an unknown man
between 11.30 pm and midnight; Marcel Chaillan was probably the
unknown man seen by the Duc brothers at 12.20 am. In addition,
'Jo' had been seen at the farm in early September.
Statements from various members of the
Dominici family regarding the number of gunshots were
inconsistent: Gaston's statement agreed with Roger Roche's,
while Gustave's and Yvette's agreed with Raymond Franco's.
Gaston and/or Gustave altered the crime scene
several times shortly after the murders. At the very least,
Gustave did so at around 4 am, as Gaston could not have done so
as he had left for Giropey with his goats by that time.
Gustave refused to admit that he had been
present at the crime scene, despite being surprised there by
Olivier passing on his motorcycle.
Gustave mentioned several bodies, rather than
only that of Elizabeth Drummond on the embankment by the river.
However, Gustave claimed to have only been referring to
Elizabeth's body, and claimed that she was dead, although he
knew that she was in fact still alive.
Marie and Yvette Dominici stayed on the
lookout at the entrance to the farm: they therefore knew that
Gustave was doing something at the crime scene.
Therefore, the Dominicis intended neither to
save Elizabeth Drummond nor to raise the alarm. According to the
prosecution, the reason for this was obvious: they had to allow
Gustave time to change the crime scene again, since Jean Ricard
had passed it shortly after 7 am.
Gustave had therefore been lying repeatedly
since he was first questioned on 6 August 1952.
Lie after lie
When Roger Perrin was questioned by the police about his movements
on the morning of 5 August 1952, he told them that he got up at 5
am to tend to his cattle, then left for Peyruis at 6 am to fetch a
bottle of milk from an elderly local man named Mr Puissant.
claimed that Mr Puissant told him that Puissant’s friend, Jean
Galizzi, had accidentally taken the bottle of milk to
Pont-Bernard, where he then learnt of the murders. Galizzi
confirmed this account when he was questioned. However, when the
police went to Peyruis to visit Puissant to confirm this story,
they found that Puissant had died in November 1951.
was re-questioned about this, he admitted having made up his
testimony. According to Daniel Garcin, Galizzi’s employer, Galizzi
spent the night of 4 to 5 August at La Cassine, a farm located
beyond Peyruis (in relation to the murder scene) and that the
Perrin family had just become tenant farmers there.
Roger Perrin then changed his story: it was Faustin Roure, who led
the team of platelayers at Lurs railway station, who had informed
him of the murders when he stopped by at the Perrins’ farm. When
Roure was subsequently questioned, he denied this, though he later
admitted in the witness box at the murder trial that Perrin’s
account was indeed true.
When Perrin was asked how he had arrived at the crime scene, he
claimed that he had used a racing bike belonging to his cousin
Gilbert (Clovis Dominici’s son). When Clovis was asked about this,
he said that he only lent the bicycle to his son on 18 August
However, the police officers saw only Gustave Dominici’s
bicycle (and no others) by the wall on the morning after the
murders. Roger Perrin later claimed to have borrowed his mother
Germaine’s bicycle – but Germaine spent the night of 4 to 5 August
at La Cassine and Roger claimed to have slept alone at La Serre,
the Perrin family farm.
Astonished by Perrin’s various lies and contradictions, the police
questioned him about his movements on the night preceding the
murders. He claimed that he had gone to the hamlet of Saint-Pons,
about 1 km north of the Dominici farm, to water apricot plants and
chat with Paul Delclite, who worked on a neighbouring allotment.
When Delclite was questioned to verify Perrin’s story, he denied
having met Perrin.
Re-questioned about this, Perrin provided a new
alibi: his mother Germaine Perrin (née Dominici) had helped him
water his plants. His mother confirmed this. However, Roger forgot
that he had stated to Superintendent Constant on 23 September 1952
that his mother had left on her bicycle to join her husband at La
Cassine, north of Peyruis, on 4 August at 2 pm.
Despite Perrin’s chain of lies, Superintendent Sébeille considered
him a harmless young braggart. Perrin lied on ‘only’ three points:
his presence at the Grand’Terre on the night of the murders; how
he learned of the murders; and which bicycle he had used to arrive
at the crime scene on the morning of 5 August when Officer
Bouchier saw him arrive at 8 am.
On the morning of 12 November 1953, a police reconstruction was
held at the crime scene. Participating were Marcel Boyer, Faustin
Roure and Clovis Dominici. Dr Dragon and motorcyclist Jean-Marie
Olivier were also present.
The first part of the reconstruction
concerned the exact location of Lady Anne Drummond’s body: the
first three witnesses agreed that she had been lying parallel to
the left of the car, but Jean Ricard (a tourist who had passed the
crime scene on foot between 6.50 and 7 am) claimed she was covered
by a sheet from her knees up, while the other two witnesses
claimed that she was totally uncovered.
Clovis Dominici claimed
that Lady Anne’s body had been lying in a diagonal position 6
metres away from the car, but he later changed this story and
admitted that she had indeed been lying on her back parallel to
Gustave Dominici was then questioned: he claimed that he
reluctantly placed the sheet at an angle a certain distance away
from the car. He was confused by the other witness statements and
was unsure of the exact spot from which he had hailed Jean-Marie
Olivier when he was riding past on his motorcycle at around 6 am.
Gustave was brought before the court in Digne-les-Bains on
suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice due to
his lies. Ricard, Roure, Clovis Dominici, Pailler, and Germaine
and Roger Perrin were later brought before the court. Contrary to
Superintendent Sébeille’s later claims, he had always considered
Gustave Dominici the prime suspect. During this round of
questioning, Gaston Dominici remained at the family farm and the
police did not seek to question him.
When Gustave was confronted by Maillet and Olivier’s statements,
he initially denied the facts, before eventually admitting that
both men’s accounts were true. Roger Perrin then resisted the
investigators’ efforts and became arrogant towards his uncle – his
questioning at this time therefore yielded no answers.
Dominici admitted that the Drummonds had come to the farm, but
said he was not there at the time. He claimed to have found
Elizabeth Drummond, severely injured but still alive, at 4 am. He
claimed that he only discovered the bodies of her parents at 5.45,
after having tended to his cattle. He said that he did not
interfere with Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond’s bodies or the
sheet, and that therefore someone else must have done so.
Questioning was suspended at 7 pm and resumed at 8.30 pm.
then admitted to moving Lady Anne Drummond’s body without
providing a credible explanation why: he claimed that he had been
looking for cartridge cases. Gustave ended his questioning by
admitting: “I was looking for the bullets or cases. I was scared
that they would be found close to the house.” This statement
implies that other ammunition scattered around the location did
not originate from the farm.
Gustave's explanation is all the more
improbable as he claimed to have seen two cases and two cartridges
grouped together in pairs – which would suggest that the scene was
staged – while also claiming that he did not touch them, yet four
cases were missing.
Gustave added that he was disturbed by Jean Ricard's unexpected
arrival and that he didn't have time to hide in the gorge at the
end of the embankment. Gustave was not challenged about other
aspects of the crime scene that the police believed may have been
staged, such as Lady Anne's sandals, which were hidden underneath
a cushion on the small footpath leading off diagonally from the
car towards the railway, or the sheet wedged underneath her body
(which was a different sheet from the one that had covered her
body at some point earlier in the morning).
This led the
investigators to wonder whether there had been two assailants (or
whether, at the very least, two people had moved the body), and
whether Clovis had stayed at the farm to help Gustave after the
platelayers had left.
On the morning of Friday 13 November, Judge Périès instructed the
police to bring in Germaine Perrin, her son Roger, and Yvette
Dominici for questioning. At 9.30 am, the judge questioned Yvette
about the Drummonds' arrival at the farm. Yvette denied that they
had come to the farm, even after Judge Périès told her that
Gustave had admitted that they had.
At 10 am, the judge questioned
Yvette and Roger together, without success. He then ordered for Gustave Dominici and Germaine Perrin to be brought to the
superintendent. Yvette held out against the others and refused to
make any admission.
At around 2.45 pm, Gustave broke down in tears
and accused his father Gaston of murdering the Drummonds.
Superintendent Sébeille was content to draw up a seven-line
procès-verbal (an official statement of facts with legal force),
noting Gustave's accusation without asking him any questions about
Gustave was questioned by Judge Périès at 4.30 pm. Gustave claimed
that on the night of the murders, he was awoken by gunshots and
was unable to go back to sleep. At around 4 am, he heard his
father get up, and he then joined his father in the kitchen
(doubts later arose as to how this could be true when Gustave
never heard Gaston return home after the gunshots took place,
despite being awake from this time onwards).
Gaston allegedly told Gustave that he had fired the gunshots using a carbine that he had
hidden, either in his bedroom or in the farm's sheep pen. It is
still unknown how the gun was hidden again (it was later found by
Gustave claimed that he was unaware of the existence of
the carbine. Gustave then stated that Gaston left to hunt rabbits
with a war weapon and on his return, admitted to Gustave that he
had murdered the Drummonds. Gaston allegedly told Gustave that he
had shot Sir Jack first, followed by Lady Anne. Notably, he did
not admit to his son that he had killed Elizabeth. Gaston then
allegedly got rid of the weapon, but did not tell Gustave where or
how he had done so.
Gustave stated that his father had knocked
Elizabeth unconscious at the foot of the bridge, whereas he had
previously denied knowing where Elizabeth's body was located.
Gustave claimed that upon hearing his father's admission, he went
to the crime scene and found that Elizabeth was still alive
(forensic scientists consulted by Superintendent Constant in
October 1952 stated that due to her injuries, Elizabeth could not
have survived for longer than an hour after the attack).
claimed that he then went back to the camp bed and saw the bodies
of Sir Jack and Lady Anne Drummond. He asserted that the parents'
bodies were covered but Elizabeth's was not.
Gustave then returned
to the farm between 4.30 and 4.45 pm and told Yvette and Marie –
who were doing chores in the farm's courtyard – that Elizabeth was
still alive and struggling. This account of events is improbable:
if Gustave took only 10 or 15 minutes to leave the farm and find
the bodies, geography dictates that Gaston – who had been driving
his herd of goats towards Giropey – must have crossed paths with
the women in the courtyard, who had been up and about far earlier
than they usually were.
Gustave continued his statement by
claiming that he tended to his cattle before returning to the
crime scene to search for anything that might belong to his
father. He said he saw the cartridge cases but did not touch them.
It was at that point that motorcyclist Jean-Marie Olivier came
upon the scene, about an hour and a half after the bodies were
discovered. The investigators saw no reason to doubt Olivier’s
Gustave’s suspected untruthful account continued,
claiming that his father told him to shut up when several people
(including Clovis and Maillet) gained knowledge that the police
were beginning to suspect Gaston several weeks later.
Gaston Dominici is accused and confesses
Gaston Dominci’s sons, Gustave and Clovis, accused their father of
the murders on 13 November 1953. In return, Gaston accused them of
concocting a plot against him, and he claimed during the second
inquiry in 1955 that his son Gustave and Roger Perrin were
responsible for the murders.
Gaston arrived in Digne-les-Bains at around 7 pm on 13 November
1953, escorted by Gendarmerie Commander Bernier. According to
official sources, he was questioned until 10.30 pm, although other
sources claim that he was questioned through the night.
In the mid-morning of 14 November 1953, Gustave and Clovis, who
had been taken to the Grand'Terre by the police, showed them where
the US M1 carbine had been kept: on a shelf in a shed. This
revelation was preceded by a brawl between law enforcement and the
Dominici women and girls, who were eventually held in an
Gaston Dominici was questioned until 6 pm on 14 November, but no
progress was made with the investigation. His custody was the
responsibility of Custody Officer Guérino. At 7 pm, Gaston
confided in Guérino that he was responsible for the murders, but
stated that it had been an accident: the Drummonds had attacked
him, thinking he was a mugger. Gaston asked Guérino to go and find
Superintendent Prudhomme of the Digne-les-Bains police, whom he
considered the legitimate law-enforcement leader – he refused to
make any admission to Superintendent Sébeille.
When Guérino finished his shift at 8 pm and handed over to his
colleague Bocca, Guérino immediately went to inform his boss,
while Gaston changed his story when he began confessing to Bocca.
When Prudhomme arrived, Gaston asked him to draw up "the document
that says I'm guilty", all the while proclaiming his innocence and
claiming that he was sacrificing himself to protect his
grandchildren. Irritated, Prudhomme responded that the situation
could not be treated like a negotiation at a market: either he was
guilty or he wasn’t. Superintendent Prudhomme did not ask which
grandchildren Gaston meant, i.e. all of them, only Gustave’s or
only Germaine Perrin’s.
In light of Gaston’s difficulties in
expressing himself, Prudhomme suggested to him that the crime was
sexually motivated. Following this tactic, Gaston changed his
initial account and stated that the murders were triggered by his
sexual attraction to Lady Anne Drummond.
Later that night, Gaston repeated his statement to Superintendent
Sébeille while Prudhomme noted it down. Gaston claimed to have
seen Lady Anne Drummond getting undressed and decided to invite
her to have sexual relations with him, which she accepted. The
noise of their lovemaking then woke Sir Jack Drummond. A fight
resulted, and Gaston consequently shot Sir Jack three times –
twice to his front – before shooting Lady Anne either once or
twice. Elizabeth fled towards the bridge but Gaston caught up with
her at the riverbank and knocked her unconscious with a single
Gaston's confession and sexual motive contradicted the autopsy
results: Lady Anne Drummond’s body was entirely clothed, and her
dress had been pierced by the bullets. Furthermore, the autopsy
showed that she had not been involved in sexual intercourse
immediately before her death.
On the morning of 15 November, Judge Périès arrived at work early
and was unaware of Gaston’s confession. Giraud, the building’s
caretaker, informed Judge Périès upon his arrival, since Sébeille
had already not done so. Rather than having Gaston brought to him
for questioning, Périès interrogated Giraud until 9.15 am.
Sébeille arrived at 9.30 am and went straight to where Gaston was
being held. At 10.15 am, Sébeille presented Gaston to Périès.
Gaston protested his innocence and accused Gustave of being the
real murderer. At this point, Périès withdrew to discuss with his
At 11.15 am, Périès returned to speak to Gaston, who had now
agreed to admit to being the sole perpetrator. He claimed that it
was the first time that he had used the US M1 and that he had
taken it with him hunting just in case he came across a badger or
a rabbit. Périès did not ask Gaston why he had opted to take a war
weapon when he also owned various hunting rifles.
In addition, Gaston claimed that the US M1’s
magazine was full, thus containing 15 cartridges, and that he had
also taken another two or three cartridges that were lying around
on the shelf. Six shots had been fired from the US M1, and two
full cartridges and two empty cartridge cases were found at the
crime scene. This meant that about 12 cartridges were missing, as
the magazine was found empty.
Gaston maintained that he had been using the weapon for the first
time and did not know how to operate it properly, as it was
semi-automatic. Those who believe in his innocence have asked how
he could have been able to kill two alert adults and then shoot
Elizabeth from 60 metres away while she was running (Elizabeth
sustained a gunshot wound to her right ear). Although there had
been a clear sky and full moon on the night of the murders, Gaston
was short-sighted and did not wear glasses. Périès did not ask
these questions, while Sébeille showed a lack of interest in the
technical matters relating to the ballistics.
In a book that he
wrote later, Sébeille admitted that he never consulted the
Drummonds’ autopsy reports. What mattered to him was the
confession (which he acknowledged had inconsistencies), rather
than material elements that weakened Gaston’s various confessions.
For their part, Prosecutor Sabatier and Judge Périès simply
followed Superintendent Sébeille, rather than giving him
In the afternoon of 15 November 1953, Judge Périès discussed for
the first time a pair of trousers belonging to Gaston, which
Inspector Girolami had been seen drying on the Dominicis’ trellis
in the late afternoon of 5 August 1952. Inspector Girolami
confirmed this in writing to the investigators leading the second
inquiry on 24 August 1955.
Sir Jack Cecil Drummond FRIC, FRS (12
January 1891 – 4 August 1952 or 5 August 1952) was a distinguished
biochemist, noted for his work on nutrition as applied to the
British diet under rationing during the Second World War. He was
murdered, together with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, on the
night of 4 August 1952 to 5 August 1952 near Lurs, a village or
commune in the Basses-Alpes department (now
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) of Southern France.
Early life and family background
Jack Drummond was born in Leicester, although some sources claim
he was born in the largely working-class area of Kennington in
South London. He was the son of Colonel John Drummond of the Royal
Horse Artillery and his wife (or lover) Gertrude Drummond. John
died at age 55, only three months after Jack's birth.
Jack was adopted and raised by John's sister
Maria Spinks, who lived in nearby Charlton. Maria's husband,
George, was a retired captain quartermaster, who had seen action
in the Crimea. According to James Fergusson, life could not have
been much fun for the solitary boy in the elderly couple's home.
He attended the John Roan School in Greenwich and Strand School at
King's College London in the Strand.
Drummond's family origins remain unclear. No
birth certificate exists for him in the Family Records Office. His
father John, the major, describes himself as a bachelor in his
will, which makes no mention of a son.
In the 1891 census, Jack's name was given as
Cecil, his mother's as Gertrude Drummond, and her age as 29. It is
not known what happened to Gertrude or whether she was married to
John. In the 1901 census, his name is recorded as Jack Cecil
Spinks, taking his adoptive mother's surname. It is likely that as
a boy Jack used the surname Spinks to avoid social embarrassment
to his adoptive parents, but reverted to the surname Drummond
sometime during his teens.
On 17 July 1915 Drummond married Mable Helen Straw, who had also
been an undergraduate at East London College. Their marriage
lasted 24 years until in 1939 it broke up because of Drummond's
affair with his secretary and co-author, Anne Wilbraham (born 10
Dec 1907). Jack and Anne married on 15 June 1940. Their only
child, Elizabeth, was born on 23 March 1942.
After graduating with First Class honours in chemistry in 1912 at
East London College (now Queen Mary, University of London), Jack
Drummond became a research assistant in the department of
physiology at King's College London, working under Otto Rosenheim
and the professor W.D. Halliburton. In 1914. he moved to the
Cancer Hospital Research Institute, where he worked with Casimir
Funk, who had coined the word vitamine (from vital amine). This
was when Drummond first became interested in nutrition.
In 1917, Halliburton invited Drummond to join him in experimental
work on substitutes for butter and margarine. As a result of this
work, fat-soluble vitamins became one of his major fields of
interest. It also led him to the study of practical problems of
human nutrition and, in 1918, he published a paper in The Lancet
on infant feeding.
In 1919, he moved to University College London (UCL) to work on
physiological chemistry, the precursor to modern biochemistry. In
1920, he proposed that the "vital substances" discovered by Elmer
Verner McCollum and by Casimir Funk should be called Vitamins A
and B respectively, to contrast them with his proposed anti-scurvy
factor, Vitamin C. He also dropped the final "e" from Funk's
designation, because not all vitamins contain an amine group.
In 1922 at the early age of 31, he became the
first Professor of
Biochemistry at UCL and held that position until 1945 (in absentia
from 1939). He was also Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences
from 1929 to 1932.
In the 1930s, he succeeded in isolating pure
vitamin A. Also
in the 1930s, he became increasingly aware of the need to apply
the new science of nutrition in practice. This awareness, combined
with his interest in gastronomy, led him to study the English diet
over the previous 500 years. He published the results of this
study as the book—co-authored with his future second wife Anne
Wilbraham—The Englishman's Food: A History of Five Centuries of
English Diet in 1939.
The Ministry of Food consulted him on the gas contamination of
food at the outbreak of war and, on 16 October 1939, appointed him
chief adviser on food contamination. Drummond interested himself
in the various scientific aspects of the ministry's work and urged
the creation of a co-ordinating unit within the ministry with a
scientific liaison officer in charge.
On 1 February 1940, he was appointed Scientific Adviser to the
Ministry of Food. When Lord Woolton became Minister of Food in
April 1940, Drummond produced a plan for the distribution of food
based on "sound nutritional principles". He recognised that
rationing was the perfect opportunity to attack what he called
"dietetic ignorance" and that, if successful, he would be able not
just to maintain but to improve the nation's health.
Thanks to Drummond's advice, the effect of rationing was to
introduce more protein and vitamins to the diet of the poorest in
society, while the better off were obliged to cut their
consumption of meat, fats, sugar, and eggs. Follow-up studies
after the war showed that, despite rationing and the stresses of
war, the population's health had improved. Drummond was Fullerian
Professor of Physiology and Comparative Anatomy at the Royal
Institution from 1941 to 1944. He was elected Fellow of the Royal
Society on 16 March 1944 and was knighted in the same year.
In 1944, Drummond became an adviser on nutrition to Supreme
Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force and in 1945 to the allied
control commissions for Germany and Austria. Also in 1945, he
joined Boots Pure Drug Company as Director of Research, but
remained seconded to the Ministry of Food until 1946.
Drummond's career move to Boots at Nottingham was surprising to
many of his former colleagues. It was also surprising that a man
who had publicly advocated the exhaustive testing of new
agrochemicals should have been responsible for the development of
possibly harmful products such as Cornox, based on Dichlorprop,
one of the chlorine-based phenoxy family of hormone weed-killers
descended from ICI's wartime invention MCPA. Concerns about the
lack of data on the toxicity of Dichlorprop led to its withdrawal
from the UK market in 2003.
On the other hand, Drummond's successor as Boots's director of
research, Gordon Hobday, described Drummond as "an altruist" who
had committed substantial research resources into cures for
tropical diseases. Hobday had quickly cancelled this research,
saying "there was never any money in it."
On the evening of 4 August 1952, while on holiday in France in
their green Hillman estate car, the Drummonds stopped by the side
of the N96 main road, less than 200 metres from a farmhouse called
La Grand'Terre. The site is marked by a milestone as exactly 6 km
south of Peyruis and 6 km north of La Brillanne. A footpath leads
from the site down to the banks of the river Durance.
La Grand'Terre was the home of the Dominicis, a family of
Franco-Italian peasant farmers: the patriarch Gaston, his wife
Marie, their son Gustave, Gustave's wife Yvette, and their baby
son Alain. It was Gustave who claimed to have found the three dead
bodies around 5:30am on the morning of 5 August, and who flagged
down a passing motorcyclist, Jean-Marie Olivier, telling him to
fetch the police.
Anne's body was found near the car. Jack's lay on the other side
of the N96, covered by a camp bed. They had both been shot by a
Rock-Ola M1 carbine. The body of 10-year-old Elizabeth was found
77 metres away, down the path leading to the river, on the other
side of the bridge over the railway. Her head had been brutally
smashed in by the stock of the rifle. The barrel of the murder
weapon was soon found in the river, with the stock a short
distance downstream. It is likely that the force of the blow or
blows used to kill Elizabeth had also broken the stock off the
The Drummonds are buried in the cemetery of the tourist town of
Forcalquier, about 25 km east of Lurs. Near the stone bridge over
the railway, a cross with children's votive offerings marks the
spot where Elizabeth's body was found.
Gaston Dominici was convicted of the murders in November 1954 and
sentenced to death by guillotine. However, both the police
investigation and the conduct of the trial had been widely
criticised and, after two inconclusive inquiries, President René
Coty commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.
succeeded in 1959 by President Charles de Gaulle, who ordered Dominici's release on humanitarian grounds, but did not pardon
him, nor grant his request for a retrial. Alain Dominici, a baby
at the time of the murders, has spent a lifetime campaigning for
the innocence of his grandfather.
The murders remain a subject of hot dispute to this day in France,
where they are referred to as L'affaire Dominici (French), the
name of a 1973 film by Claude Bernard-Aubert. Earlier in 1955,
Orson Welles created a documentary for British television.
Awards and honours
1918 D.Sc. from University of London
1944 elected FRS
1946 Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of Orange-Nassau
1946 elected Honorary Member of the New York Academy of Sciences
1947 Lasker Group Award of the APHA
1948 honorary doctorate from University of Paris
United States Medal of Freedom with Silver Palms
The Dominici affair: Unsolved riddles still
plague eerily similar killings of another British family 60 years
Stilll a mystery around the murders of
scientist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife and their young daughter in
the same region of France
October 7, 2012
As cops probe the al-Hilli family massacre in
France, unsolved riddles still plague the eerily similar killings
of another British family there 60 years ago.
The world has been gripped for a month by the
savage machine-gun attack that wiped out UK citizen and space
engineer Saad al-Hilli, his wife and mother-in-law and left a
daughter fighting for life.
But after 60 years there is still a mystery
around the murders of scientist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife and
their young daughter in the same region.
An illiterate 75-year-old farmer was convicted
of the 1952 slayings.
Gaston Dominici was spared the death penalty
and eventually freed on health grounds after eight years in jail.
But there have always been grave doubts about
the Dominici affair.
As in the al-Hilli case, there was intense
speculation Sir Jack, 61, may have been targeted because of his
scientific work for the Government. One theory even links him to
the chemical weapon Agent Orange, used by the US in Vietnam.
The Drummonds, from Nottingham, were on a
camping holiday when they were attacked as they slept in a tent
near Lurs, Provence – a town 170 miles from where the al-Hillis
died at Annecy four and a half weeks ago.
Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Ikbal, 47, her mum
Suhaila, 74, and the couple’s kids Zainab, seven, and Zeena, four,
were also on a camping trip.
Sir Jack and wife Ann were shot dead and their
10-year-old daughter Elizabeth was beaten to death with a rifle
Zainab, seven, survived similar brutality –
while Zeena, four, escaped by hiding under the bodies of her
parents and grandmother in their car.
Whatever monster slaughtered the Drummonds did
it with an M1 carbine, widely used by the US in the Second World
War. But this was one of only 3.7 per cent manufactured by Rock-Ola,
better know for producing jukeboxes.
The al-Hillis are believed to have been shot
with a Skorpion sub-machinegun, a 1960s Czech-designed firearm
still issued to security forces in parts of Europe, Africa and the
Middle East today.
Both versatile weapons would appeal to someone
who was interested in military kit and who would enjoy leafing
through gun magazines – such as a hitman.
Dominici’s grandson Alain blamed Kremlin agents
because of Sir Jack’s work for the West in biochemicals.
The official investigation says the Dominics
were the only witnesses.
Gaston and his son Gustave told police they
heard seven shots in the night and assumed it was poachers. The
Skorpion can be set to fire single or multiple shots when the
trigger is pulled.
The bodies of the Drummonds were found at dawn
near their Hillman estate car. Gustave told police he came across
little Elizabeth’s body first.
But a neighbour later claimed Gustave told him
Elizabeth was still alive when he stumbled on the scene of
carnage. Gaston’s nephew said he had seen Ann and Elizabeth call
at the farm the previous evening asking to fill a water bucket.
But the Dominicis made sworn statements that
they had no direct contact with the Drummonds at any time.
Gustave and his brother Clovis claimed they
heard their father said he admitted having “killed the English”.
Gaston went on to make an apparently drunken
confession but he later withdrew it. Gustave took back his claims
Police chief Edmond Sébeille accused locals of
hindering him with “a wall of silence”. In November 1954 Gaston
was found guilty of the murders.
His sentence was death by guillotine. The
penalty was commuted to life in jail and in 1960 President
Charles de Gaulle ordered Gaston to be freed.
But he was never pardoned or given a retrial,
which he requested.
Conspiracy theories thrived and analysts said
Sir Jack could have picked the camping location because he had
arranged a meeting there. Similar ideas have been mooted about
the al-Hillis. Sir Jack, possibly working for MI6, might have
gone to see someone who had lured him by promising industrial
The contact, in fact an enemy agent, then
murdered the family.
Author James Fergusson found a report by a
traffic cop that another car with British number plates pulled up
at a hotel where the Drummonds stopped for dinner an hour before.
The driver asked the officer if he had seen an
English car earlier. He was told which way the Hillman went.
The driver, with a woman in black, went into
the hotel and 15 minutes later sprinted out, leapt in the car and
sped off in the direction the Drummonds took. The couple have
never been traced.
In the al-Hilli case there was a report of a
mystery green 4x4 and a Peugeot driver with “jet black hair” near
the crime scene.
Sir Jack pitched his tent beside a busy road
near a chemical plant run by Rhône-Poulenc, who made components
for what became Agent Orange.
Mr Fergusson said: “Sir Jack was an experienced
camper and wouldn’t have chosen to stop by such a busy road with a
chlorine factory nearby.
“So I think he had arranged some sort of
rendezvous with someone from the chemical works.”
Amateur historian Raymond Badin, who also
investigated the case, said: “I don’t think Gaston was the killer.
“He was a pawn in the secret battle between
the Eastern bloc and the West over their leading scientists. I am
almost certain Drummond was a spy.”
One report by a senior French police officer
gave the opinion it was “an episode in the secret struggle
between pharmaceutical corporations”.
Sir Jack worked for Rhône-Poulenc’s British
rival Boots, who at the time were at the forefront in the
development of fertilisers and weedkillers.
Chemicals produced could also have a military
use – devastatingly in the case of Agent Orange in Asia.
Mr Fergusson says some Rhône-Poulenc products
were closely related to the chlorinated herbicides Sir Jack was
helping Boots develop.
The author says during the Second World War
Britain asked Sir Jack to contribute to secret biological weapons
research. He looked at food that was exposed to poison gas to
test if it was safe to eat. In 1997 a book by William Reymond
claimed Sir Jack was a British spy killed by the Soviets. He said
French, German and even UK intelligence knew all along.
Gaston Dominici always protested his
innocence and died in 1965.
In the al-Hilli case, detectives have revealed
that before leaving for France Saad changed the locks on their
house in Claygate, Surrey, possibly to keep out his estranged
The two were reported to be in dispute over
inheritances from their wealthy father, who died last year.
It is thought Zaid, 52, wants the house sold so
he can have his share in cash, estimated at £500,000.
Zaid has spoken to police on a number of
occasions to deny he was in dispute with his brother.
In another development Dario Zanni, a Swiss
investigating judge appointed by the French, suggested Saad had
visited Geneva – 30 miles from the scene of the killings – where
he had access to a Swiss bank account with a “sizeable amount of
Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said: “We are
investigating everything in Saad’s past, which will take time.”
Fifty years ago, an English scientist and his wife
and daughter were murdered in a remote corner of Provence. A 75-year-old
peasant farmer was convicted of the killings. A battle to clear his name
has been fought ever since. Now, at last, it may succeed.
By Alix Kirsta - The Guardian
Saturday 17 April 2004
The apparently random murder in August 1952 of
the eminent British scientist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife Anne and
their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth during a holiday in Provence
remains one of the most intractable crimes of the 20th century. In
France, many consider the outcome of the case was a major
miscarriage of justice.
For five decades, L'Affaire Dominici - named
after the alleged killer - has inspired articles, books, films,
documentaries and websites. Now, as new theories about the crime
continue to make headlines and gossip, the true identity of the
killer may finally be established.
Police, alerted by a passerby, arrived at the murder
scene at about 7am on August 5 1952. Sir Jack and Lady Drummond had been
shot repeatedly as they camped overnight in a layby off a main road in
the river Durance valley: he had tried to escape, and his body lay on
the other side of the road from that of his wife, who had been gunned
down beside their Hillman estate. Their daughter, who had probably tried
to flee her attacker, too, was found bludgeoned to death farther away on
the riverbank. There were no signs of a struggle. Neither Lady Drummond
nor Elizabeth had been sexually assaulted and, although the contents of
the car were disordered, little had been taken. Police found nothing to
suggest who might have carried out the massacre, or why.
Nevertheless, a 77-year-old peasant, Gaston Dominici,
was tried, convicted and sentenced to execution by guillotine. Half a
century later, an unprecedented 12 million viewers -a fifth of the
population - watched a two-part TV film last November, based on a recent
book that not only claims Dominici was framed, but also identifies the
Since then, thousands have signed a petition
demanding a review of the case, and France's highest court of justice,
the Garde des Sceaux, is soon expected to announce whether a new appeal
by the Dominici family, to clear Gaston's name, has been granted. A 224-page
"open letter" to President Chirac, it has also been published as a book
by Gaston's grandson, Alain, and author William Reymond. Lettre Ouverte
Pour La Révision makes plain their contention that Gaston's conviction
was the result of bungled police procedures and a skewed trial.
Suspicion fell immediately on Gaston Dominici, a
farmer living close to the crime scene, and on one of his sons, who
first discovered the bodies. Gaston eventually admitted committing the
triple murder, after being accused by two of his sons, but he later
retracted his confession, which he claimed to have made solely to
protect others in his family. He was brought to trial and, though
subsequently reprieved, became the oldest Frenchman to face execution.
Meanwhile, a second possible explanation for the
murders was inexplicably dismissed by investigators. This involved a
gang of four violent criminals based in Germany, one of whom confessed
in turn to German, French and British police to participating in the
killings while en route to Marseille to carry out a robbery.
Sir Jack Drummond was a prominent scientist and news
of the murders, which made headlines in Britain, shocked many
politicians and academics who had worked with him. His pioneering
studies into nutrition as a professor at University College London had
led to his appointment as chief scientific adviser to the ministry of
food during the war; in 1944 he was knighted for his work ensuring that
the nation, and its troops, had a balanced diet. Two years later, he
joined Boots, in Nottingham, as director of research.
In France, police combed the entire riviera coastline
for the killer and extended their search north as far as Grenoble. The
world's press besieged the hamlet of Lurs, close to the crime scene.
Robbery was claimed to be the motive, and the discovery nearby of a
discarded American semi-automatic carbine, similar to guns acquired by
the wartime resistance or left behind by US troops during the liberation,
suggested that the murderer was a local man. Superintendent Edmond
Sebeille, from the Marseille flying squad, who was heading the
investigation, confidently announced, "The weapon comes from the
locality. It will speak and it will lead to the killer."
It had not been Sir Jack's original plan to visit
Provence that August. But a cerebral haemorrhage some months earlier had
forced him to cancel his attendance at a conference in Paris in April,
and thence an agreed family trip to the riviera to stay with an old
friend and colleague, Guy Marrian, professor of biochemistry at
Edinburgh University, who, with his wife and daughters, had a villa in
Villefranche-sur-Mer near Nice.
By July, however, Sir Jack was sufficiently recovered
to take up the invitation to spend part of August with the Marrians.
Elizabeth, the couple's only child, the centre of 61-year-old Jack's
life, was particularly excited at the prospect. Sir Jack recorded in a
note, "She is wild with joy at the idea of the trip we are going to take
to France. She already has a mass of projects and itineraries, and a
month would not be enough to visit the list of cities she has drawn up."
They left their home in Nottingham on Friday July 25
in their new Hillman, stopped off in London, then took the ferry to
Dunkirk, arriving on Monday July 28. From there, they drove to Reims and
Domrémy, where Elizabeth wanted to visit Joan of Arc's birthplace, then
Aix-les-Bains and Digne, where they spent Thursday night at the Grand
Hotel, before going on to Villefranche. In Digne, Elizabeth noticed a
poster advertising a charlottade de corso - a bullfight in which the
bull is not killed - for the coming Monday. She begged her parents that
they should come back to see it. Eventually they agreed, booked tickets
and carried on to Villefranche, where they spent the weekend with the
On Monday August 4, the Drummonds left early for
Digne, leaving at the villa their passports and most of their valuables.
After attending the corso at 4pm, they had drinks at a cafe before
saying goodbye to the manageress at the Grand Hotel. "It was very hot
today, the night will certainly be delightful. We'll camp out," Sir Jack
was heard to say on the way out. Leaving Digne at about 7pm, they took
the N96 Marseille trunk road, a slightly circuitous route back to
Villefranche that follows the Durance valley.
At about 6am on August 5, a factory worker,
Jean-Marie Olivier, driving home after a night shift along the N96, was
flagged down by a young man running out from the roadside. It was
Gustave Dominici, who lived at his father's farm nearby. "I've just seen
a dead body over there," said Gustave agitatedly, pointing towards the
river. "There were shots in the night, others may have been killed. Go
and tell the gendarmes."
Officers arriving an hour later were horrified by the
carnage. A man riddled with bullet wounds lay on a grass verge on one
side of the road, a campbed over his body. A green estate car was parked
in a clearing under a large mulberry tree just off the other side of the
road; its contents - including clothing, a child's exercise book marked
"Summer holiday" and a hurricane lamp - were in disorder. Lying face
down by the car was a middle-aged woman in a red-and-white floral dress,
covered with a blanket; she, too, had been shot several times. Pools of
blood were seeping into the ground. About 85 yards from the car, at the
end of a footbridge over a railway line, a little girl in pyjamas lay
stretched out in a copse by the river bank. Her head had been shattered
by blows and was a mass of blood. According to the autopsy, "Handling
her skull was like moving a bag of nuts. She could not have survived her
injuries for more than several minutes."
Dr Henri Dragon, who first examined the bodies,
noticed several odd features about the child's corpse. Although it
appeared that she had tried to flee her attacker, running along the
stony path towards the copse, the soles of her feet were clean and
unmarked. Had she perhaps been carried there after being murdered?
Although her parents' bodies were already in a state of rigor mortis,
Elizabeth's limbs remained more pliable, indicating, said Dragon, that
she could have died two or three hours after them. So was she kidnapped
before being murdered?
Police naturally assumed that the inhabitants of the
farm, less than 200 yards from the scene, would provide some clues.
Instead, they drew a blank. The inaptly named Grande Terre, a small, run-down
stone house on a narrow strip of land planted with olives and alfalfa,
had belonged since 1932 to 75-year-old Gaston Dominici, the mustachioed
patriarch of the 28-strong Dominici "clan". Old Gaston, who now left the
running of the farm to his son, Gustave, was a respected pillar of the
community. He and his wife Marie lived at the farm with Gustave, his
wife Yvette and baby Alain.
None of them had much to say about the night's events.
They had seen the Drummonds arriving at the layby at about 8pm and, from
the car's registration, knew they were English. By 10pm, the Dominicis
said they were all in bed, but were woken at about 1am by gunshots. The
baby awoke, and Yvette fed him before going back to sleep. Incredibly,
no one had glanced out of a window or gone to see if anything was wrong,
asserting first that they were frightened, then claiming that shots in
the night were not unusual given the number of poachers in the area.
At 5.30am, Gustave went out into a nearby field,
noticed the child's body by the river bank and ran to the road for help.
He claimed neither to have seen the other bodies nor to have gone over
to the Hillman, explaining that he was "afraid the parents had killed
their child" or "the murderer might be hiding nearby". Gaston had left
home at 5am, taking his herd of goats in the opposite direction from the
campsite; the first he knew of the crime, he said, was when Gustave and
Yvette told him about it at 8am.
At the crime scene, police committed an extraordinary
number of elementary and irremediable blunders. The Marseille CID team
was delayed by almost a day because officers were on holiday. In nearby
Nice, the flying squad was too understaffed to take on the investigation.
Arriving at Lurs after 5pm, Superintendent Sebeille failed to seal off
the area, where passersby, reporters, photographers and the Dominici
family and their friends roamed freely. Little original evidence
remained intact. Fresh footprints near the car were trampled on;
fingerprints from the car were taken after it had been touched by
onlookers; the family's possessions had been moved around. The bodies,
beginning to decompose in the fierce August heat, had already gone,
rapidly removed to the morgue for an autopsy. Two days later, the
Drummonds were buried in the local cemetery at the nearby town of
Even after Sebeille's arrival, evidence continued to
be overlooked or mislaid - to the dismay of Sir Jack's godson, Michael
Austin-Smith, who visited the scene the following day. "Mike described
it as indescribable chaos," recalls his widow, Inette Austin-Smith. "The
place was teeming with people. He was horrified at the failure of police
to restrain them."
Neither a pair of Gaston's newly washed trousers
hanging in the yard, nor a pair of Gustave's drying elsewhere, were
examined for possible traces of blood, even though police knew that the
farm's laundry was usually done elsewhere by a relative. A three-inch
clump of flesh stuck to the rear bumper of the Hillman seemed to have
been torn from Sir Jack's hand as he grabbed the car after being shot;
although set aside for forensic tests, it disappeared.
The discovery in the river of a broken stock and
barrel from a gun was hailed as a breakthrough. Covered in grease, and
therefore possibly still bearing the murderer's fingerprints, the gun
was handled by bystanders and never tested for fingerprints. A chip of
wood found near Elizabeth's body exactly fitted the splintered butt:
when shattering her head with the butt, the murderer had evidently
wielded enough force to break it. Later, Gaston insisted he had handed
another chip to police, saying he had found it by her head. This, too,
had gone missing. Even so, Sebeille triumphantly told reporters, the gun
would lead them to the killer: "The murderer isn't far away. At the
moment, the monster of Lurs is hiding in the region. He is watching and
listening to us. He won't escape."
The gun did seem to be the murder weapon. Several
spent and undischarged cartridges found near the bodies fitted it
exactly. It was a self-loading, semi-automatic US army carbine marked US-M1
Rock-Ola, but little effort was made to trace its origins. Almost every
local peasant owned a collection of similar rifles and submachine guns,
acquired during the resistance or the liberation and now used to shoot
large game. Yet none of the Dominicis claimed to own or have ever seen
No one who had driven past the scene between 11pm and
6am came up with a lead. Some had noticed the Hillman parked in the
layby, but, seeing bodies and campbeds, had assumed the campers were
asleep. Two passing lorry drivers saw a large, threatening-looking man,
possibly armed, by the roadside at about 1am, but the description led
From the outset, Sebeille was convinced someone
living at Grande Terre was involved. But, when questioned, the Dominicis
appeared uncooperative. Why did they swear that they had had no contact
with the Drummonds, even though Gaston's 17-year-old grandson claimed
the English family had called at the farm to ask for water? What made
old Gaston blurt out that Lady Drummond "died instantly" when he
supposedly knew nothing of the murders?
In the first French crime to attract huge media
coverage, the Drummond tragedy was soon eclipsed by the dark, unfolding
drama of the Dominici clan, increasingly depicted as victims of police
prejudice. Some observers argued that the family's shifty behaviour was
probably due to shock and panic, as they realised they were likely to
become suspects. Another explanation for their lies is that they
suspected each other of committing the murder.
According to the leftwing
press, the Marseille CID focused their investigation almost exclusively
on the Dominicis, partly because of the perceived Maquis "outlaw
culture" of these rural pockets of wartime resistance and partly because
of their communist sympathies. Intimidated by Sebeille, a big-town
superflic whom the press dubbed Le Maigret de Marseilles, the Dominicis
Finally, an apparent conspiracy began to unravel. In
October, another leading suspect, a close communist friend of the
Dominicis, Paul Maillet, revealed that Gustave had told him and the
family that Elizabeth was still alive when he discovered her body.
Gustave was promptly arrested, tried and sentenced to two months'
imprisonment for "failing to give assistance to a person in mortal peril".
Almost a year later, in November 1953, after lengthy interrogation of
all the Dominicis, police learned that everyone at the farm had heard
screams and gunfire at about 1am, and that Gustave had visited the
campsite several times, moving Lady Drummond's body, supposedly to see
if she was alive but, in fact, because he was searching for cartridges
in case they were from one of his father's guns.
Later, Gustave and his
elder brother Clovis independently confessed that their father had come
into the house after 1am on August 5 and said, "I have killed the
English." After two days in custody, Gaston, while chatting to a young
gendarme who was guarding him, casually admitted his guilt.
"The Monster Of Lurs Unmasked" screamed the next
day's headlines. But several aspects of Gaston's confession were wholly
implausible. He explained that it had been a tragic accident, a "crime
of passion". Late at night, he had gone outdoors and happened to take
the carbine with him. Near the Drummonds' encampment, he hid in the
shadows, watching Lady Drummond undress, and became aroused. Eventually,
he made advances to her, she responded and they began having sex, when
Sir Jack woke up and angrily confronted him.
In his statement, Gaston claimed, "I picked up the
carbine . . . the man tried to disarm me by seizing the barrel. I lost
my head and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced his hand, which
forced him to let go. He ran to the edge of the road and I fired at him
twice more. The woman was screaming, and I then fired at her once . . .
I noticed the little girl, who was running towards the river. I fired my
last bullet at her, but missed. I ran after her and I found her
kneeling. I struck her on top of the head once with the butt of the gun.
The carbine broke at the first blow."
Apart from the preposterous notion of a sexual
encounter, there were major inaccuracies in Gaston's story: no burn
marks were found on Sir Jack's hand, and his wife was hit by at least
three bullets; Elizabeth sustained not one but several blows to the
forehead; the force and angle at which she was struck indicated she was
not kneeling but lying down. There was also the mystery of the clothes:
if Gaston watched Lady Drummond undress, why was she found fully clothed?
Most disconcertingly, he seemed unfamiliar with the carbine and its
automatic action, and repeatedly mimed the unnecessary reloading of it
after each imaginary shot.
Eventually, Gaston retracted his confession, saying
that, although innocent, being old, he was prepared to sacrifice himself
to protect others - by implication Gustave - and safeguard the honour of
his grandchildren. Although Gustave also withdrew his accusation,
alleging that he had caved in under police pressure, his older brother
Clovis, who had fallen out with their father, never deviated from his
Throughout 1954, Gaston alternately confessed, then
reasserted his innocence, while prosecutors failed to come up with a
shred of hard evidence against him. He was sent for trial on November 17
in the tiny, packed courtroom of the Palais de Justice in Digne. The
prosecution case was scant, while information consistent with his
innocence was alternately withheld, poorly presented by the defence, or
peremptorily dismissed as unimportant by the judge, who seemed intent on
securing a conviction.
Eleven days later, Gaston was found guilty and
sentenced to execution by guillotine. Public outrage prompted the
ministry of justice to take the unprecedented step of appointing two
senior commissioners from the Paris Sûreté, to conduct a second inquiry.
Although Gaston continued to protest his innocence, insisting he saw
Gustave and someone else carrying Elizabeth's body across the alfalfa
field before dawn on August 5, that inquiry, yielding nothing new, ended
in 1956. In 1957, Gaston's death sentence was commuted to life with hard
labour, and in 1960 he was set free on compassionate grounds by
President de Gaulle. He died in 1965, aged 88, in a hospice in Digne.
Although Gustave and Yvette divorced, they repeatedly
appealed against Gaston's conviction, without success. Gustave, a broken
man, died in 1996, after years of alcoholism. Yvette, now 72, has become
reclusive, leaving a new generation to fight for justice.
Gustave's eldest son, now 52, assisted author William Reymond in his
research for the book Dominici Non Coupable: Les Assassins Retrouvés,
published in 1997, which first documented the extent of the miscarriage;
he still sounds bitter. "De Gaulle wouldn't have released a child-killer.
I know my grandfather was innocent, and I am proud of my name. Still,
many still believe a vice runs in our blood," he says. As a child, he
was bullied at primary school and barred from attending the lycée in
Digne. "The head told my mother, 'The name Dominici presents too many
problems.' Listen, even today, some fathers forbid their daughters to go
out with anyone called Dominici."
The open letter currently in front of the appeal
court makes disturbing reading. That both his books have been met with
outrage and disbelief is no surprise to Reymond. "What I discovered was
a huge shock . . . My belief in French justice was pure naivety," he
says as we meet in Digne near the old hilltop prison where Gaston was
once imprisoned. What appalled Reymond, a soft-spoken man in his mid-30s,
who gained access to the official file through defence lawyers, was how
much evidence had been suppressed. "There were some very precise
footprints near Elizabeth's body: they were immediately photographed,
sketched, measured. A report on August 5 by the local police chief
states that they were made by crepe-soled shoes with holes at the heel
and on the sole, and gives the exact pattern and dimensions. They were
completely different from Gaston's bigger, old hobnailed boots or
Gustave's shoes. At the trial, Superintendent Sebeille lied, saying
these footprints were too faint to be photographed."
Neither the autopsy nor the forensic report proves
that Sir Jack or Lady Drummond was killed by bullets from the Rock-Ola,
or that they were even killed by a single weapon. "The bullets were not
found. The autopsy shows different sized entry wounds, and Lady Drummond
was shot from the left and right, so there may have been more than one
killer . . . The reconstruction was like a bad Feydeau farce. I have a
film, made secretly by a reporter. The 'official' motive for the crime,
that Lady Drummond and Gaston had sex before he had a violent struggle
with the husband, is ridiculous. He walked with a cane, found it hard to
get up from the ground, wore pants without flies held up by a long cord.
How would he have handled a carbine as well?"
The prosecution's claim that Gaston shot Sir Jack as
he grasped the barrel of the gun remains unsubstantiated. "Drummond's
hand had no powder burns. The defence wanted to examine the lump of
flesh on the car bumper for powder. Sebeille claimed one of the two
doctors who carried out the autopsy lost it."
However, in 1970, Sebeille
admitted hiding the sample in a matchbox that he kept in his pocket.
Subsequently Reymond discovered a secret file kept in a local government
building next to the palace of justice. The file contained items
reportedly "lost" in the investigation: a chip from the broken butt of
the carbine; a badly crushed bullet; an undischarged cartridge; a pair
of girl's bloodstained knickers - if they were Elizabeth's, no one knows
how they became bloodstained. "The underpants were photographed but then
disappeared - during the second inquiry, Paris investigators endlessly
searched for them, to test the bloodstains, in case they were from
Gustave, whom they suspected of the murder," says Reymond.
An even darker cover-up has emerged through Reymond's
discovery, in Germany, of official documents excluded from files on the
Drummond investigation. These reveal that, soon after the murders, a
German prisoner admitted involvement in the crime which, he claimed, had
been committed by three fellow criminals, a Greek, a Spaniard and a
Swiss, who had hired him as a driver on August 4 to take them to
Marseille where they planned to rob a jeweller's store. All four were
wanted by the German police and had admitted carrying out "contract work"
for a communist organisation in Frankfurt.
In a report dated November 24 1952, sent by
Commissioner Charles Gillard to his superior, the director of criminal
affairs at the French ministry of the interior, Gillard states he had
been summoned urgently by the French Sûreté in Baden-Baden (then in the
French-controlled zone) to interrogate Wilhelm Bartkowski, arrested in
Germany on August 9 and then serving a 12-year sentence near Stuttgart
for 71 crimes, including armed robberies. Gillard enclosed Bartkowski's
statement, reporting that, in his view, it contained a number of details
about the murders that Bartkowski was unlikely to have picked up from
reports of the crime in the German press.
According to Reymond, who also has a copy of
Bartkowski's first statement, Gillard was right: "Bartkowski's three
accomplices asked him to drive them from south-west Germany to Provence.
They reached the area after dark. Although unknown to him, he described
the landscape, specific features along the N96, including its many
curves and a crossroads near Digne, and the location of Grande Terre."
He was told to pull up at the roadside after midnight. He noticed,
farther back, a faint glow, like a hurricane lamp, near a parked estate
car, and the outline of a house. The three others took their guns,
including a rifle that Bartkowski believed was a carbine, and went over
to the area. Minutes later he heard several bursts of gunfire and a
woman's or child's groans.
The three returned with all their guns - except the
carbine. Driving back to Germany, Bartkowski asked whom they had killed.
The men said only, "They are English, the man was a scientist." They
showed him their booty, including a wallet containing francs and foreign
currency. What especially impressed Bartkowski was an intricate gold
ring: on it was mounted a square watch with bevelled edges. His
meticulous description of the ring, including 15 ornately engraved
characters inside, has convinced Reymond that he was telling the truth.
"I have seen letters from Lady Drummond's mother, Constance Wilbraham,
to her French lawyers, asking for her daughter's possessions. She gave
precise descriptions of a ring identical to that described by Bartkowski."
Recently, Reymond found further evidence to
corroborate the story. A bus driver recalled that on August 4 his coach
was festooned with multicoloured lights and packed with merrymakers
returning from a local festival. At 1am on the N96, near the murder
scene, he noticed a large, light-coloured American car; beside it, a man
was urinating. "Bartkowski saw a crowded bus, with many lamps, passing
his lilac Buick, just as he went for a pee." The tall, dark, sinister-looking
man, described in 1952 by the two lorry drivers, fits the image of the
Greek member of the gang.
Given the seriousness with which German police and
Gillard regarded Bartkowski's confession, one would assume this news
would have been relayed promptly to the British authorities. But it was
not until October 8 1953 that the Foreign Office in London received an
encrypted memo marked "priority/secret" from Sir Frederick Hoyer Millar,
the UK high commissioner in Bonn, stating that a German prisoner had
been interviewed by an officer of the special investigation branch (SIB)
Bartkowski had confessed to the murder of Elizabeth Drummond,
and to being an accessory to the murder of her parents. The information
had been passed to the Home Office and, according to Sir Frederick, "the
confession may well be genuine, since it is difficult to imagine that
the criminal . . . a most cold-blooded type . . . could have invented
such a convincing story".
In April 1965, Bartkowski's three accomplices were
arrested in Germany: all admitted participation in the murders. Although
a report of their statements was forwarded to the French authorities,
again no action was taken. Bartkowski, now 78, lives in Germany, at an
address known to Reymond, but there seems little likelihood that he will
be contacted by the French authorities.
If Bartkowski's story is true, two pieces are still
missing from the puzzle. What lay behind the Dominicis' admissions and
accusations? And what was the gang's motive for the murder - was it just
an unplanned robbery, committed on a whim, as they passed the campsite
en route to the planned jewel heist in Marseille?
Reymond's own theory is that Sir Jack was the victim
of a cold war communist plot because of his alleged activities as a
British secret intelligence agent - a rumour that has been doing the
rounds since 1952. But there is no evidence that Drummond was a spy.
Although he had once worked at Porton Down, investigating contamination
of food, it seems unlikely that he could have been involved in
intelligence work after joining Boots in 1946. The possibility that his
trip to France was not just a family holiday, but also an undercover
mission to gain information about a chemicals factory near Lurs that
produced toxic crop insecticides, which Sir Jack had allegedly visited
before, in 1947, seems far-fetched. What seems beyond dispute, however,
is that certain known facts have remained suppressed for half a century.
Will any new investigation acknowledge the apparent injustice that could
have sent an old peasant to be beheaded?
For two generations, in the Basses-Alpes of Provence,
the name Dominici has been the mark of a bloodstained past. And in
England, the achievements and reputation of a distinguished scientist
have been overshadowed by the lurid circumstances of his death. Will
justice now be seen to be done, for the Drummonds and for the Dominicis?
Spy theory revives French murder
British family's fatal holiday in 1952 'was not all
By John Henley - The Guardian
Monday 29 July 2002
Fifty years ago next weekend a Hillman saloon
pulled off the N96 near the village of Lurs, about 75 miles from Aix.
It was a stifling Provençal afternoon and the car's occupants, the
distinguished British scientist Sir Jack Drummond, his wife Ann, and
their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth, decided to camp out for the
night by the banks of the river Durance.
Within hours they became the centre of one of
France's most troubling criminal puzzles, variously shot and clubbed to
death. The tragic demise of the Drummonds is a murder mystery that has
fired the public imagination for half a century.
It was not just the victims' renown and the
consequent fuss across the Channel: Sir Jack, a 61-year-old former
professor of biochemistry at London University, had been knighted for
his exceptional work in nutrition during the second world war and was a
senior researcher at the Boots laboratory in Nottingham.
Nor was it the unlikely and altogether too handy
perpetrator fingered by the police and convicted 18 months later: Gaston
Dominici, a 75-year-old peasant farmer whose smallholding was the
nearest property to the scene of the crime, was a pillar of the local
No, it was the many key questions that remained
unanswered. What was Dominici's motive? Where did the murder weapon, a
battered US army Rock-Ola carbine, come from? What of the unidentified
men seen on the road? And was Sir Jack, as Fleet Street soon began
claiming, rather more than just an eminent scientist?
Now, after more than a dozen books and thousands of
newspaper articles on l'affaire Dominici, an amateur historian has
uncovered startling evidence neglected during the original investigation.
Raymond Badin may not have found the Drummonds'
killer, but he has opened up some intriguing new lines of inquiry.
"I don't think Gaston was the author of the triple
murder of Lurs," he said. "I think the family was a pawn among others,
caught up unwittingly on the chess board of a secret battle fought
between east and west over each bloc's leading scientists. Jack Drummond,
we are almost certain, was a spy."
First, though, the facts that led to Gaston
Dominici's conviction. It was his son Gustave who alerted the local
gendarmes, hailing a passing cyclist at 6am on August 5 to say he had
found a body. Elizabeth Drummond was lying near the river, her skull
stove in with a rifle butt.
Lady Drummond's body was found near the car, and Sir
Jack's just across the road. Both had been shot from behind. The broken
stock of the Rock-Ola was found floating in the Durance, and the barrel
was found later on the riverbed.
At first Gustave told police that he had heard shots
at about 1am and thought poachers were out. He had found Elizabeth's
body at 5.30am. Gaston confirmed the story, adding that he had seen the
Drummonds the night before while he was tending his goats.
Gradually, however, the family's story began to
reveal inconsistencies: a neighbour, Paul Maillet, told the police that
Gustave had said he found Elizabeth alive. Then Gaston's nephew came
forward to say he had seen Lady Drummond and Elizabeth call at the farm
with a bucket, asking for water - when the Dominicis had sworn they had
no direct contact with the Drummonds at any time.
Eventually Gustave and his elder brother Clovis broke
down. They told the police that their father had admitted having "killed
the English". Old Gaston confessed in his turn, only to withdraw his
statement soon afterwards, saying he had admitted the crime "to protect
my family". Gustave then also retracted.
None the less, in November 1954 Gaston was found
guilty and sentenced to the guillotine. The evidence clearly did not
satisfy two successive presidents of the Republic: in 1957 René Coty
commuted his sentence to life imprisonment, and in 1960 Charles de
Gaulle freed him.
"Gaston had no motive," says William Reymond, who has
published a book on the case. "His initial explanation that Sir Jack had
caught him in a compromising situation with Lady Ann is laughable. But
there is lots more: the rifle clearly wasn't his, and he didn't know how
to use it."
According to Mr Badin's examination of the case,
recounted in the magazine Historia, the bizarre and unrelated arrest in
Germany some time later of William Bartkowski, a sinister figure who
confessed spontaneously to having been one of four contract hit men
involved in the Drummond murders, has never been explained. The
postmortems on Sir Jack and Lady Ann show different-sized entry wounds,
indicating that two weapons had been used. And at least four local
passers-by said in evidence that they saw strangers, meeting the
description of neither the Drummonds nor the Dominicis, close to the car
But the most interesting line appears to be Sir
Jack's real purpose in visiting the area. Mr Badin has discovered that
he had been to Lurs at least three times before, in 1947, 1948 and 1951.
Six miles from the village is a chemicals factory that had begun
producing advanced crop insecticides, widely feared during the cold war
for their military potential. Was he on an espionage mission? His
camera, certainly, was never found.
Even more intriguingly, Mr Badin has unearthed the
fact that Sir Jack had a lengthy meeting with a certain Father Lorenzi
in Lurs two days before his death. The priest, who died in 1959, was a
celebrated second world war resistance hero. Why would an eminent
British scientist seek out a former maquisard ? And what did Fr Lorenzi
tell Paul Maillet, a fellow resistance fighter, a close friend of
Gustave Dominici's and, Mr Badin is sure, the true owner of the Rock-Ola
"There is a lot more work to be done," Mr Badin said.
"The Dominicis' strange behaviour indicates they knew a lot more about
the crime than they ever let on. But they were not guilty of the murders.
I think they plainly got caught up in something far bigger than