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The Flactif Case
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Jealous of Mr Flactif's success - Burned the bodies on a massive pyre in a local forest
Number of victims: 5
Date of murder: April 11, 2003
Date of arrest: September 16, 2003
Date of birth: 1973
Victims profile: Xavier Flactif, 41, his partner Graziella Ortolano, 36, and their children Gregory, 7, Laetitia, 10 and Sarah, 11
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Grand Bornand, Haute Savoie, France
Status: Sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 22 years on June 30, 2006
photo gallery

The Flactif Case is unique in the history of crime, not only as a sordid news-in-brief event but also as an example of a five months high media coverage event. The victims are thought to be guilty to the eye of the public.

April, 11, 2003, a whole family disappeared : Xavier Flactif, his partner, Graziella and their three children. Their cottage located in The Grand Bornand is found empty, everything looked to be in order but ready-made meals are found and the fridge is full of food.

Xavier Flactif is a property developer who succeeded by the sweat of his brow. Beautiful houses built, luxury cars, dream holidays made his success complete and true but it definitely bothered people. Rumours have it that he didn’t pay his bills and made poorly house building works. During several months, the investigators appeared to favour the theory that they were on the run and the media were in full agreement to this hypothesis.

The Flactif’s neighbours, David Hotyat and his partner Alexandra Lefebvre were particularly virulent when interviewed by the TV channels. But in this cottage where they lived, some clues revealed blood traces, fragments of baby tooth. What followed is known : David Hotyat, his partner, and two of their friend were arrested.

The hypothesis of the murder came to light. What is the motive for the crime ? A raging jealousy is hiding behind it. Both natives of modest families from the north of France, Xavier Flactif and David Hotyat without knowing each other had roughly started their career with the same qualifications. Very soon, their respective careers took different ways : One (X.F) powered by sound ambition and energy had to sort it out to achieve his dream whereas the other (D.H) was gathering professional failures, holding grudges and bitterness deep down. Their ways were bound to cross in High Savoy where the Flactif’s success would reveal David Hotyat’s failures.


Family of Five Killed for a Few Days' Pay

The Guardian

September 18, 2003

One of France's most sensational recent murder cases seemed to have been solved yesterday when a next-door neighbour confessed to having killed a wealthy property developer, his partner and their three young children, apparently for the sake of a few hundred pounds.

"He's admitted that he did it, and we have the DNA samples to prove it," an official at the public prosecutor's office in Annecy said. "The motive for such a massacre seems scarcely believable, but he is certainly the chief suspect."

The exuberant Flactif family vanished without trace from their chalet in the isolated hamlet of Le Grand Bornand, near the Alpine ski resort of La Clusaz, on April 11, leaving all the lights blazing, a fire burning in the grate, the table laid and their dinner in the oven.

Their disappearance enthralled France, and local people speculated that Xavier Flactif, 41, an aggressive, successful but allegedly unscrupulous real estate magnate who had made many enemies since his arrival in the region in 1999, had simply fled with his family after a shady deal had gone wrong.

The family's red Toyota Landcruiser was finally found abandoned just over a month later, near Geneva airport.

A mass of legal documents and plans and two laptop computers had disappeared from the chalet. For weeks the police combed Flactif's 71 bank accounts for a clue in his numerous business dealings, which mainly involved buying land cheap and selling the chalets he built on it dear.

"Everyone thought he had just run off," a villager told Le Parisien yesterday. "He didn't have many friends here, and that's an understatement. He ripped a few people off and he was flashy with his money.

"But I don't think anyone seriously thought he might have been killed, and certainly not his kids. They were guilty of nothing."

Gradually the police assembled evidence that could only point to murder.

The chalet had been meticulously cleaned but several small brown flecks remained, particularly between the floorboards.

The children's bedding had gone, and a square of staircase carpet had been neatly cut out.

Finally traces of blood were found in the Landcruiser, and fragments of tooth and a spent 6.35mm cartridge came to light in the chalet.

DNA analysis of the dried blood revealed traces of the five members of the family, Xavier, his partner Graziella Ortolano, 36, and their children Gregory, seven, Laetitia, 10 and Sarah, 11, and an unknown sixth person.

As police divers, potholers and sniffer dogs continued searching for the missing bodies throughout the summer, the police began taking DNA samples, first from other members of the Flactif family, then from business associates, clients and workmen, and finally from neighbours.

After more than 130 tests the laboratory analysing the samples said last week that one of them matched what became known in the French press as "the famous sixth trace".

Four people were arrested on Tuesday in an operation involving 80 gendarmes.

Confronted with the evidence, David Hotyat, 31, a mechanic who had rented the next-door chalet from Flactif since last year, finally confessed to the killings.

Mr Hotyat, who has no crim inal record and was described by his family yesterday as quiet and hard-working, led the police to a remote spot in the forest a few miles away, where the remains of five badly burned bodies - which have yet to be formally identified - were recovered.

Mr Hotyat's wife Alexandra was also remanded in custody, together with a man who worked in the same garage in nearby Annecy-le-Vieux as Mr Hotyat, and his wife.

The three are suspected of having helping in cleaning up after the murders and disposing of the bodies, a gendarmerie spokesman said, adding that they might eventually be charged as accomplices.

"The suspect said he had a violent altercation with Flactif, with whom he was apparently on very bad terms, that evening over payment for a couple of odd jobs that he had done for him and a few hours of cleaning that his wife did in the chalet," the spokesman said. "The sum involved is derisory, a few hundred euros."

But he added that there was still a possibility that the investigators might uncover further links between the suspect and his principal victim, both of whom came originally from the north of France.

According to a neighbour, Mr Hotyat led an expensive lifestyle which seemed beyond his means as a garage mechanic.

"In a way I hope there's more to it," the spokesman said. "Five lives for a row between neighbours is difficult to stomach."


Mechanic 'slaughtered family'

Kim Willsher - The Guardian

Tuesday 13 June 2006

A 33-year-old mechanic went on trial yesterday accused of killing a couple and their three children in one of France's most mysterious murder cases. David Hotyat allegedly slaughtered the family at their Alpine chalet then burned their bodies on a massive pyre in a local forest.

Xavier Flactif, 41, his partner Graciella Ortolano, 36, and their children Gregory, seven, Laetitia, 10, and Sarah, 11, disappeared from their home in La Grand Bornand, an isolated hamlet near the ski resort of La Clusaz on April 11 2003. The curtains had been left drawn, the lights on, and the table laid for dinner.

When the family's Toyota Landcruiser was found abandoned near Geneva airport a month later, locals assumed that Mr Flactif, a property developer, had fled after a shady deal went wrong. Yesterday the court in Annecy heard that he had been banned from running a business for 10 years in 1998 and had debts of €2.7m (£1.7m) when he disappeared.

A murder inquiry was launched when bloodstains and minuscule fragments of the children's teeth were found in the chalet. DNA analysis showed the blood came from five members of the family and a sixth person, said to be Mr Hotyat.

Six months after the family disappeared, Mr Hotyat, who had rented the next-door chalet from Mr Flactif, was arrested and confessed. He later retracted the confession. His partner, Alexandra Lefèvre, his brother Mickaël and another couple were in court accused of involvement in the murders or subsequent cover-up.

Mr Hotyat and Ms Lefèvre were allegedly jealous of Mr Flactif's success and filled with hatred for the property developer after he allegedly promised they could rent one of his villas then reneged on the deal.


Murder in Le Grand Bornand

Thursday, 18 September, 2003

A bit outside the usual scope for PisteHors but we have to report that one of the events that has mystified the Haute Savoie ski resort of Le Grand Bornand has been tragically resolved.  On the 11th of April 2003 the five members of the Flactif family, residents of Le Grand Bornand, went missing from their chalet.  The family 4x4 was seen parked on a nearby track and was then later found at Geneva airport.  Xavier Flactif was an estate agent specialised in selling ski chalets to rich English and Dutch investors.  Locals assumed that one of his business deals had turned sour and the family had skipped the country.

The police were not convinced.  Using recent advances in laser imagery they were able to identify the trajectory of minute traces of blood found in the main room of the chalet.  The blood samples belonged to all five members of the Flactif family plus another, then unknown person.  The images indicated foul-play.  Like an Agatha Christie novel there were no shortages of suspects.  Nine year old Laetitia Flactif was an accomplished skier who had won local competitions and had aroused the jealousy of the locals.  With the cost of real estate sky rocketing her father was even less liked.  One neighbour had sprayed his luxury Mercedes with petrol and another had said he could happily strangle him.

Early on the 16th of September the police made their move.  They stopped the car of a mechanic, a neighbour of Flactif.  In a lightening operation the mechanic was wrestled to the ground and cuffed.  Simultaneously the house was searched and his wife was arrested as an accessory, their two year old son taken into care.  In the end the murderer, like Flactif, originated from the North of France and had seemed to be one of Xavier Flactif’s few friends in the area.  After killing Flactif he had forged a lease for one of the estate agent’s chalets.

Since the shocking news broke it has been local people and school friends of the Flactif children who have brought cards and flowers to their closed chalet.


Monday, 22 November, 2004

The wheels of justice grind slowly in France, very slowly. David Hotyat, who has been accused of murdering the Flactif family, is coming to trial on the 13th of December, 2004 at Annecy. However this trial concerns only the matter of Hotyat burning down one of M. Flactif’s chalets. Hotyat and his Stéphane Haremza are expected to plead guilty.

The murder trial is expected to be brought to court in 2006, some 3 years after the events.


Wednesday, 03 May, 2006

David Hotyat has won a injunction against the Rap group Sinik who include the line “David Hotyat - child killer” in one of their recent songs. The French High Court has upheld Hotyat’s presumption of innoncence. The trial is due to start on the 12th of June and last 3 weeks. Hotyat has already admitted killing the Flactif family although it is not clear how he will plead at trial.


Monday, 03 July, 2006

As expected David Hotyat was found guilty of murdering the five members of the Flactif family on the 30th of June. He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 22 years. Alexandra Lefèvre, Hotyat’s ex-girlfriend was sentenced to 10 years for her part in the murder. Lefèvre had denied any connection with the crimes but an interview with French television made shortly after the Flactifs disappeared showed her hatred for the family. The jury were not convinced by her story. Since the murder she has had time to find a new boyfriend and start a family possibly hoping this would result in a more lenient sentence. Hotyat’s accomplices Stéphane and Isabelle Haremza and his brother Mickaël Hotyat all received various jail terms.

The Flactif family disappeared on the 11th of April 2003. Xavier Flactif, an estate agent, had debts said to total 3 million euros and it was widely believed in the village that the family had fled the country after their car was found at Geneva airport. The police were not convinced, although many people in the area bore a grudge against M. Flactif their investigations centered on a friend David Hotyat and his entourage.



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