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L'Affaire Poupette
Classification: Homicide?
Characteristics: Swiss judicial scandal
Number of victims: 1 ?
Date of murder: May 1, 1958
Date of arrest: June 1958
Date of birth: 1905
Victim profile: Charles Zumbach, 62
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland
Status: Sentenced to seven years in prison. Died on July 1996
photo gallery

Pierre Jaccoud (*1905) was a Swiss lawyer and politician ("cantonal boss" of the Radical Party in Geneva). He was convicted of the murder of Charles Zumbach in a trial that remains controversial to this day.

Jaccoud had "been Aly Khan's attorney during his divorce from Rita Hayworth, and he represented innumerable Swiss and foreign companies in Geneva's tightly controlled banking community."

Jaccoud was accused of having murdered Charles Zumbach on 1 May 1958, in Plan-les-Ouates, near Geneva. After a business trip to Sweden and on "his return to Geneva in June 1958, Jaccoud was arrested." Jaccoud's court case is also known as L'Affaire Poupette.

After a trial, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to seven years in prison. Later studies claimed that he was wrongly convicted.


Affaire Jaccoud

The Affaire Jaccoud, also known as the “Affaire Poupette”, was a Swiss judicial scandal of the 1960s.

Murder of Charles Zumbach

On 1 May 1958, the seventy year old agricultural machinery dealer Charles Zumbach was brutally murdered at his home in Plan-les-Ouates. When his wife arrived at the scene, she heard four shots and cries for help. Shortly afterwards an unknown man shoved her towards the garden and started shooting at her. Later, she could not recall the appearance of the offender. The perpetrator - perhaps there were several - turned back to the injured Charles Zumbach, and stabbed him to death with a knife before escaping on a bicycle.

Zumbach ran an agricultural machinery business in Plan-les-Ouates. It was later revealed that his store also served as the headquarters of an international gang of criminals and arms dealers led by a former member of the French Foreign Legion known as “Reymond".

The accused lawyer, Pierre Jaccoud

When the police interrogated Zumbach's son André, he said he had received two calls in his office (a radio station in Geneva) the night of the killing, but the caller did not say anything. André Zumbach suspected that the caller wanted to make sure that he was not at his parents' house.

At this point Pierre Jaccoud came under suspicion as the caller. Jaccoud had had, as it turned out, an eight-year relationship with Linda Baud (called "Poupette" by Jaccoud), who worked at a radio station as chief secretary. Baud had an affair with André Zumbach and wanted to separate herself from Jaccoud. Jaccoud wrote her many desperate letters to convince her to stay with him. Eight months before the murder, faced with Baud's continued resistance, Jaccoud sent nude photos of her to her new lover, André Zumbach. The police began to suspect Jaccoud of the murder.

Contested expert testimony

The police searched Jaccoud's appartment while he was on a business trip to Stockholm as part of his job as Vice President of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. There was blood on a jacket and a Moroccan knife, but, as later studies revealed, Jaccoud as well as the victim were from the same blood group.

Thus, the testimony of Professor Erik Undritz from Basel was irrelevant. In addition fresh liver cells of unknown, perhaps animal origin were found on the knife. Jaccoud owned two pistols, but not the murder weapon. In addition, on the road near the Zumbach's house a button was found that matched the buttons of one of Jaccoud's coats. The coat itself was found in a box of used clothing, and was missing exactly one button. On his return in June 1958 Jaccoud was arrested. In prison he suffered a nervous collapse and spent most of his time in the infirmary.

The case

From 14 January 1960 onwards, the trial took place before a jury in Geneva. The case attracted attention far beyond the Swiss borders. Defending Jaccouds was the famous Paris barrister René Floriot, while on the side of the indictment was the prosecutor Charles Cornu. There were many mix-ups - for example, Zumbach's wife did not pick Jaccoud out of a line-up but instead identified a policeman. Linda Baud has claimed that at the time of the act, that she was no longer in a relationship with André Zumbach, but instead with another man. Nevertheless, Jaccoud was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter. The jury deliberated for three hours.

For the Paris press, the case was typical of Swiss compromise. According to them, Jaccoud was a victim of the Genevan Calvinist morality. In reaction, angry students burned Paris newspapers before the court in Geneva. In 1980, the court rejected a final appeal of the case. Pierre Jaccoud died in 1994.

Controversial judgement

This judgement is one of the most controversial Swiss judgments, or, in other words, "un des dossiers" les plus troublants, énigmatiques qui les plus jamais aient défrayé judiciaire de la chronique [la Suisse]»". Gerhard Mauz considered the case as a second "Dreyfus Affair."

According to Hans Martin Sutermeister, it was nothing more than a judicial error, whose main cause was faulty forensic expertises.

Sutermeister described Hegg as "an autodidact lacking in serious studies, who has made many mistakes". According to Sutermeister, Zumbach was killed because he sold Algerian rebels non-working explosives to the tune of 12,000 dollars. Following his theory, Sutermeister found an international band of crooks and arms dealers using Zumbach's garage as the headquarters for their criminal activities. Lead by the former legionaire "Reymond", who once served in Indochina this band kept a collection of knives and daggers in Zumbach's garage - surely with the homeowner's knowledge. Among these weapons were the murder weapons.

Sutermeister's argument is that the blood analysis was poorly done.


In 1974, the case was dramatized by the German series Fernsehpitaval under the direction of Wolfgang Luderer with the title "The nude photographs".


L'Affaire Poupette

Monday, Feb. 01, 1960

In a suburb of the placid city of Geneva, Mme. Marie Zumbach returned home one spring evening in 1958 from a weekly parish meeting. As she entered the back door, she heard her husband Charles scream for help. Four shots rang out, and a man came running toward her, chased her out into the garden and shot her down. The attacker returned to the house, savagely and repeatedly stabbed the dying Charles Zumbach, then mounted his bicycle and pedaled away into the night.

Mme. Zumbach survived her wounds but could not tell police who might have wanted to kill her husband. Then police talked with the Zumbachs' handsome son, André, 28, a producer at Radio Geneva, who remembered that on the night of the murder he had twice been called to the phone at the radio station, but that each time the caller hung up when André answered. Clearly, someone wanted to be sure he was there. Had André any idea who the caller might be? Of course, he replied: Pierre Jaccoud.

The police blinked. Jaccoud, 54, had a topflight reputation. A brilliant lawyer and politician, cantonal boss of the powerful Radical Party, he had been Aly Khan's attorney during his divorce from Rita Hayworth, and he represented innumerable Swiss and foreign companies in Geneva's tightly controlled banking community. Distinguished-looking and wealthy, Pierre Jaccoud lived on the patrician Rue de Monnetier, had a loving wife and three children. He was so much a part of Geneva's upper crust that it was unlikely he would even be acquainted with a family as humble as the Zumbachs.

Moroccan Dagger. Young André explained: Lawyer Jaccoud's mistress for the past eight years was a fellow worker at Radio Geneva, slim Linda Baud, 38. André had wooed and won the susceptible Linda, and Jaccoud's reaction had been one of hysterical jealousy. He sent neurotic, anonymous letters to André, including photographs of Linda in the nude.

Linda Baud supplied the police with more details. Pierre Jaccoud, she said, obtained the nude photos by forcing her to undress at gun point. Another time he had driven her to the country and then threatened her with his revolver; Linda managed to get the gun away from him and throw it into a stream. To win her back from André, the desperate Jaccoud kept writing tear-stained letters and finally offered to divorce his wife and marry his "Poupette" (little doll).

In Jaccoud's absence on a business trip to Sweden, police searched his house and office, impounded two pistols, an exotic Moroccan dagger, Jaccoud's bicycle and clothing. The police laboratory reported that there were traces of blood and human liver on the dagger, and tiny bloodstains on Jaccoud's raincoat and on his bicycle. Furthermore, a button was missing from his raincoat, and a similar button was found just outside the house.

On his return to Geneva in June 1958, Jaccoud was arrested. He spent the next 19 months in the prison hospital, for the shock of incarceration turned him into a quivering wreck of a man, given to fainting spells." Last week Jaccoud was taken into court in a hospital chair to stand trial for the murder of Charles Zumbach.

Tranquil Nude. The first witness was Mme. Zumbach, who admitted that when she was confronted by a line-up of five men in the police station, one of whom was Jaccoud, she had promptly picked a burly policeman as the likely culprit. Her son André followed her to the stand, described his affair with Poupette as "an adventure neither of us took seriously." He conceded that he had already given her up in October 1957 — months before his father's murder — and had become engaged to an other girl, to whom he is now married. Jaccoud's attorney, flamboyant René Floriot, star criminal lawyer of the Paris bar, got André's agreement that he had had no dealings with Linda since his engagement.

Linda Baud avoided looking at Jaccoud during her four hours of purple testimony. The judge, studying the nude photos that Linda said had been taken at gun point, remarked that she seemed "perfectly tranquil and at ease." Conceded Linda: "Well, I didn't react." Did she consider the defendant capable of killing a human being? After some hesitation, Linda said, "I don't think so." Lawyer Floriot wrung from Linda the admission that she had taken a new lover since André, a young Belgian who worked for the Palais des Nations, and he left implicit the suggestion that if the jealous Jaccoud had been planning to kill anyone, it would have been the new lover, not the father of the old one.

Family Man. Last week's emotional high point came when Jaccoud's wife Erna took the stand to insist that her unfaithful husband was a "devoted, exemplary family man, who saw to it that our children and I lacked nothing." His only flaw: "He did not spend his leisure time with his family." He was far too shy to be a killer, insisted Erna Jaccoud. Under the stress of her testimony, Defendant Jaccoud fainted dead away. After a 15-minute adjournment, the judge asked everyone to do his utmost to "get this painful part of the proceedings over with." Gasped Jaccoud: "I am doing my best."

At week's end the newsmen and photographers from all over Europe who filled the court were uncertain what impression was being gained by the twelve apple-cheeked Swiss jurors who will decide whether lovelorn Pierre Jaccoud goes free or goes to jail for life for "murder with singular perversity." But already the testimony had been such that staid, strait-laced Geneva—the society that ignores tourists and scorns international conclaves —is not likely to be the same for a long time to come. Said a Swiss-German lawyer of the Swiss-French city: "This is the undoing of the smug Genevois society, the curse of immobile prosperity in this self-centered community which likes to call itself Calvinist."


The Verdict

Monday, Feb. 15, 1960

All Geneva last week was absorbed in the final days of the trial of Pierre Jaccoud, 54. The former dean of the Geneva bar, a power in cantonal politics, a man of wealth and breeding, Jaccoud stood accused of a brutal and almost senseless murder: shooting and stabbing to death Charles Zumbach, 62, whose young son had captured the affections of Jaccoud's longtime mistress, pretty Linda Baud, 38 (TIME, Feb. 1).

Attired in his morning coat, Attorney General Charles Cornu, 70, rose for his final summation against the defendant, in whose home he had been a frequent guest. Cornu first explained haltingly that he had not really been Jaccoud's "friend," and that their relationship had always been "professional." Looking at the emaciated defendant, Cornu then charged that "this charming, intelligent, celebrated lawyer, this great man of politics, was an abject criminal who shot and stabbed a defenseless man."

In an unsympathetic courtroom, Rene Floriot, one of the best and most expensive of Parisian criminal lawyers, delivered a marathon defense oration that ended with "Mais non, all I am trying to say is that you cannot find a man guilty on this kind of evidence." Swiss newspapers fumed at French journalists who suggested that Jaccoud was being railroaded because he had blemished the reputation of conservative, Calvinist Geneva. Students angrily burned copies of Paris-Match on a city square.

The jury was out for a total of three hours, found Pierre Jaccoud guilty of "simple homicide" and sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment, less the nearly two years he has already been under arrest. French lawyers sneered at the verdict as "a typical Swiss compromise." Lawyer Floriot, arriving in Paris, protested: "If my client was guilty, he should have received a much heavier sentence; if not, he should have been liberated.



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