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The Dominici affair
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Justice miscarriage?
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: August 4, 1952
Date of arrest: November 13, 1953
Date of birth: 1876
Victims profile: Sir Jack Drummond, a 61-year-old scientist; his 44-year-old wife Anne Wilbraham; and their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth
Method of murder: Shooting - Beating (blows from the stock of a carbine)
Location: Lurs, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France
Status: Sentenced to death on November 28, 1954. Commuted to life imprisonment in 1957. Release on humanitarian grounds due to his poor health on July 14, 1960. Died on April 4, 1965

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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.

In 1957, 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 time.

Timeline of events

The crime

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 murders.

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 railway track.

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 river.

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 Roger Drac.

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.

Perrin 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 were photographed.

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 macabre souvenirs.

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 him.

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 the Grand'Terre.

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 in black.

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 his bedroom.

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.

He suddenly 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 M1 carbine.

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 Superintendent Harzic.

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 Anne Drummond.

Gustave and Yvette continually disputed Olivier's account during the investigation.

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.

The 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.

Clovis 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 number plate.

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 this day.

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'.

Marie Dominici 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 the farm.

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 Jo.

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 Gustave's.

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.

Bouchier 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 farm together.

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.

Bouchier 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 minutes later.

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 département).

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 the farm.

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.

Perrin 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.

When Galizzi 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 1952.

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 the car.

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.

Gustave 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.

Gustave 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 it.

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 Clovis).

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).

Gustave 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 account.

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 outbuilding.

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 pistol-whip.

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 clerk, Barras.

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 instructions.

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.


Jack Drummond


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.

Scientific career

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 rifle.

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.

Coty was 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 knighted

  • 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 ago

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 butt.

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 too.

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 secrets.

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 bother Zaid.

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 cash”.

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 likely killers.

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 Marrians.

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 Forcalquier.

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 the Rock-Ola.

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 nowhere.

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 closed ranks.

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 story.

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.

Alain Dominici, 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) Rhine army.

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 mystery

British family's fatal holiday in 1952 'was not all it seemed'

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 community.

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 that night.

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 rifle?

"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 themselves."



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