March 29, 2009
Wrongly accused? Omar Raddad stands outside the courthouse.
French justice can be quite curious. After being pardoned but not exonerated in the murder of his employer, Omar Raddad risked being re-imprisoned by asking for a new trial to clear his name.
by Anthony Davis
Wealthy widow Ghislaine Marchal, 65, lived alone in a luxury villa in the affluent village of Mougins, near Cannes on the French Riviera. On the morning of Sunday, June 23, 1991, she was relaxing beside her pool doing a crossword puzzle, her favourite pastime, when her friends and neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Koster called over the fence to invite her to lunch. She readily accepted.
At 1:30 p.m. Mrs. Koster, anxious that her friend had not yet arrived for the meal, telephoned but there was no reply. She was puzzled, but presumed that something had happened to prevent her from showing up.
Something had happened. The following day, June 24, Mrs. Marchal was found stabbed to death in the basement of her house. Written in blood on the inside of the door was the incriminating message Omar m'a tuer (Omar killed me).
Police immediately arrested Omar Raddad, 28, a gardener who worked part-time for Mrs. Marchal. Although he consistently denied killing his employer, he was charged and three years later, February 2, 1994, found guilty of the murder and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.
A fairly straightforward case you might think. So did the police.