Article: Ghislaine Marchal
On Monday June 24 1991, 65-year-old affluent widow Ghislaine Marchal was found dead in the basement of her home in the town of Mougin, France. Ghislaine was found with fractures to her skull, her throat was slit, a finger sliced and she had been stabbed multiple times. The basement door had been knocked down because someone had barricaded it from the inside with an iron bar and bed. Across the door, scribbled in blood was OMAR M’A TUER which is a grammatically incorrect phrase that translates to OMAR KILLED ME. There was a similar message found nearby, although incomplete, and police also found a bloody handprint. The blood was later confirmed to belong to Ghislaine.
The authorities were baffled by the crime scene. The messages written in Ghislaine’s blood were on the opposite side of the basement from where Ghislaine was found however the floor was clean. How did she get from the door all the way to the spot where she had died without dripping a trail of blood behind her? And almost as strange, how did a woman as highly educated as Ghislaine make such an elementary grammatical mistake in writing her message?
The autopsy determined that Ghislaine was murdered the day before. She spoke to a friend at around noon and authorities believed she was murdered sometime soon after. Her gardener, Omar Raddad, who was an illiterate Moroccan migrant, usually worked at her house on a Sunday however had changed his schedule shortly prior to Ghislaine’s murder. Omar claimed he was eating lunch at home at the time of the crime however only family members could confirm his alibi.
Omar quickly became the primary and only suspect for the murder. Police arrested him and he was charged with first-degree murder. His case caused an uproar in France. His supporters argued that he was an innocent man and was targeted simply because he was an immigrant. Despite the protests of innocence, Omar went to trial in January 1994.
At the trial, the prosecution argued that Omar stabbed Ghislaine to death after a disagreement over his pay. However, there was no evidence of Omar being there and no witnesses reported seeing Omar even near Ghislaine’s home on the day of the murder. Furthermore, Omar did not have any prior criminal convictions and by all accounts was a hard-working, well-respected and well-liked man. Graphologists analysed the message on the basement door and determined it was indeed Ghislaine’s handwriting. Still, despite the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, Omar was convicted and sentenced to 18-years in prison.
After pressure from the Moroccan King, the French president eventually pardoned Omar in 1998, but the murder conviction still remains on his legal record. Omar has spent the past 20-years fighting to clear his name. He even applied for a new trial after his released from prison.
In 2001, forensic tests were conducted which found DNA of a man on the basement door and on a block of wood that is suspected to have been used in the initial attack on Ghislaine. This DNA did not match Omar’s DNA profile and almost certainly holds the key to the identity of Ghislaine’s true killer.