The Dupont de Ligonnès were the descendants of French aristocracy, and were the world to be as it was before France banned social classes in the 1700s, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès would have been a count (Doherty 2019). On April 21, 2011, all but one member of the Dupont de Ligonnès family were found wrapped in sheets and covered in quicklime under the patio of their house in Nantes, France. The deceased included the mother of the family, Agnès, 48, and her children, Arthur, 21, Thomas,18, Anne, 16, and Benoît, 13. Whomever killed the family also killed their two Labradors and buried them alongside their family. The killings had likely happened between April 3 and April 5, possibly by Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, who was nowhere to be found. Autopsy reports stated that the five family members had been killed with a .22 rifle in an execution manner and suggested that the children had likely been drugged beforehand (Ball 2019).
Xavier, who was 50 at the time of the murders, is the main suspect in the murders. A neighbor called the police on April 13 when they noticed that the blinds in the house had been closed for a few days. By the time police began the investigation that eventually lead to the April 21 search of the home, on April 19, Xavier was already under suspicion (Ball 2019). During the search of the Dupont de Ligonnès home, police came across a severed leg that eventually lead to their search under the porch of the house. The leg was reportedly found under a terrace (Doherty 2019). Xavier had no history of criminal behavior, but when the bodies of his family were discovered without his present, suspicions would grow. He owned a .22 rifle and had bought digging tools, cement, and four bags of lime throughout Nantes, France in the days leading up to the murders. Along with these suspicious purchases, Xavier told friends he was a secret agent for the US being put into witness protection and told his children’s high school that he was getting a job transfer and moving to Australia (Ball 2019). Before the murders, he was known to have been doing target practice with his father’s rifle (Doherty 2019).
On April 12, Xavier was seen in southern France, where he was reportedly booked into a luxury sweet. During this stay, witnesses say he ate alone and ordered half a bottle of burgundy. He was seen at Roquebrune-sur-Argens just a few days later, on April 15. Supposedly, he spent some time in a budget hotel that his car was found parked at, most likely abandoned (Ball 2019). In 2018, abandoned potassium mines and underground caves were searched by police for any evidence there might be of Xavier (Allen & Tahir 2019). These are the last confirmed sightings of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. Massive manhunts were performed, but no further evidence was found. According to friends, approximately a year before the murders they received suicide letters from Xavier. He was supposedly being crushed by financial debt and was thinking about killing himself and possibly the rest of the family, or “shooting up the house.” In 2015, bones were found nearby the last place Xavier was seen, but DNA proved they were not his bones. The headline making bones resulted in a letter being sent to journalist supposedly signed by Xavier and claiming he was still alive. (Ball 2019).
October 2019 saw what was thought to be a true breakthrough in the case: an arrest was made in Glasgow, Scotland. Unfortunately, DNA proved that the man apprehended was not, in fact, Xavier, but someone else entirely (Doherty 2019). The man, Guy Joao, is a retired man form France married to a Scottish woman. He was detained at the Glasgow Airport after he was mistakenly identified as Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. Before DNA proved that Joao is not Dupont de Ligonnès, there was hope that they had caught him after eight years. Joao’s fingerprints happen to partially match Dupont de Ligonnès’ fingerprints. At the time of his detainment, police believed that his passport was a fake and that he was disguised. It has been believed for some time that Xavier may have stolen or faked papers of identification and disguised himself, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there was speculation that that may have been the case. There have also been theories that Xavier underwent plastic surgery to disguise himself and had remarried in Scotland (Allen & Tahir 2019).
In an unusual turn of events, at the time of the murders the bodies were prepared for burial at an abnormally fast pace and the extended family was not allowed to view or identify the bodies. Evidence was collected from the bodies in less than a week, and at the time of the funeral, which was attended by over a thousand people, the family had still been denied the chance to view the bodies of their deceased family members. The bodies were cremated afterwards, meaning that the family could not view the remains after the funeral either. Many family members believe that the bodies they put to rest were not actually those of their family. Part of this comes from a letter that Xavier left for his extended family instructing them to look after the belongings in the house and informing them that the family was moving to the United States. DNA tests were taken of the bodies, but only to confirm that the bodies were of related persons and not that the bodies were the Dupont de Ligonnès family (McCaw 2020).
Whatever you believe, one thing is for sure: four people and two dogs died at the hands of a wannabe executioner at the Dupont de Ligonnès home in Nantes, France. Whether you believe those found were truly the Dupont de Ligonnès or you believe they were all persons put their as some form of distraction, that fact will always remain. These people were murdered execution style with a .22 rifle and whoever did it, whether it be Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, or someone else, has gotten away with it for eight years. Xavier may still be out there, hidden through plastic surgery or perhaps by family members, or perhaps he did what he had told his family long before: killed himself and took his wife and children with him. Until such a time comes as whoever is responsible for this crime comes forward, we will not have the answers we desire.
Ball, Sam. “Xavier Dupont De Ligonnès: Murder, Mystery and an 8-Year Manhunt.” France 24, France 24, 13 Oct. 2019, www.france24.com/en/20191012-xavier-dupont-de-ligonnès-murder-mystery-and-an-8-year-manhunt.
Doherty, Jennifer. “A French Aristocrat Suspected of Murdering His Family Eludes Authorities Once Again.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 12 Oct. 2019, www.newsweek.com/xavier-dupont-de-ligonnes-false-alarm-true-crime-1464828.
Allen, Peter, and Tariq Tahir. “Cops Arrest Wrong Man in Hunt for French Aristocrat Who ‘Killed Wife and Kids’.” The Sun, The Sun, 12 Oct. 2019, www.thesun.co.uk/news/10119239/xavier-dupont-de-ligonnes-killing-family-arrested-glasgow/.
McCaw, Jordan. “The Dupont De Ligonnès Murders and Disappearance.” Recount & Reveal, Recount & Reveal, 18 Mar. 2020, www.recountandreveal.com/blog/2020/3/17/the-dupont-de-ligonns-murders-and-disappearance.