Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès and her four children were murdered in early April 2011. Their bodies were found on 21 April 2011 at their home in Nantes. The father, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, disappeared at the same time, assuming to be on the run, and has not been seen since.
So what happened?
The Dupont de Ligonnès Family: The Parents
The Dupont de Ligonnès family is an old French aristocratic family, originally from south-eastern France. The father, Xavier is described to have been a salesman, creating several businesses with little success. The mother, Agnès, was an assistant at Blanche-de-Castille Catholic School in Nantes, involved in teaching catechism. She was known to be very religious, often seen in church with her children. Although she was also known to be strict with her children, she was still described as a loving mother. In 2004, she wrote to the online medical form Dictissimo, about her and her husband’s difficulties and his comment that a group death as a family would not be a catastrophe.
The Dupont de Ligonnès Family: The Children
There were four children in the family. The eldest son, Arthur, was born in 1990 to a different father but was recognized as Xavier’s son after he had married Agnès two years after his birth. Thomas was born in 1992 and gained a baccalaureate in Literature when he was just 17. He was described as usually being seen with his father dropping him off and picking him up from school. Anne was born in 1994 and followed in the footsteps of her mother with religion playing a big role in her life. Benoit, the youngest child was born in 1997 and was described as being popular amongst his classmate’s, especially the girls.
Read on to follow a timeline leading up to and after their murder…
On March 12, 2011, Xavier was seen purchasing rifle bullets from a gun store. He had obtained his firearms license earlier in February that year and had visited in shooting range four times between March 26, and April, 1. He had been teaching his sons Thomas and Benoit how to shoot and had scheduled Arthur to start learning.
Later in March, either the 29th or the 30th, Xavier had driven over three hours away to Saint-Maur in central France to a DIY store. Here he purchased several items including a roll of large trash can liners and a packet of adhesive paving slabs.
You won’t believe what else he bought.
April 1st and 2nd
The oldest son Arthur leaves college and does not show up to the pizzeria he works at collect his monthly paycheck. The owner was surprised and a little concerned by this because Arthur was always punctual and sure to pick up his paycheck on the 1st of every month.
It is also recorded that on April 1, Xavier went to a hardware store where he purchased cement, a shovel, and a hoe. The next day, Xavier went and bought four bags of calcium oxide, all from different shops around the Nantes area.
Then the unthinkable happened.
April 3rd and 4th
On April 3, a neighbor Agnès for the last time, and shortly after, sees Xavier putting large bags into the car. Then, the couple and three of their children went to dinner and a movie. The next day, the two children Anne and Benoit did not show up at school due to an “illness”.
Their friends become worried and try to contact them with no luck. Later that night, Xavier is seen dining alone with his son Thomas who does not appear well, and that the two hardly spoke during their meal. It is assumed that Xavier murdered his wife and three of his children the night of April 3, and murdered his son Thomas the evening of April 4.
A bailiff comes to the family home to recover a debt of 20,000 euros, but there is no answer at the door. However, some neighbors recall seeing Agnès in the front of her house April 5, and again April 7. However, the police still haven’t been able to give a specific date for when the murders occurred.
Friend’s of Thomas also report receiving very strange and unusual text and Facebook messages that seemed very unlike him. During these few days, the neighbors recall the family’s dogs howling nonstop for two consecutive nights and then never hearing them again.
Arthur’s girlfriend, who had not heard from him in days goes to his house but no one answers. However, she notes that the light was on the first floor, and the labradors didn’t bark back as usual when somebody knocks.
The next day, Xavier is seen loading several large bags into his car and a neighbor claims to have to have seen his wife that same night. there are still neighbors as well as relatives that claim Xavier is innocent of the murders. On the 8th, Xavier email’s his brother-in-law that all is well with the family.
You won’t believe what happened next.
On April 11, an unsigned letter purportedly by Xavier was sent to his immediate family. Although he was an engineer and salesman, Xavier explained that he was working secretly for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and was moving his entire family to the United States as part of a Federal Witness Protection Program.
He added that no one would be able to contact them for several years. He asked family members to let people know via social media that the family had moved to Australia. Investigators were unable to prove the letter was written by Xavier, and DNA analysis results were never made public.
Buried in the Back Yard
When family and friends noticed that the family was missing they reported it to police. Authorities searched the home and discovered that all five bodies had been buried in the backyard. Even the family’s two dogs were shot and killed.
Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, who canceled the lease on his home and told his children’s school that they would be moving, immediately became the prime suspect.Police believe that Xavier killed his wife and three of his children on the night of April 3 and then murdered his son Thomas the following evening.
A Seemingly Empty House
Forensics experts were analyzing small brown traces in the house, assumed to be blood. However, there were no signs of struggle at all. The trash and laundry had been emptied, the sheets were folded on the beds, and there were six dishes in the dishwasher from their last meal. The family also showed no sign of using their phone or internet since April 3rd.
Abandoned Car & A Mistress
Police found Xavier’s car in the parking lot of a cheap hotel in the French Riviera. At first, they believe he may have committed suicide, but they never located a body. Xavier was last seen on April 15, 2011, one week before his family’s bodies were found.
He checked out of the hotel in the southeastern town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens, abandoned and car, and carried what appeared to be a rifle case on his back. It soon emerged that he had a secret mistress. The unnamed woman from Paris proved their relationship with text messages. An insider revealed: “She has left her home to stay with friends. She is now in fear of her life.”
Bones in the Woods
In April 2015, an individual walking in the forest in Bagnols-en-Forêt, near to where Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès was last seen, found some bones. Police also found what looked like a survival camp with an empty wallet, a lighter, a pair of glasses, a sleeping bag, a magazine and a bill dating from 2011.
While it appeared that the body may have been Xavier’s, the RTL.fr website reported that “DNA obtained from the personal effects around the body discovered on the evening of 28 April in Bagnols-en-Forêt is not that of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, but that of another man whose identity is currently unknown.” It wasn’t the last the public heard from Xavier.
In July 2015, an individual purporting to be Xavier sent a message to a Nantes journalist. The note was a family photo of two of his sons sitting at a table. On the back of the photo, the words, “I am still alive,” are written in French in blue ink. And underneath it, in smaller words, is the line “From then until this hour.”
The message was signed Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. The journalist who received the message immediately turned it over to authorities. They are investigating the matter and requested a handwriting analysis and DNA and fingerprint testing.
Xavier Potentially Spotted In A Casino Five Years Later
Since fleeing his home more than five years ago, police have received upwards of 1,000 tips from individuals reporting possible sightings of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. Along with the tips, police have uncovered emails from Xavier in which he detailed how he considers himself to be part of a Roman Catholic elite which was “superior to the masses.”
Just recently, a man bearing extremely close resemblance to Xavier was picked up on CCTV in Neris-les-Bains. Witnesses also stated the man was acting very strange and let the casino abruptly without collecting his earnings. The resemblance is so striking police launched a fresh manhunt for Xavier in France, raking up the local neighborhoods, checking license plates, and looking for references.
If you thought the disappearance of the Dupont de Ligonnes family was eerie, he’s another family that disappeared in the same region of the country. Keep reading to see how the mystery unfolded.
The Troadec’s Blood Stained, Empty House
In February 2017, police began searching for a family of four that mysteriously disappeared in western France. The Troadec’s were last spotted on February 16. Parents Pascal and Brigitte, both 50, son Sebastien, 21, and daughter Charlotte, 18, vanished mysteriously.
When authorities arrived at their empty house in a suburb of the western city of Nantes, it was completely bloodstained. Only a month later, authorities would learn the shocking truth of what took place.
Bloodstains & Missing Toothbrushes
When investigators entered the Troadec’s two-story home, there were bloodstains all over the house. For example, blood was discovered on Sebastien’s cell phone, on Brigitte’s watch, and under the stairs. There were even signs that someone tried to wipe away some of the blood.
This seemed very suspicious. Also, all the beds in the house had been stripped, and some of the sheets were found drying on an indoor rack. When authorities searched the home, they didn’t find any toothbrushes or hairbrushes, and there were still wet clothes in the washing machine. What had happened to the family?
A House “Frozen In Time”
When people know they’re leaving their home for a while, there are usually some steps they take in advance; they might stop the mail, throw out stale food, etc. The Troadec’s home looked as though it had been abandoned. Investigators discovered dishes in the sink and rotting food in the refrigerator.
None of the family’s bank accounts had been used since February 17. Their cell phones had also been inactive since that date. Sebastien’s cell phone was the last one to be turned off. French Republic prosecutor of Nantes, Pierre Senne, noted: “It’s as if the life of the house was frozen in time.”
The Initial Suspect
When investigators tested the bloodstains from the home, the DNA matched Pascal, Charlotte, and Sebastien, but not Brigitte. Two of the family’s cars had been left parked in front of their house, but Sebastien’s was missing. Police eventually found the son’s car in Saint-Nazaire.
At first, investigators turned their attention on Sebastien, who a few years ago had made death threats on his blog. Sebastien was convicted in 2013 and was given community service as his sentence. On February 24, police said in a bulletin that Sebastien was suspected of “putting in place a macabre plan aimed at snuffing out the members of his family and maybe himself” (via AFP).
According to French media reports, neighbors and a source close to the investigation revealed that Sebastien had psychological problems and his father Pascal had previously battled depression. So naturally, the son was on top of the initial list of suspects. Then on March 2, a jogger in a forested area near Brest found a social security card and a pair of pants belonging to Charlotte.
Around the same time, Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said that investigators “did not exclude the possibility that some of the missing were still alive,” reported BBC.com. Then authorities realized that the personal belongings they found were located not far from where other members of the Troadec’s family lived.
Next, investigators turned their attention to Pascal’s sister and her husband, who lived near Plouguerneau and Brest, and where personal belongings of Pascal and Charlotte had been found by authorities. Pascal’s brother-in-law Hubert Caouissin, 46, a construction engineer, was estranged from Pascal. He and Pascal’s sister, Lydie, 47, initially denied involvement in the family’s disappearance.
Caouissin said he hadn’t seen his brother-in-law “in years,” but he admitted to police that there had been “tensions” between the two of them in the past. However, a confession was soon forthcoming, and the motive for the crime was something you’d expect from a movie.
An “Old Family Conflict”
Police detained Lydie and her husband after Caouissin’s DNA was matched to that of a glass in the Troadec home and to evidence in Sebastien’s car, which had been recovered in a parking lot. When police confronted the brother-in-law with the evidence, Caouissin had no choice but to admit to murdering all four members of the Troadec family.
Lydie refused to talk to investigators about the crime. French Republic prosecutor of Nantes, Pierre Senne, explained in a press conference that the motive was an “old family conflict” involving an inheritance that may never have existed in the first place. What was the fuss all about?
Caouissin killed the family of four over an unspecified number of gold coins. He and Lydie accused Pascal of inheriting the coins from his father and refusing to share them. Caouissin’s mother, Evelyne, told Le Parisien that Pascal and Brigitte had a falling out over the alleged treasure, which they claimed Pascal’s father had discovered hidden in the walls of a flat he had purchased.
The fight put a rift between them and contributed to Caouissin’s professional “burnout.” It’s unclear if the gold coins ever existed because police did not find any evidence of the coins during their investigation.
The Key & Intruder
According to Caouissin’s neighbors, the couple had “gone through a difficult time, particularly financially” and got desperate. Hubert and Lydie became obsessed with the Troadec’s alleged family fortune. That is when Caouissin decided to take action.
According to the French prosecutor, Caouissin decided to spy on the family on the evening of February 16. He listened to their conversations through the wall using a stethoscope. After all four went to bed, Caouissin sneaked into their home via the laundry room, looking for a key he saw from the outside of the house. Then things made a turn for the worse.
When Caouissin entered the house, he made a noise and woke up Pascal and Brigitte. The couple confronted the intruder, and Pascal carried a crowbar for protection. The French Republic prosecutor Pierre Senne told the Telegraph: “A fight broke out between the two men, and Huber Caouissin managed to seize the crowbar.”
Caouissin then proceeded to bludgeon his brother- and sister-in-law to death. Investigators believe it is the same blunt instrument that he used to kill the children. Caouissin didn’t leave the house until the next morning.
Transporting the Corpses
Caouissin returned to the murder scene the following night. In an effort to disguise what happened, he tried to clean up the blood before putting all four of the corpses in the trunk of Sebastien’s car. On February 18, Caouissin returned home where he confessed to his wife that he murdered the Troadec family.
Instead of reporting the incident to the police, Lydie decided to help cover up the crime. He and Lydie then spent the next two or three days trying to dispose of the bodies. According to the French prosecutor, the couple cleaned Sebastien’s car, “trying to get rid of the blood.”
A Terrible Finding
The couple then left the vehicle in a church parking lot in the port of Saint Nazaire, about an hour’s drive away, “as a sort of diversion,” explained Senne. Caouissin cooperated with investigators and allowed them to search his 74-acre property in Pont-de-Buis, in Brittany’s Finistère region, around 160 miles from the crime scene.
Sennes explained that the bodies were found, barely recognizable, in Brittany. Caouissin admitted to investigators that he dismembered the corpses and buried parts of the bodies to hide them. He also burned other body parts. Meanwhile, Caouissin’s mother told journalists that the existence of the gold inheritance was a “myth”.
Possible Life Imprisonment
In early March 2017, investigators found body parts at Caouissi’s home in northwest France. They searched the swampy banks of the river Aulne in Pont-de-Buis-lès-Quimerch. Hubert and Lydie are currently in jail. Caouissin faces life imprisonment if convicted of multiple murders. And although Lydie didn’t aid in the murder of her family, she tried to cover it up.
According to the prosecutor, Lydie faces charges of tampering with evidence as well as abetting the murders by helping Hubert dispose of the bodies. A source close to the investigation told Le Monde, “There was jealousy. They had the impression they came across as losers while Pascal and Brigitte made the most out of life. They seemed to take it badly.”