This is a major step forward in a tragic affair.
Nearly 17 years after his disappearance, French justice finally holds a suspect in the investigation into the murder of Jonathan Coulom.
The 10-year-old boy was kidnapped on the night of April 6 to 7, 2004 in the dormitory of the Saint-Brévin-les-Pins holiday center (Loire-Atlantique) where he was in sea class with his fellow students. Orval (Cher).
Six weeks later, on May 19, 2004, his body, tied up and weighted with a concrete block, was found in a private pond in Guérande.
This Friday, Martin Ney, 50, a German serial killer arrested in 2011 and whose shadow hangs over this sordid crime more than ever, will be officially handed over to the French authorities, as revealed by Presse Océan and Ouest-France.
The Nantes examining magistrate Stéphane Lorentz, who has been piloting this case for over ten years, should then quickly hear him to put him under examination.
It was time.
This outcome is in fact a return to square one.
Because the German track was immediately mentioned.
Since 1992, the German police have been on the trail of a dangerous predator having the particularity of kidnapping its victims - always prepubescent boys - in closed places such as summer camps.
As with Jonathan, the attacker then got rid of his prey far enough from the place of the abduction.
"The man in black", so nicknamed in Germany because always dressed in dark according to witnesses, was notably wanted for four homicides committed between 1992 and 2001 and a series of sexual assaults.
The gendarmes of the cell "Disappearance 44"
The similarities with the circumstances of Jonathan's disappearance are such that German police officers go to Saint-Nazaire just two weeks after the kidnapping of the smiling toddler in order to meet the gendarmes of the “Disappearance 44” cell.
The discovery of his body in Guérande only reinforces their suspicions: as for the German victims he was not subjected to sexual violence, he was found in a fetal position and his death was the result of suffocation.
However, a regrettable error at the start of the investigation will considerably slow down this lead.
The expert entomologist who examined Jonathan's body concludes that he was submerged between May 7 and 8, 2004, a month after his kidnapping.
If the aggressor was able to keep the child so long, it is because he has accommodation in the region: the local track is privileged.
But the judge has doubts and seeks new expertise.
In 2008, a report from the National Gendarmerie Criminal Research Institute (IRCGN) estimated that the child was in fact killed quickly after his daring kidnapping.
The German track becomes credible again and exchanges between investigators from two countries intensify.
A fairly tall man near a BMW facing a pond
The gendarmes will also unearth a testimony inadvertently gone unnoticed.
In November 2008, they heard from a farmer who lives not far from Guérande.
Shortly after Jonathan was kidnapped, he had been intrigued by the sound of a car driving after dark on a path leading to a pond.
Behind the wheel of his tractor, he had wanted to be clear about it.
To investigators, he says he saw a fairly tall man near a BMW parked in front of this pond.
It is categorical: the trunk was open and the vehicle had a German plate.
When he saw it, the man had rejoined his vehicle, closed the trunk and quietly resumed the path.
Was it Martin Ney?
The coincidence is disturbing.
Despite numerous investigations, including on the climatic conditions of the time, it has never been possible to precisely date this episode.
According to the witness, it was in April or May 2004. However, when he called the toll-free number dedicated to the time, the operator noted that the farmer located the scene in September.
This transcription error explains that he had not been heard earlier.
The ex-children's educator categorically denies
In 2011, “the man in black” was finally arrested in Germany.
His name is Martin Ney, he is a former educator for children.
He confessed to three of the four homicides attributed to him and was sentenced to life imprisonment the following year.
But this man in whose computer thousands of child pornography images were captured categorically denies any responsibility for Jonathan's death.
French investigators will then have no cease to want to hear this suspect, who will be the subject of a European arrest warrant in October 2019. Without success until this week.
“I would like to pay tribute to Judge Lorentz who, since 2014, has requested this hearing, greets Me Caty Richard, the lawyer for the boy's paternal grandmother.
He went twice to Germany with judicial police officers but, each time, Martin Ney refused to receive him.
When he has him in front of him, Judge Lorentz will submit to the former educator the confessions he made in detention.
As Le Parisien - Today in France had revealed, Martin Ney confessed at the end of 2017 to a fellow inmate having committed the kidnapping and murder of Jonathan, providing very precise details.
The magistrate will nevertheless have to act quickly since, according to the rules of the European arrest warrant, the surrender of the suspect is scheduled for a period of 8 months.
"It is absolutely necessary that the French justice gives the judge the means to work on this file, in particular in terms of availability", insists Me Richard.
"I just wish it had been heard sooner"
Chantal Munier, Jonathan's grandmother, does not hide her satisfaction at this finally favorable development.
“I'm obviously very happy,” she confides.
The similarities between the acts he committed in Germany and the conditions of my grandson's death convinced me.
I just wish it had been heard earlier.
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“We are in serenity, we are not in impatience.
It has passed 17 years so there is a certain hindsight, there is still a suffering of course but it is no longer the same ", indicates Me Catherine Salsac, the lawyer of the mother of the child, stressing that his client needed "to have a name, a face and a suit" to "be able to mourn".