New DNA could unlock one of France's most famous murder mysteries

A file photo shows a man looking closely at the door with the message "Omar m'a tuer" (Omar killed me) in the courtroom in Nice, January 31, 1994.
A file photo shows a man looking closely at the door with the message "Omar m'a tuer" (Omar killed me) in the courtroom in Nice, January 31, 1994. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/Files
3 min

The case of Omar Raddad, an illiterate Moroccan gardner convicted of killing his wealthy employer in 1991, could be reopened after new DNA strands were discovered at the scene of the crime in Mougins near Nice. Raddad was granted parole in 1998, and has always proclaimed his innocence.


When Ghislaine Marchal, a rich widow, was murdered in 1991, DNA evidence was still in its infancy.

Her body was found in the boiler room of her swanky villa in Mougins near Nice. And on the doors above her lifeless corpse were scribbled these words: "Omar m'a tuer"- literally "Omar to kill me".

It was this grammatical mistake that incriminated Omar Raddad, who could barely speak French at the time of his first trial in 1994. The correct version should have read "Omar m'a tuée," or "Omar killed me."

In a country where the language of Moliere is enshrined as an institution, destroying it was seen as many as a cardinal sin. It earned Raddad an 18-year prison sentence. This was later overturned when he was granted conditional release by former French President Jacques Chirac.

But he wasn't cleared. And the Algerian-born gardner now 48 is hoping to at last clear his name.

Much has changed in the nearly twenty-five years since he was convicted. DNA evidence has become an integral part of the criminal investigation process, a standard means of convicting the guilty and clearing the innocent.

That's what Raddad's lawyer Sylvie Noachovitch is trying to do. Last year she put pressure on judges to authorize forensic experts to take DNA fingerprints from the door and boiler room that were stained with the victim's blood.

Following that greenlight, prosecutors confirmed on Thursday that new DNA strains had been found at the scene of the crime, and are ready to "be used."

The new DNA will be compared with samples taken from all convicted criminals in the country's national fingerprint database. Raddad's lawyers over the years have always maintained that their client was framed.

It has emerged in recent years that traces of DNA found at the murder scene and also mingled with the victim's blood did not correspond to that of the suspect.

Noachovitch hopes that the new DNA will allow investigators to find the "true" murderers, and finally determine whether the most celebrated judicial saga, which was also turned into a film, was a miscarriage of justice or not.

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