Case gripping France: 'girl got into my car'

AFP
The man charged with kidnapping a 9-year-old French girl during a wedding in the Alps has admitted during police questioning that she got into his car but denies abducting her.
AFP

French lawyer Bernard Maraud, representing a suspect arrested by the French gendarmerie, answers journalists' questions on September 4, 2017 in Morestel, near Pont-de-Beauvoisin, eastern France.

The man charged with kidnapping a 9-year-old French girl during a wedding in the Alps has admitted during police questioning that she got into his car but denies abducting her, his lawyer said today.

A week after Maelys de Araujo went missing in the eastern village of Pont-de-Beauvoisin, a 34-year-old man was remanded in custody on Sunday on charges of “kidnapping, illegal confinement or arbitrary detention.”

The man was a guest at the wedding that Maelys was attending with her parents when she went missing in the early hours of August 27.

Her DNA was found in his car, which was parked next to the community hall where the celebrations were held and was cleaned the day after.

The suspect’s lawyer Bernard Meraud said his client told police that Maelys “got into his car with a little boy, onto the back seat, to see if his (the suspect’s) dog was in the boot.”

Meraud confirmed that a trace of her DNA had been found on the dashboard but that his client “completely denied” kidnapping her.

The lawyer said several DNA traces, including that of his client, had been found on the dashboard and that someone who was in contact with the child could have “transferred” her DNA in to the vehicle.

He also suggested that the children could have climbed into the car unbeknown to the driver, noting that all the windows were left down during the party.

The disappearance of the girl, who was wearing a white dress and carrying a cuddly toy, has dominated French headlines over the past week.

Sniffer dogs lost the scent from her toy in the car park outside the venue, raising fears she was kidnapped and whisked away. Scores of police, search and rescue teams, divers and cavers have been combing the woods and lakes in the area about 50 kilometers north of Grenoble for her but have failed to turn up any sign.

Several hundred residents organized another search on Saturday that also proved to be fruitless.

Speaking to France’s RTL radio the suspect’s mother insisted her son was innocent. “He’s a good boy who wouldn’t hurt a soul,” she said, adding that the authorities were “hounding him because they have to find a culprit.”

The suspect was arrested last week along with a friend over inconsistencies in their account of the night’s events, but the pair were later released.

According to France Info radio, the key suspect is a former soldier who lives with his parents near Pont-de-Beauvoisin and does various odd jobs.

Investigators became interested in him after it emerged he had been missing from the party around the time Maelys disappeared and washed his car the day after the wedding.

His lawyer said that he cleaned the car with a view to selling it.

On Sunday, he was arrested again after police uncovered fresh evidence.

“Confronted with testimony, findings and scientific evidence, he persisted in his denials and explanations,” the prosecutor’s office in Grenoble said.

“This did not convince the investigative judges, who decided to hold him,” the prosecutor’s office added.

Police have interviewed about 250 people since Sunday.


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