A serial killer finally identified, 35 years later. The “Grêlé” affair has remained one of the most mysterious of recent years. For the judicial police, this cold case is even the symbol of the criminal enigma par excellence.
In September 2021, François Vérove, a 59-year-old retired policeman, killed himself when he was about to be identified as the serial killer France’s most sought-after. The truth then comes to light. But his death also brought its share of unanswered questions.
France 2 returns on Saturday January 29 from 2 p.m. in At the end of the investigation on this sprawling file and brings new elements on the unsolved crimes which could still be attributed to Le Grêlé.
Potentially incriminated in 28 unsolved cases
The magazine presented by Marie Drucker retraces the criminal journey of François Vérove, in detail, since his first appalling murder, that of Cécile Bloch, 11, raped and killed in the basement of his building in the 19th arrondissement of Paris in 1986. The investigators of the criminal brigade in post at the time are questioned in front of the camera, the journalists who covered the cases relate, and some of the potential victims testify.
From 1986 to 1994, the man was suspected of committing four murders and at least six rapes in Paris and its region. However, 28 other unresolved cases could be attributed to him due to their geographical proximity and similarities in the procedure.
Crimes attributed to François Vérove
- 7 avril 1986 : little Sarah, 8 years old, is attacked in the elevator of a building in the Place de la Vénétie (Paris XIII). She is raped, strangled and left for dead in the basement. She gets away with it.
- May 5, 1986: Cécile Bloch, 11, is found dead in the third basement of her building at 116 rue Petit (Paris 19th). She was raped, strangled and stabbed on her way to school. This is the case that will trigger the hailstone hunt.
- 28 avril 1987 : Double murder of Gilles Politi, a 38-year-old mechanic, and Irmgard Müller, a 19-year-old German au pair, at their home in the Marais (Paris IVe). The victims are naked and tied up. They were tortured with a knife and a cigarette before being strangled.
- May 11, 1987: Andréa, 26, is raped by an individual who presents himself as a police officer at her home in Villa Coeur de Vey, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
- October 27, 1987: Marianne, 14, is tied up and raped after being followed to her home in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The man presents himself as a policeman then as a burglar and takes valuables.
- June 9, 1994: Karine Leroy, 19, was murdered in a forest near Meaux (Seine-et-Marne) after being tied up, tortured and strangled. However, François Vérove’s DNA was not found at the scene.
- June 29, 1994: Ingrid, a little girl on a bicycle, is kidnapped in Mitry-Mory (Seine-et-Marne) aboard a white Volvo and taken to a disused farm in Saclay (Essonne), before being raped and abandoned.
Other attacks are attributed to Le Grêlé in 1987, including that of a 34-year-old woman on September 2, 1987, in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, and an indecent assault on two children aged 12 and 14 who were tied up on April 1, 1987, also in the 11th arrondissement. .
The same year, several young girls testified to having met a man who presented himself as a policeman and wanted to return home.
Alice, a new victim?
Alice is convinced to have been one of his victims. Anonymously, she recounts the ordeal she experienced. This woman thinks she was raped by Grelé in 1991 when she was 10 years old and lived in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine).
She was assaulted on her way home with a friend of her age. The scene is very similar to that experienced by other victims of the killer, who introduced himself as a policeman and asked for identity papers before entering the apartments of the young girls.
As often, he tied them up with a cord and some expertise before raping them. He remains there for several hours, seeming to act with complete impunity. Today, we know that François Vérove was assigned at the time to the Nanterre barracks, just next to Alice’s.
A mobile killer
François Vérove was born in 1962 in Gravelines in the North and married in the suburbs of Lille in 1985, before having a daughter and a son. He landed in Paris in 1983, when he began his career in the Republican Guard, near Bastille in Paris (IVe) as a rider, before joining a motorcycle surveillance squadron.
He changes his place of residence many times. He was notably housed at the Kellermann barracks, in the 13th arrondissement, not far from where one of his victims, Sarah, was found in 1986.
In the 90s, he joined the police and lived in Longperrier, in Seine-et-Marne, very close to Mitry-Mory, where little Ingrid was kidnapped in 1994.
A failed robot portrait and mysterious dates
Many mysteries still remain to be clarified after the discovery of the identity of the one whom the investigators nicknamed “le Grelé” because of a composite portrait made at the end of the 80s which presented him with acne. After Cécile’s assassination, witnesses described a suspect at least 1.80 meters tall, dark-haired, very smiling and polite, with “an irregularity in the texture of the skin”, according to Luc Richard, the half-brother of the victim.
A characteristic that has been sought in many suspects taken into custody over the years of investigation.
However, it would seem that these stigmas have been completely erased. Because, according to a former police colleague interviewed in the documentary, François Vérove did not have damaged skin or acne in the 90s.
“When I met him, he had a smooth, buttonless, normal face,” testifies Franck Jourde, who sees no resemblance to the portrait that had been drawn of the criminal.
Another enigma: when the serial killer committed suicide last September, he left a letter stating that he had “done nothing” since 1997, that he had taken care of his “urges” and that he had “taken in hand” through psychotherapy.
The investigators do not intend to believe him, and continue the search. But something bothers them, because the last crime linked to Le Grêlé dates back to 1994… Has he committed crimes that have not yet been discovered by investigators?
Moreover, between the last crime linked to Grelé, in 1987 and the moment when the investigators found his trace in 1994, seven years have passed. A strangely long delay, for the experts. “Sometimes serial killers can stop for a long period of time, but often they pick up again, because of the opportunity, because of frustration, because at some point things are going badly in their lives, and ‘they want revenge for the fact that things are going badly in their lives,’ according to Didier Seban, lawyer for Luc Richard.
He was someone who was able to be a policeman one day, a murderer the next day, a policeman the day after, he managed to live these two lives in parallel.
Mystery still hangs around this man, whose seemingly smooth past, aside from the death of his mother when he was young, does not tally with the particularly barbaric crimes he commits.
“He was someone who was able to be a policeman one day, a murderer the next day, a policeman the day after, he managed to live these two lives in parallel”, is surprised Damien Delseny, deputy editor at Parisian.
The “perfect neighbor” stuck by his DNA
It was thanks to scientific advances in DNA that investigators followed his trail. In 2001, the discoveries of Doctor Olivier Pascal made it possible to discover his genetic profile. But even if the criminal files grow bigger and bigger, nothing comes out of it. Le Grelé is believed to be dead. It was not until the investigating judge Nathalie Turquey was appointed in 2014 and decided to start the case from scratch that things changed. She takes another look at the case.
Unlike the other investigators, she is certain that he is alive, and that he is a policeman or a gendarme, a thesis that has never been taken seriously. A list of the names of more than 700 agents stationed near the scene of the crimes at the time is compiled. Each of them is contacted and must take a DNA sample. It was then that François Vérove was trapped and decided to commit suicide in Grau du Roi, in the Hérault, in an apartment he had just rented not far from his home in La Grande Motte.
In this seaside resort where retirees spend peaceful days, François Vérove’s acquaintances describe “a perfect neighbor, always smiling, who put the right atmosphere in the neighborhood”. Former municipal councilor of a commune in the Hérault, he sometimes received his daughter and grandchildren at his home… “We don’t have the image of the dark serial killer who hides alone at home, but of a very helpful former policeman, ”says in the documentary the journalist from Free lunch Yanick Philipponnat.
François Vérove will never be judged. A difficult reality for families. But if the law does not allow to prosecute a dead person, the investigation nevertheless continues in order to warm up other cold cases, identify potential accomplices, or to understand why the killer was not identified earlier.
France 2 broadcasts Saturday January 29 at 2 p.m. an unpublished episode of the magazine At the end of the investigation, “Hailstone case: the serial killer identified 35 years later! », presented by Marie Drucker, with the participation of Alain Bauer, professor of criminology. An investigation by Jean-Pierre Vergès.