Real Name: Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès
Aliases: None Known
Wanted For: Murder
Missing Since: April 15, 2011
Details: Count Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès is wanted for the murders of his wife Agnès Hodanger, their children Thomas, Anne, and Benoît, and his stepson Arthur. The family lived at 55 Shuman Boulevard in an upper-middle class neighborhood in Nantes, situated in the west of France on the Atlantic coast. Their neighbor Estelle Chapon did some work for the family, doing alterations for Agnès and ironing for Xavier. She saw the family regularly and recalled that their house was very lively and busy.
Xavier was a successful businessman, known for being comfortable communicating with people and being quick to laugh. Agnès worked in a Catholic school. Twenty-year-old Arthur went to a private Catholic college. Eighteen-year-old Thomas was shy; he studied musicology and was known to be passionate about music. Sixteen-year-old Anne modeled for mail-order catalogs; she was a good student that studied at La Perverie, a private Catholic school. Thirteen-year-old Benoît also went there. He enjoyed playing the drums.
At around 2PM on Monday, April 11, 2011, Estelle noticed that the family's house was closed up. On the mailbox, there was a note that said to stop leaving mail there. She also noticed that the shutters on the windows were closed. She felt something was wrong because the shutters were always open, even when they went on vacation. For the next two days, she noticed the same thing. Concerned, she called the police.
On Wednesday, April 13, the local police arrived to check on the house. They noticed that the front door was locked and the shutters were still closed. They had a locksmith open the door. Once inside, they found that basically everything in the house was in its place. There were some bedrooms where the sheets had been removed. Some closets were also opened. The police believed that the family had left voluntarily. There was nothing out of the ordinary that led them to launch a formal investigation.
Estelle, however, still believed that something was wrong. She noticed that all of their cars, except for the C5, were still there. She knew that the entire family, along with their dogs and bags, could not fit in that car. The police, however, did not believe that anything was wrong. The next day, several friends and relatives received letters from Xavier and Agnès. They stated: As you know, I've had links with the US. The Americans have recruited me to infiltrate an international drug ring...This will be hard. You won't see us for a long while as we're going to change identity, be under protection, and won't be reachable at all.
Some loved ones were confused by the letters. However, they knew that the couple was respectable and did not believe that they would lie. Xavier's friend Bruno De Stabenrath believed that he was telling the truth. The two had originally met in Versailles in the mid-1970s when Xavier was sixteen. The two were neighbors and immediately became best friends. Both were from noble families. Xavier's family was especially prestigious. His father was a count, the Count Dupont de Ligonnès. His family had musketeers, a castle in the center of France, and a signet ring with the family's coat of arms and motto. All of it was very important to him.
Xavier and Agnès had met in the early 1980s. He was twenty and she was about seventeen. The two fell in love quickly. She was from a traditional and conservative background. When Xavier introduced her to Bruno, he could tell that they were both very much in love. However, Xavier longed for adventure and wanted to seek new horizons. He broke up with Agnès and left to go traveling. One year later, he returned to Versailles and learned that Agnès was pregnant with someone else's child. To Bruno's surprise, Xavier chose to marry Agnès and adopt her child, giving him his prestigious last name. Marrying an unwed mother was almost unheard of in Versailles at the time. The two then built a loving family.
Because of Xavier's exceptional status, many of his friends and relatives believed his story from the letters. However, Agnès' family was more skeptical. They sent the letter to the Nantes district attorney, saying that they did not believe his story and did not believe that Agnès would leave without telling them or giving them a call. On April 15, the police returned to their house to conduct a more thorough investigation. They discovered that photos were missing from their frames. However, there was nothing else suspicious in the house.
Agnès' family continued to put pressure on the police, certain that the family did not simply leave. On April 18, the police visited the house for a third time. On April 19, they visited a fourth time. By their fifth visit on April 20, they still had not observed anything unusual. However, on their sixth visit on April 21, the police lieutenant found something odd under the terrace in the garden. That same day, the district attorney held a press conference at the courthouse. He stated that the family's disappearance was unusual and that they were going to open an investigation into the case.
Suddenly, the D.A. halted the press conference and answered the phone. He learned that while the police were digging under the terrace, they discovered large plastic trash bags that were bound with tape. Inside the bags were several bodies. They were wrapped in blankets and duvets, then tied up and put into the bags. A small religious icon was found next to each body, such as a small candle or a cross. This indicated that the perpetrator was imitating a religious burial. It also showed an affectionate bond between the perpetrator and the buried bodies.
The first grave contained the bodies of Agnès, Arthur, Benoît, and Anne. The two dogs were also buried there. The body of Thomas was found in a separate grave. Xavier's body was not found, however. From that point forward, he became the prime suspect. Having discovered that he had disappeared, the investigating judge issued a warrant and sent it to all member countries of Interpol. This is known as an international warrant. However, for many friends, it was impossible to believe that he was a murderer. They felt that they knew him well enough that it was not possible that he could have done it.
It was noted that the space between the terrace and the ground was very low and small. Xavier had terrible back pain. He always complained about having a bad back, which kept him from bending. It seemed impossible for him to have dug the holes underneath the terrace. Bruno could not believe that his friend was capable of murder. He recalled that when he was in a car accident, Xavier was there by his side and helped him recover. To him, he was a good guy. Xavier was known to have the characteristic of a "father hen". He made sure to be very present in his children's lives. According to those close to him, he cared for his children and was concerned about them. It did not seem possible that he would kill them and his wife.
As the family's loved ones mourned, the police began an investigation into their deaths. From the autopsy, they found sleeping pills in the children's viscera. This meant that they were put to sleep. Agnès did not have drugs in her system. However, she did have a sleep apnea machine which helped her sleep. It was discovered that her machine stopped suddenly at 3AM on the morning of April 3 or 4. It is believed that she was killed first. Then, the children were killed. Each victim was killed by two bullets to the head. The bullets extracted from the bodies had been shot from a .22 long rifle. Surprisingly, neighbors were not awoken by any gunshots.
The murders were considered to be methodical executions. The victims were all in their pajamas, so it is believed that they were killed while they slept in their beds. Strangely, there was no trace of blood in the bedrooms. Also, there was no trace of blood in the living room, foyer, or bathroom. There was no blood found on any walls, furniture, or floors. It was difficult to understand how someone could kill five people in a house and leave no trace of evidence behind.
When crime scene investigators took samples from the scene, they did not find any fingerprints or DNA from anyone. At that point, there was still no absolute physical proof implicating Xavier. At the age of fifty, he had never had any problems with the law. It was difficult to understand how he could have been a criminal mastermind. Bruno noted that, with killing his three sons, Xavier was also killing his lineage. For the French nobility in the "aristocratic world", this would have been dreadful because he would have been terminating his lineage and there would be no one to carry his name.
Jean-Marc Bloch, former chief of staff for the Paris police, noted that the family gave the impression of being a wholesome family with children in private schools and a nice house. However, once investigators looked further into Xavier's life, they discovered that he did not lead the life that he was pretending to lead. In the early 2000s, the family tried to relocate to Florida. However, it was not successful. They thought that the move would have been simple, but it was not. They eventually moved back to France. As a result of the failed move, the family spent nearly all of their money.
According to Bruno, during the last ten years from 2001 to 2011, Xavier was in a "downward spiral of failure". They lost a great amount of money, there were "bailiffs on his back", along with many other problems. Xavier claimed to be a business owner, creating successful companies, travelling across France, and being a busy businessman. The truth was that his companies were never really successful. Shortly before the murders, he discovered that they were almost out of money and would have to leave their house and face serious consequences. As a result, he would be exposed as someone unsuccessful.
Bruno recalled that Xavier was vain, proud, and would not want to "lose face". It is believed that he did not want his children to find out that he had no money. It was as if he was "on a mission" to "save" his children from finding out that their father did not have the life that people had thought he had.
Three months before the murders, on January 20, 2011, Xavier's father Hubert died of a heart attack. Xavier took on the task of clearing out his apartment, sorting through his personal belongings. Hubert's neighbor Michael Calvi recalled that Xavier tried to recover a count's signet ring that had belonged to Hubert. He also tried to find out if there was any money set aside. However, he did not find anything. Hubert had also been having money troubles for several years. Sadly, his life ended in illness, loneliness, and poverty. It is believed that Xavier feared that the same thing would happen to him.
While in Hubert's apartment, Xavier discovered a .22 caliber long rifle. Michael recalled that when he last saw Xavier, he had a very "dark" look in his eyes. On February 2, Xavier obtained his firearms license. Prior to obtaining the rifle, his friends recalled that he had no interest in weapons. However, after he inherited the rifle, he learned how to shoot. He even went to the shooting range with two of his sons. He asked several questions to his instructor, one of which was about using a silencer. On March 12, he bought a silencer to fit the rifle. It is believed that he used this to shoot his family without alerting the neighbors.
Police believe that Thomas was not killed at the same time as his mother and siblings. The whole family was home on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3. However, Thomas left that weekend to go back to his Catholic university. His mother and siblings were murdered during the night of Sunday into Monday. On Tuesday, Xavier told Thomas, "Listen, you have to come back. Your mother has had a bicycle accident. She's in hospital, in a coma. We don't know if she'll come out of it. It's very serious. You have to come home."
On Tuesday evening, Thomas returned home. He was last heard from at midnight when he sent a text message to a friend. His friend responded to his message shortly after. However, Thomas never responded back. It is believed that he was drugged at that time. He was never seen or heard from after that. He is believed to have been killed during the night of Tuesday into Wednesday. He was then buried in a separate grave. It is suspected that Xavier hesitated in killing him because he was his eldest biological son and heir.
As the bodies of the family were discovered, police searched for Xavier, the prime suspect. By then, it was April 21, and they have not been seen since April 4. As a result, three weeks passed without a search. Police searched hotels and restaurants around France. On April 22, they found his car in the parking lot of a small Formule 1 hotel in Roquebrune-sur-Argens in the south. After they found his car, police reconstructed the week prior to the disappearances.
The murders of the family took place on the nights of April 3 and 5. The police discovered that Xavier spent the whole week inside the house. He was seen alone by acquaintances in Nantes. One week after the murders on April 10, he took his car and left Nantes. While driving between Nantes and La Rochelle, his car got flashed by a speed camera. Around noon, he went to a restaurant; this is verified by the credit card's time stamp. That evening, he checked into a hotel in La Rochelle. The next day, he headed southwest.
Although, according to police, Xavier was fleeing during this time period, it did not appear that he was going very fast. He also was not hiding. He withdrew money with his bank card and was recorded on security cameras. He also went to several restaurants and used his credit cards there. This behavior was noted as strange since he took a great amount of caution and work around the crime scene to fool investigators. There was speculation that he may have been planning to kill himself, as family murderers sometimes do.
Police believed that his flight may have been a "goodbye" to his past life. Some of the areas he visited were places that he and Agnès lived during the first years of their marriage. Other areas were places where the children had been born. It was noted that these places were where he had spent "happier" times in his life. The last known stop he made was Roquebrune-sur-Argens. He spent the night of April 14 at a Formule 1 hotel. Surveillance cameras showed him crossing the hotel parking lot carrying a bag. At the bottom of the bag was a long object. Investigators believe that it was the rifle he used to kill his family.
The surveillance camera captured the last known sighting of Xavier, which occurred on April 15, 2011. Bruno noted that Roquebrune-sur-Argens is surrounded by cliffs and a mountain. This has led some to believe that he walked into the mountains and committed suicide. The police believed this theory and searched the area for several weeks. They searched holes, caves, and crevices, but no trace of him was found. They were certain that he had committed suicide. However, some people, like journalist Anne-Sophie Martin, believe that he has fooled everyone and fled.
In most family murder cases, the perpetrator commits suicide on the spot. However, in some cases, the perpetrator goes on the run. Anne-Sophie notes that Xavier put a great amount of effort into deceiving the investigators at the crime scene. She believes that he did this in order to buy himself more time. Bruno believes that he deceived the police twice: first by hiding his family's bodies well, and then by making it seem like he committed suicide.
Jean-Marc noted that there is little evidence to determine what happened to Xavier after he left the hotel. He did not buy any plane or train tickets under his name, and there were no cars that disappeared or were rented. Anne-Sophie, however, pointed out that it could have been easy for him to have taken a boat and left the area, since the sea was only thirty kilometres away. He also could have taken a highway or mountain path to Italy. Also, he could have taken a train to Croatia or another country.
Anne-Sophie believes that Xavier is still alive. She believes that he is in Latin America because he is bilingual. She said that his English is very good and his Spanish is pretty good as well. Bruno believes that he went to either Hamburg or Tangiers and took a cargo ship. He believes that he then went to somewhere in Latin America, possibly Argentina. Jean-Marc points out that one problem with the case is that Xavier "looks a bit like everybody else" with no strong features. He is of average height and physically does not stand out.
Bruno wonders how Xavier can live with himself knowing that he has taken the lives of his wife and children. The police and the victims' loved ones want to find him, dead or alive. As of now, Xavier is wanted for questioning in connection with the murders.
Extra Notes: This case was first released on July 1, 2020 as a part of the first volume of the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries.
There are similarities between this case and that of Brad Bishop and Robert Fisher.
- Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes on Unsolved.com
- Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes on Wikipedia
- French Aristocrat Murder Mystery: Did Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes Kill His Family?
- Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès: Murder, mystery and an 8-year manhunt