As you may know, John List killed his entire family and went on the run in 1971. He escaped the authorities for 18 years and even built a new life for himself before being arrested and convicted. Family annihilators are sadly not that rare in countries like the United States or Australia, but they are very rare in France. In fact, the last family annihilation apart from the one we will discuss today occurred in 2010, and in France, when you type the words « murder of whole family » into Google, most results are about one family, the Dupont de Ligonnès. It’s their story I’ll be telling you about today.
A sudden and disturbing disappearance
Everything begins on April 4th, 2011 in the city of Nantes. Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès doesn’t show to the catholic elementary school where she works as a hall monitor. Her husband, Xavier, calls the principal and tells him that Agnès has an angina. He also explains to the principals of two of his kids, Anne and Benoît, that they are also sick. The thing is, no one can reach the « sick » members of the family, and Xavier speaks for them.
On April 8th, « Agnès » sends a text to her boss saying that she will be unreachable because she is hospitalized. For an angina ? Yeah, sure…
On April 11th, Agnès’ boss and Anne and Benoît’s schools receive a letter stating that the whole family is moving to Australia because Xavier has been transferred there. That’s everyone realizes that they’re being fucked with and calls the police to report the family missing.
A pretty chill beginning of investigation
The police officers aren’t used to family annihilation, so they think the family must be alive somewhere. On April 13th, they go into the house and notice that every single personal belonging of the family is gone. Only the furniture and a full dishwasher remain, and a sign on the mailbox states that all mail must returned to its sender. All this makes the investigators think that the family has indeed moved, even though no one knew of their intentions to leave, no train station or airport reports them going anywhere, and the parents’ bank accounts have been closed.
On April 15th, 18th and 20th, the investigators return to the house but still find nothing and no one. On the 20th, the district attorney is finally done beating around the bush and opens a judicial investigation (which in French is technically different from a police investigation) and asks for any witness to step forward. He also orders another search of the house.
From 0 to 100 real quick
The investigators returns to the Dupont de Ligonnès’ home on April 21st. They finally search the backyard, and that’s where they find the bodies of all the family members except Xavier. Agnès, 48, Arthur, 20, Thomas, 18, Anne, 16 and Benoît, 13, have all been shot with a .22 long rifle, put in sheets, then in sleeping bags, THEN in garbage bags. A religious symbol has been placed with each body (rosary for some, statuette for others).
Since the bodies had been buried under several layers of quicklime, cloth and cement, their advanced state of decomposition made the determination of the time of death very hard, especially since Xavier didn’t leave any notes detailing why and how he became such a piece of shit. By analyzing the family’s back accounts, the autopsy reports and the device Agnès used to monitor her sleep apnea, the investigators managed to find out that Xavier took the whole family, except for Thomas, to the movies and then to the restaurant on April 3rd, before executing them that night around 3:30. The following day, he went to the city of Angers and met with Thomas in a restaurant, where the waiting staff recalls seeing Thomas suddenly looking exhausted, which led investigators to believe that Xavier tried to poison his son that night. The day after that, Xavier contacted Thomas and made him believe that his mother had had a bike accident and was in the hospital. Thomas, obviously worried, comes back home, where he is shot to death, 48 hours after his mother and his siblings.
The worst in all of this is that everybody didn’t die in their sleep. Indeed, the autopsies show that Benoît and Thomas were shot in the chest before being shot in the head, which proves that the sleeping pills that Xavier used to put the whole family to sleep didn’t work on them.
After the murders, Xavier sent a letter to his family and acquaintances explaining that he was a secret agent for the DEA and that he had been placed under witness protection along with his family after he singlehandedly took down a whole network of drug dealers (a real superhero, that one). In this letter, he asks for his cars to be sold and for his house to be emptied, except for the backyard. Strangely, Xavier’s family believes that letter and it’s Agnès’ family that gives it to the police.
Of course, that makes Xavier the n°1 suspect, but the investigators still struggle to determine the motive behind these brutal executions, so they start to dig into the family’s history to find what coud have been the trigger (no pun intended).
A normal family with a few secrets
Xavier and Agnès met during their childhood in the city of Versailles, in a catholic upper class environment. They end up getting engaged, but break up, and find each other again a few years later when Agnès is already pregnant with Arthur. Xavier goes against the rules of his environment and marries Agnès anyway in 1991, and recognizes Arthur as his son. As years go by and the births happen, the family moves a lot. They go from France to the United States, and then back to France, finally settling in Nantes.
We know that Xavier worked in marketing and sales, and that he owned his own company, but even to this day we don’t exactly know what his job was. We just know that he traveled a lot.
Agnès was a loving and discreet mother, and she only started working when all her kids had reached their teenage years. At the time of her death, she was a hall monitor and a catechism teacher.
Arthur was an IT student in the Vendée county and worked part-time in a pizzeria. He wasn’t living at home anymore. He was described as joyful and sweet, a totally normal person.
Thomas was studying musicology in Nantes, and was an excellent pianist. He was also sweet, but more reserved than his older brother. He didn’t live at home either.
Anne was in 11th grade in a catholic high school. She was a good student and her classmates described her as discreet but nice to talk to.
Benoît was in 7th grade in a catholic middle school. He was liked by his peers and very popular with girls. He was also a choir boy and liked rollerskating.
Everything points to an ordinary tight-nit family. However, everyone has a few skeletons in their closet, and the Dupont de Ligonnès weren’t an exception.
The parents separated once in 2004, but even after reconciling, tensions put Agnès and Xavier on the edge. Agnès frequented forums where she would tell strangers about the lack of affection and sexual activity in her life. She also confessed to being attracted to other men than her husband, and even contacted on several occasions bisexual women to learn about their experiences. Xavier didn’t give a flying fuck about Agnès and got all kinds of pussy on a regular basis during their marriage. He also frequented forums, more specifically catholic forums where he didn’t talk his problems, which he wanted to be kept secret, but about God, angels and all kinds of weird theories which got him banned from a forum on several occasions.The family also had financial issues. In 2010, Xavier declared only 4,000€ of income, his company was in the gutter, and the family had to take money from Agnès’ inheritance to survive. Xavier also borrowed money from his friends and mistresses to keep himself afloat.
From desperation to murder ?
Anyone encountering the same problems as Xavier would file for bankruptcy, pick up the pieces and be done with it. But Xavier didn’t function that way. He absolutely wanted to save face, and confessed in an email to his friends that he would have nothing left by September, and he would rather kill himself or his whole family (without leaving proof of his guilt, mind you) than lose his reputation. To add to the shitstorm brewing, Xavier’s father died on January 20th, 2011 and left him, among other things, sleeping pills (yep) and and .22 long rifle (yep).A few weeks before the murders, Xavier finds himself a new hobby and enters a shooting club where he sometimes takes his sons ! Yeah, that guy is a real piece of shit.A few days before the murders, he bought a silencer for his guns and the material that he would later use to bury the bodies. And the man who didn’t want to leave any proof of his guilt…put everything on his credit card ! Genius !
Where is that son of a bitch ?
Now that the investigators have proof of the premeditation and some form of motive, they have to answer the 1-million-dollar question: where is Xavier ?We know that on April 10th, so a week after the murders started, he went to Angers and emptied Thomas’ apartment. He even said to one of the neighbors « The things you do for your children ». Well, putting two bullets in their head as they sleep is something you don’t do.After that, he goes to Arthur’s apartment and empties it too. Once he is done, he spends the night in a hotel in the city of La Rochelle under the name Xavier Ligonne (GENIUS).The following day, he is seen near the city of Toulouse, and spends the night in a hotel near the city of Avignon, this time under the name Xavier Laurent (keep pushing, we’re almost there). He is very talkative with the staff and even tries to seduce the hotel’s owner. So much fun !After that, he spends a few days in the Var county and then…nothing. We completely lose his trail.
The authorities deliver an international arrest warrant on May 10th, 2011, but the manhunt doesn’t make any progress. A lot of searches were done in the Var and Allier counties, where he has ties, but in vain. And no need to mention Guy Joao, the poor guy who was arrested in the Glasgow airport on October 11th, 2019, and was mistreated by our best of the best until DNA evidence finally proved his innocence.Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès is still being looked for by Interpol almost 10 years after his crimes. He might be confined somewhere like the rest of us, or dead being eaten by rats. I don’t know which option I prefer.
NB : Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès comes from a family of nutjobs
Yeah, we all know that Xavier is a world-class asshole, but did you know that HIS MOTHER AND HIS SISTER ARE RUNNING A CULT ??????For legal reasons, this cult is called a « prayer group », and is named the Church of Philadelphia. It was founded by Xavier’s mother, Geneviève Dupont de Ligonnès, in the 60’s. According to an ex-member, she pretends to receive messages from God (or maybe she believes it, I don’t know because I’m not crazy), and trapped several dozen members into giving her their money. She even declared that Christine, Xavier’s sister, would someday give birth to « Lucis Ya El », the descendant of Jesus and Lucifer, who will save the world. Did I mention the fact they encourage parents to take their children out of school and have weird sexual practices ? I feel like I should mention that. Anyway, Christine is now the Alpha of the cult and is the one receiving the messages from God, which she then transmits via text and on the Internet. Xavier and Agnès were said to have been part of this cult until 1995. I’m not saying they’re involved in the murders and are keeping Xavier in some basement, I’m just saying someone should keep an eye on them.
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