On the night of August 26 to 27, 2017, Maëlys De Araujo, her sister, and her two parents, go to the wedding of a cousin, in Isère. In the evening, the guests celebrate the union in the hall of the town of Pont-de-Beauvoisin. However, the reception will take a completely different turn when the young Maëlys, eight years old, crosses the path of Nordahl Lelandais.
Vague knowledge of the groom, this thirty-year-old invited himself to the party before removing the little girl, in the middle of the night. In February 2018, after denying his involvement in the disappearance for many months, the suspect ends up confessing to the murder. The man is not at his first attempt: he also happens to be the executioner ofArthur Noyer, a young corporal who disappeared in April 2017.
January 31, 2022 the trial of the murderer begins. The event is highly publicized. “It’s a terrible case but it’s not exceptional, because murders of children we have known, and we know some”nuance Jacques Dallest, general counsel during the trial, in Voices of Crime. The one who is above all Attorney General of Grenoble, keeps in mind his function: “We must keep a distance (…) we are there to judge in the most neutral way possible.”
What was perhaps the most moving was the slideshow of little Maëlys
This “sensitive trial” is far from the first for the prosecutor, who strives to remain impartial in the face of the magnitude of the case. “Even the worst of the defendants, I have always treated him as a human being, who is accused of a crime and who must be tried by an assize court with jurors, whatever the seriousness of the facts”explains Jacques Dallest.
For three weeks, relatives and family of the victim marched to the bar and engaged in chilling testimonials. During the hearings, the Attorney General remembers perfectly the speech of Colleen, the older sister of Maëlys: “she spoke directly to Lelandais, it was strong as testimony.”
Although his neutrality is necessary, Jacques Dallest is no less empathetic. “I put myself in the place of relatives, for whom it is necessary to keep this animosity.” In the courtroom, photos and videos of the little girl follow one another. The emotion is palpable: “what was perhaps the most moving was the slide show of little Maëlys, which was presented during her lifetime.”
I was touched like everyone else
When he returns home at the end of the day, Jacques Dallest, although accustomed to this kind of file, manages to get out of the heavy atmosphere that reigns in the room. “I was on the road every night, it allowed me to decompress a little, then to think about something else. I think I was touched like everyone else”he confides.
On February 18, 2022, Nordahl Lelandais is sentenced to the maximum penalty: life imprisonment with 22 years of security. For loved ones, the relief is present but the pain remains. Jacques Dallest, he remains satisfied with the verdict but for this soon to be retired, “there is no feeling of victory”in the face of this dark affair.
Despite all the cases dealt with and the criminals encountered during his career, Jacques Dallest never voluntarily got used to it: “In the long run, we take a lot of distance, we harden up, but don’t get too tough and fall into a somewhat cold professionalism.”
>> Voices of Crime are lawyers, investigators, relatives of victims, suspects or culprits. These key witnesses confide in the microphone of RTL journalists. Unpublished testimonies, which shed new light on justice and major criminal cases today.
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