Grenoble, France — It all started with the disappearance of eight-year-old Maeris de Araújo at a wedding in the French Alps. After a large search that attracted national attention, investigators identified the wedding guest as the main suspect. But that was just the beginning. The investigation has led authorities to suspect the man for other crimes around France.
Dog trainer Nordahl Lelandais will be tried on Monday in Grenoble, accused of kidnapping and killing Maëlys. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
A terrifying discovery of her body after searching for Maeris and, six months later, admitting that Lelandice had killed her, seizing France and tearing the girl’s family apart.
The trial began on Monday morning in front of Maeris’ parents. The girl’s mother had a large photo of her daughter in her hand.
Lelandais told the court that he wanted to apologize. “I certainly took Maelis’s life. I didn’t want to,” he said. “I will explain the facts during the trial,” he added.
Experts were expected to provide details from the Lelandais personality assessment in the afternoon.
Lelandais was not initially invited to a wedding in the town of Pont de Beauvoisin on August 26, 2017. However, he called the groom the day before and said that Relandice could come to the reception.
According to the Associated Press’s witness testimony, Lelandice appeared in midnight for dessert and offered cocaine to the two guests who asked for it.
According to the investigator, he invited Maeris to see his dog, so she was in his car and looking at the dog. Around 3 am, her girl’s mother warned her wedding guests that she was missing and they began to look for her in vain.
Examining the suspect’s phone, he found that he was in “airplane mode” twice that night. According to research documents, his car, the Audi A3, was discovered by a video surveillance camera with a small passenger at 2:47 am.
Witnesses testified that Lelandice then returned to the wedding and was indifferent to Maeris while everyone else was looking for her. He left the wedding before the police arrived at 4:15 am.
He was identified as a suspect within a few days. For the next six months, he denied Maelis’ involvement in the disappearance, despite accumulated evidence against him.
And in February 2018, after a bloodstain was found in the trunk of a car thanks to extensive scientific analysis, Lelandice confessed to investigators, “This poor girl, I unknowingly killed her,” and her parents. Apologized to. To the investigator. He told the police where to find her body and they dug a small bone in the woods.
Lelandais told investigators that Maëlys began crying in an “incomprehensible” way, not intending to kill her, and hit her face hard.
“I don’t know what happened in my head,” he said.
In recalling the murder, he mentioned another man, Arthur Neuer, a soldier who disappeared in early 2017 from a gay night club in another part of the Alps. As a result, investigators have begun to reassess Neuer’s disappearance. His skull was later discovered nearby.
Lelandais admitted that he accidentally killed Noyer after fighting with a hard blow. Last year, Lelandais was convicted of Noyer’s murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Lelandais told investigators about his sexual appeal to the girls. He said he was ashamed of this, and he admitted to heavy use of alcohol and drugs.
In the Grenoble trial, Lelandais will also be tried for sexual violence against two cousins aged 5 and 6 who were committed in the same summer of 2017 while on vacation in southern France.
While they were asleep, he confessed that he had abused them. A video of one of the scenes was found on his phone.
Lelandais was also charged in the Ardennes in northern France for sexually assaulting his 14-year-old cousin. Police then investigated whether Lelandais could play a role in other open crimes around France.
In the book Maeris, written by the girl’s mother Jennifer de Araujo with a journalist, she calls the accused “another” and talks about her family’s life since her disappearance.
She had been waiting for six months, “expected”, “engaged”, and after receiving scattered leads, the inspector announced that “a drop of blood was found in the trunk.” I look back on the feeling of “dying” at that time. Her parents separated and sold the house.
A verdict on the girl’s murder is scheduled for February 18.
By Nicolas Vaux-Montagny