Bruyères, Lépanges, Aumontzey… Between these three towns criss-crossed by the Vologne river, in the heart of the Vosges, the weight of life and that of secrets are transmitted from one generation to the next.
The enclave is isolated, rustic comfort and wild nature: it is the countryside. And at the beginning of the 1980s, no one stood out from the ranks: we worked in one of the factories in the region, from father to son, from mother to daughter, we married young, and we had many children. Above all, you never move too far from your clan.
The clan, precisely, is the nerve center of the most resonant legal case in contemporary French history: the murder of little Grégory Villemin.
On October 16, 1984, the 4-year-old boy was rescued, lifeless, from the freezing waters of the Vologne river, near Docelles (Vosges). His mother, Christine Villemin, had reported his disappearance a few hours earlier. His father, Jean-Marie, is devastated.
For months, the little family had been the victim of a crow with a vengeance, mocking the father of the family, “the boss” who had become foreman at the Autocoussin factory, throwing rumors and family secrets around and threatening to take it from his child.
Even though, for more than a year, the crow had become curiously silent, the unthinkable ended up happening. The black bird of Vologne is therefore ready for anything. And the legal enigma has only just begun.
But what is really going on in this family from the Vosges?
To rewrite history, it is necessary to go back several years, to the origins of the family tree of the Villemin clan.
In 1981, the first to bear the brunt of the crow’s malicious calls were not Grégory’s parents. But his grandparents: Monique and Albert Villemin.
The couple live in Aumontzey, where they had six children: Jacky, Michel, Jacqueline, Jean-Marie (Grégory’s father), Gilbert and Lionel.
At first the calls are silent. Then, “the guy” becomes more and more talkative. He has a lot on his heart, and devotes a fierce hatred against Monique, whom he calls a whore, and Albert, to whom he promises a very disastrous fate. In any case, he seems determined to dig up family secrets and “hit where it hurts”.
The harassment goes further than these mysterious communications: once, the funeral directors rang in broad daylight at the Villemins. They were called to tell them that Albert had died, they came to collect the body.
Another day, the couple’s young son, Gilbert, who does not have a telephone, is stopped by his neighbor, who is taken aback: he has to go immediately to the hospital, his father has just had a heart attack. At least, that’s what a lady has just told him on the phone… But on the spot, Gilbert realizes that this is not the case.
“The father, Albert, is very important. He is one of the favorite targets of the crow, who wants to push him to commit suicide, when he says for example: ‘you will hang yourself like your father'”, explains Thibaut Solano. , journalist and author of La Voix Rauque (ed. Les Arènes). He studied at length the calls, the writings, and the obsessions of the “raven of Vologne”. And for him, there is no doubt: “Albert is one of the bearers of the most painful family secrets”.
These secrets must be delved into the troubled childhood of the patriarch to unearth them.
Albert Villemin was born in 1930, in the same valley of Vologne that he will roam throughout his life. A year later, a first tragedy shook his family. On February 14, 1931, Jeanine Hollard, her mother, smashed the skull of her big brother, Etienne, 4, against the stove, in a fit of anger. The little boy will die on February 21, at the Bruyères hospital. Jeannine will be sentenced to 3 years in prison. The father, a worker, will ask for a divorce, before engaging in the Second World War.
Albert was then placed at a very young age by public assistance, first with his uncles, then tossed from home to home.
In 1942, his father, Gaston, hanged himself in the forest, on returning from the front. He couldn’t bear that Jeanine had found love again in the arms… of a German soldier.
The young Albert Villemin is only 10 years old. This drama will haunt him all his life… and serve as a push button for the unfortunate “raven”, who will mention Gaston Villemin’s suicide several times during his calls and letters.
“The crow pushed Albert to suicide, like his own father who had been found hanged. The crow predicted the worst disasters for Albert”, reports Patricia Tourancheau, journalist, author of the book Grégory – La machination familial (Ed . Threshold).
Albert grows up with difficulty, finds work at the factory, like everyone else, and marries Monique, “the only one who really wanted me”, he will say. Together, they raise their children in their pavilion of Aumontzey.
But Albert is not really the ideal family man. Depressed, nervous, he made several stays at the Mirecourt hospital and at home, his outbursts of anger were feared by the whole brood.
“When he was drunk, he frightened his children, and he could be threatening towards Monique, who then went to take refuge with her father and her brothers. We see, in this violence, that Albert he made enemies in his beautiful family… He was not loved by his father-in-law Léon and his brother-in-law Marcel Jacob…”, describes Thibaut Solano. For good reason: the man would have raised his hand several times on his wife, and even, on his eldest, Jacky.
It must be said that Jacky is not really a Villemin like the others. In reality, the first Villemin son is an “illegitimate” child.
In April 1953, Monique Jacob had an affair with a certain Thiébaut. She becomes pregnant. In July, she marries Albert. He accepts the child as his own, and later adopts him. But here it is: until he was 3 years old, maybe even beyond, Jacky was raised by his maternal grandparents, Léon and Adeline Jacob, on their farm in Aumontzey. We do not know why the young toddler did not live, then, with his parents. But it is rumored that Albert hit him “too often”… As an adult, Jacky will say that he has no memory of it.
Among the Jacobs, the young boy would have experienced a completely different form of violence. The incestuous tendencies of the grandfather, Léon, are an open secret in the family. At the time, he shared the layer of his daughter, Louisette. In 1958, a child was born from these abuses: the young Chantal, who will suffer from a severe mental deficiency.
“The grandparents were also alcoholics,” says Patricia Tourancheau.
Still, at the Jacob’s, where Albert is definitely not in the odor of holiness, Jacky is relatively “protected” by his grandfather. He also grew up alongside his cousin, Bernard Laroche, taken in by the couple after the death in childbirth of his mother, Thérèse Jacob. Together, they make the 400 blows.
As a teenager, Jacky, in turn, hired in one of the factories in the region. In the locker room, he tells tales of miraculous fishing and shoveling feats. “A boaster”, a “mythomaniac”, will say his colleagues of the time. Jacky would tend to exaggerate, perhaps. But he wants to be accepted, admired…
Because at home, he feels it, his place is not acquired. His brother Michel, a blood type and a little nag, makes him see all the colors. And the third son, Jean-Marie, is much brighter… Above all, Jacky has heard funny things about him since he was very young.
At 17, his grandmother finally spits the piece, and tells him about its genesis. He learns that Albert is not his biological father. He knows nothing about “Thiébaut”: Monique does not pour out on the subject, ashamed. But we know, today, with certainty, that it is indeed Thiébaut the father of Jacky. “It’s an adventure that Monique Villemin had had before her marriage. Her identity is known for sure”, notes Patricia Tourancheau.
“He himself was found by the investigators afterwards and recognized that he was the father, Monique admitted that there had been an affair, moreover known to relatives, and that he had fled”, assures us Thibaut Solano.
The news of this filiation, which clashed with the mores of the countryside at the time, spread, over the years, among the other members of the siblings. It is Michel, the youngest, who will react in the most virulent way. “I’m the eldest,” he chanted, proud as a rooster, to Jean-Marie. It is also Michel who, from then on, gives Jacky a vile nickname: “the bastard”, as if he was angry with him for having “robbed” him of the place that was rightfully his for all these years.
From then on, Jacky Villemin distances himself from the family. Especially since he met Liliane Jacquel, his future wife, and no one can pick her up at the Villemins. She is the daughter of Roger Jacquel, the sworn enemy of Albert Villemin in Aumontzey. She is also the former crush of Michel Villemin.
But it is said above all that she is mad, castrating, unstable… “Liliane, Jacky’s wife, had become a scapegoat, she was hated by Albert, she was called hysterical”, reports Thibaut Solano.
But Jacky doesn’t care. Together, they move to Granges, have a son: Eric, and keep a low profile, only going out on rare occasions.
But in 1981, the subject “Jacky” comes back to the table at the Villemins, and the eldest, in spite of himself, finds himself caught in an infernal whirlwind.
Because the famous crow who recently attacks Albert and Monique, then Jean-Marie and Christine, keeps mentioning, in his cursed calls, the “bastard” of the siblings.
He also takes his defense, while castigating, conversely, his brother Jean-Marie and his lifestyle as a “little chef”.
In an anonymous missive, addressed to Monique and Albert in 1983, he wrote for example:
“YOU SHOULD NOT DATE THE CHEF ANY MORE. YOU SHOULD CONSIDER HIM ALSO AS A BASTARD, PUT HIM ENTIRELY AWAY, FOR YOU AND HIS BROTHERS AND SISTER.
IF YOU DON’T I WILL EXECUTE MY THREATS I MADE TO THE CHIEF FOR HIM AND HIS LITTLE FAMILY. JACKY AND HIS BABY FAMILY HAVE BEEN SIDED ENOUGH.”
The crow’s support for the “bastard” (he uses the nickname given to Jacky by his brother Michel) is such that the family comes to suspect Jacky and his wife Liliane of being behind the malicious calls and letters.
Patricia Tourancheau specifies: “The crow played on it and defended the bastard, Jacky, who would be treated less well than the other members of the family. He made fun of the little protege, the darling Jean-Marie, with his little girl etc. And after a while, they all start to suspect Jacky, since he has always been defended by the crow”.
All of this is reinforced by the fact that the Villemins do not like Liliane or her father, Roger Jacquel. Could it be that father and daughter act together against them, with the complicity of Jacky?
“There were plenty of reasons to suspect the Liliane / Jacky circle. She was, at the time, the main accused of the family, moreover”, continues Thibaut Solano.
In June 1983, it is the fracture. The situation degenerates, and Jean-Marie and Jacky come to blows. Not long ago, the “raven”, which threatened to attack the family of Jean-Marie, would have broken a pane of their pavilion of Lépanges-sur-Vologne. Jean-Marie accuses his brother and urges him to confess. Jacky refuses. They exchange blows. From then on, Jacky swears to herself not to speak to the Villemins again. And then, in any event, it is not one.
“Following that, the relations which were good between Jean-Marie and Jacky are interrupted. They are cold, they no longer speak to each other and no longer see each other”, insists Patricia Tourancheau.
However, Jacky and his wife will not be spared the calls of the crow. “In 1983, the crow finally wakes up and makes anonymous calls to Jacky and his wife, which have also been recorded, continues the author. They do not alert Christine and Jean-Marie Villemin, and it is dramatic , because if they had spoken to them, they would have understood that it was not them, the crow, and that it was someone else”.
But that’s not all: if Jacky had been prolific with his brother, the drama might have been avoided. “In 1984, the crow carried out his telephone threats. The question which was very often asked to Christine and Jean-Marie was: since you were victims of a crow which harassed and threatened your kid, why would you let them play outside? Except that, for them, the crow had stopped at the end of 1982, it had been 18 months since it had disappeared, and they were breathing again”, notes the journalist.
In short, if Jacky and Liliane, who had received the call shortly before the tragedy, had shared it with the couple, Christine would probably not have had the “recklessness” to let her son play outside…
On March 8, 1984, during one of these last calls, the “hoarse voice” exchanged with Liliane as follows:
Le Corbeau – Inquire in Aumontzey, you will see what people think of Monique with her first bastard.
Liliane Villemin – Why did she have others?
Le Corbeau – She has a second one, and it shows because her father is not that loved… and in Aumontzey, so the second bastard can be Michel or Jacqueline Gilbert or Jean-Marie… he is in Aumontzey their father. He’s the one you’re looking for, you just have to find him.
Liliane Villemin – Is his father in Aumontzey?
Le Corbeau – She always told you bullshit there was never a ‘Thiébaut’, only butter in the ass.
Liliane Villemin – And who is her father, do you know? Because Jacky what makes him unhappy is his father, imagine. His mother and the other he doesn’t care. It is his father he would like to know.
The Raven – That he asks the truth from his mother because she also lies. She says it’s ‘Thiébaut’ even to her real husband, but she doesn’t want to say who the guy from Aumontzey is, since she’s still often had sex with him, and that she had a second youngster with.
The bird of misfortune boils secrets, rumors and fabrications in an infernal “hate soup”. The sauce takes: one wonders, in the family, if Jacky is really the only “bastard”… But Monique does not say a word.
For Thibaut Solano, “the crow knows how to identify the Achilles’ heel of its targets. It knows that Albert is fragile, and that Jacky feels left out, so he presses on it. And then, using the story of Jacky makes it possible to hurt others, leaving this little terrible suspicion: what if Jacky wasn’t the only bastard?And if Monique had had another lover, maybe Jean-Marie, or Michel, could have been children also illegitimate?
In 2012, DNA analyzes ordered by the examining magistrate Claire Barbier will put an end, decades later, to these fantasies. Jacky is the only “bastard” in the Villemins. “The Villemins had a distinctive sign on one toe, which is found on everyone except Jacky. There are features, Michel is a carbon copy of his father, and the resemblance is striking between Albert and his other sons” , also notes Thibaut Solano.
For the journalist, Jacky’s story is a pretext. “A strike”, even, for the crow. “He uses Jacky to stir up hatred and make him take the blame, and it works very well. Jacky is so suspected that it ends in a major quarrel, where Jean-Marie and Jacky come to blows”.
The story of the bastard therefore makes it possible to target Albert, Jean-Marie, but also Monique, the privileged target of anonymous missives, right in the heart.
“One of the crow’s obsessions is sexuality, bedtime stories. The corollary is to systematically attack women, who are treated as sluts, sluts… So, by pressing the story of Jacky we also attack Monique by saying to her: you are a woman of little virtue”, specifies the journalist.
If Monique’s bastard and “sleeping” are part of the crow’s obsessions, another family secret, much heavier, is however never mentioned by the bird… The incest of Léon Jacob, Monique’s father , on his daughter Louisette.
This is the subject of the second episode of our investigation, available on September 13 on Planet.