The “cold case” remains one. Twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of his retired father, the Val-d’Oise Assize Court acquitted his 59-year-old son of parricide on Thursday, an unemployed “Tanguy” who still lived with his parents.
After an expeditious deliberation of barely two hours, the court presided over by judge Marc Trévidic declared not guilty Patrick Wittier, who denied the facts. The jury found that “substantial differences” in her nonagenarian mother’s decisive testimony, sometimes “vague or contradictory”, indeed posed “a significant risk of conviction of an innocent”.
On September 19, 2002, the family of Jean Wittier reported his disappearance to the Argenteuil police station, claiming that the 73-year-old retiree had left by bicycle the morning before and had never returned to the modest family pavilion.
In this procedure lacking in material elements, due to an investigation that remained in the police cupboards for years, the whole file was based on the revelations of the elderly mother, obtained by forceps by the investigators in 2016 after fourteen years of silence. .
In its reasoning, the Assize Court also considered that the inaction of the police and the absence of searches at the time of the report of the disappearance of Jean Wittier did not make it possible to categorically exclude other leads, such as a road accident.
The prosecution had requested thirty years of criminal imprisonment.
“When you have a doubt, intellectually you have to be honest and acquit. It is a file in which, apart from the testimony of a single person, we have nothing, ”welcomed AFP Me Ariane Lachenaud, Patrick Wittier’s lawyer, after the verdict.
According to the mother’s account, her youngest son hit the 73-year-old pensioner with a hammer after an argument between his parents and finished him off by drowning him in a bucket of water, before cutting up his corpse with a saw. The pieces were then evacuated over several weeks with the garbage, according to his version.
– “Geek”, not “psychopath” –
Devastating accusations that the cantankerous great-grandmother, shrunken in her wheelchair, forcefully renewed Wednesday for three hours at the helm.
“It’s a monster to have done this to us, and especially to his father who fed him. It never worked,” she scolded. Expressing little regret for the disappearance of her husband, she just conceded that the ex-EDF electrician “did not deserve to die like that”.
For four days, the Assize Court half-opened a skylight on the suffocating closed door of the “dysfunctional” Wittier family.
Avaricious and tyrannical patriarch, Jean Wittier could no longer bear to see his son, soon to be in his forties, out of work for years. Without friends, this “geek” spent his days in the darkness of his room, shutters closed, tapping on his computer.
Exasperated by the idleness of this “parasite”, his parent had even put padlocks on the cupboards and the fridge to prevent him from taking food and force him to leave the house. Caressing and protecting him, his mother fed him in secret. But the evening of the facts, according to his mother, the father had threatened his wife to “intern” him.
But “if there is a phobia that Patrick Wittier has, it is to find himself alone, it is to no longer have a roof”, slashed the Advocate General Luc Pelerin in his indictment.
Because of the detached personality of the accused, a tall thin man who appeared free, the trial sometimes took on surreal accents. Appearing to the audience as a solitary, intellectual misanthrope considering himself superiorly intelligent to others, he defended himself awkwardly, nitpicking over superfluous details.
Recognizing an “atypical” profile, however, he defended himself from being a “psychopath” and said he was “stunned” in the face of his mother’s accusations. “I don’t know what happened to my father …”, he argued at the bar, hardly offering any explanations.
The prosecution has ten days to appeal.