Then who did write the message in blood? France torn by victim's message in blood

AFTER several months' delay in his contentious release, Omar Raddad is finally enjoying his first weekend of freedom in seven years. The Tunisian gardener left prison on Friday after being partially pardoned for a crime which he insists he did not commit - the murder of his wealthy employer.

With macabre timing, the latest of many books on his case will reach the shops in France this week. It contends that contrary to what he has always claimed and what the majority of French have come to believe, the young Tunisian did murder Ghislaine Marchal at her villa near Nice in June 1991.

The truth may never be established for sure. Mr Raddad cannot be tried twice for the same offence. More significantly, the case has drawn attention to the curious fact that, under French law, he was unable to appeal against his criminal conviction, despite an accumulation of evidence that the original court finding in February 1994 was unsafe.

The Omar affair once held France in its grip almost as completely as the OJ Simpson case captivated America and the world. Could the baby-faced gardener, then 29, have brutally stabbed the widow who had always treated him kindly? What of the bizarre inscription found written in blood on the cellar wall, close to the body? Ms Marchal had apparently written with her finger in her own blood: "Omar m'a tuer. Omar m'a t..." ("Omar killed me.")

Given the severity of her injuries, could she really have written this? Would a well-educated woman have made the grammatical error of writing "tuer" instead of "tuee"? Was it her handwriting in any case? These are questions which have drawn conflicting answers from forensic scientists. One expert told the trial it was 99 per cent certain that Ms Marchal had written the words; another expert has since pronounced that she almost certainly did not.

Defence lawyers and campaigners for Mr Raddad's release have always insisted that the message was written by the real murderer to throw suspicion on to the young gardener. The weight of doubt became so great that in 1996 President Jacques Chirac gave him a partial pardon, reducing his sentence from 18 years to four years and eight months.

Adding further to the drama of the Omar affair, Mr Raddad should actually have been freed several months ago, but it was a condition of his parole that he must have a job before leaving prison. He was only released on Friday after the Justice Ministry approved an offer from a Halal butchers chain in Marseilles, which is ready to employ him as a stock-keeper.

Mr Raddad left prison with his lawyer, Jacques Verges, a veteran defender of unpopular causes. Both men vowed to continue the fight to clear his name. But the new book, L'Affaire Omar Raddad: un dossier pour servir la verite, by Francois Foucart, a journalist, offers new evidence suggesting that he was guilty.

Mr Foucart says that there is written evidence that Ms Marchal made grammatical errors with the past tense. He also reveals police evidence that someone had jammed the door to the cellar from the inside with a piece of wood, in between the writing of the first sentence and the uncompleted second.

This could only have been the victim, he says - thus once again pointing the finger of blame at Omar Raddad.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Management Accountant

£40000 - £46000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Global publishing and digital bu...

Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day supply

£110 - £130 per day + Competitve rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Yea...

Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day supply across the region

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits