Magistrate in Dickinson case accused of new murder bungle

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The Independent Online

The French magistrate who bungled the early stages of the Caroline Dickinson investigation has failed in another high-profile case - the hunt for a doctor who murdered his wife in August and is believed to have fled to Britain with his two children.

The French magistrate who bungled the early stages of the Caroline Dickinson investigation has failed in another high-profile case - the hunt for a doctor who murdered his wife in August and is believed to have fled to Britain with his two children.

Gerard Zaug was removed from the Dickinson murder case after complaints by the girl's family and criticisms in the local and British press. The 13-year-old Cornish schoolgirl was killed near St Malo, Brittany in 1996. Now, Mr Zaug looks likely to be removed from the investigation of the mysterious case of Dr Yves Godard, who was last seen on the Isle of Man in September.

Among the failures of the three-month inquiry was a bizarre episode in the outer Hebrides. Three gendarmes from Brittany, sent to the Isle of Lewis by Mr Zaug in October to follow up an anonymous tip, were placed under arrest for two days by Scottish police. They exceeded their international warrant by pursuing some investigations without local police permission. The Ministry of Justice in Paris had to intervene, causing what another French magistrate has described as a "diplomatic incident between France and Scotland".

The other main allegation against Mr Zaug is that he refused to authorise police in Normandy, where the Godards lived, to conduct a proper search for Mrs Godard's body. It is alleged that the judge failed to demand a search because he was determined to hold on to the case.

The investigation is being conducted by Mr Zaug from St Malo in Brittany because that was the last place on French soil that anyone saw Dr Godard, and his children, aged six and four. If Mrs Godard's body is found in Normandy, the investigation would have to be handed over to a local magistrate.

After a series of complaints, Mr Zaug finally relented last week and ordered exhaustive searches for the body of Marie-France Godard around her home near Caen.

Dr Godard is believed to have fled to Britain aboard a rented yacht in late August, after murdering his wife during a quarrel.

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