A British father of two has been found dead in a French prison just months after he was accused of slitting the throats of his two young children in France.
The body of expat Julian Stevenson, 48, was found hanged in Corbas prison, Lyon, before he could go on trial for the murder of five year old Carla and her ten year old brother Matthew.
"He hanged himself on Monday in a sports hall reserved for inmates held in solitary confinement," said a source at the local public prosecutor's office on Tuesday. There was “no doubt” he had taken his own life, according to assistant prosecutor Pascal Guinot.
Stevenson was believed to have killed his children in May after spending the day with them - the first time he had been allowed to look after his son and daughter without any supervision in three years. He had been a heavy drinker with a history of violence against his French ex-wife Stephanie Morlet, an assistant accountant whom he married in 2005. But their marriage broke up after he assaulted his wife in 2010 - leading to an acrimonious divorce and his ex-wife awarded custody of the children. Stevenson had been banned from having unsupervised access to their children since 2010 – until the ban was lifted earlier this year.
CCTV footage taken the day they died showed his son and daughter seemingly happy as their father bought them sweets at a local bakery on Saturday 18 May this year.
But when their mother Stephanie came to collect them later that day, she was confronted by the sight of her blood-spattered ex-husband in the stairway. He made off on a pair of roller-skates and was arrested shortly afterwards. The bodies of Carla and Matthew were discovered inside their father’s flat in the suburbs of Lyon.
Stevenson, originally from Cheltenham, had lived in France for the past decade. He had a business degree and had once worked in sales, but had been unemployed for some time. Although it was reported that he had confessed to the murders, he “would not discuss his motive", an official in the state prosecutor's department said earlier this year. The crime appeared to be "linked to his acrimonious separation" from his family and his lack of access to the children, according to other officials.
His apparent suicide has killed the chance of his ex-wife seeing justice for the murder of their two children. Stevenson’s elderly parents, who live in Dorset and have described their grandchildren as “the best”, are being supported by government officials. In a statement, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the death of a British national in detention in France on 30 December. We are providing consular assistance to the family.”