France's most notorious escapee, Jean-Pierre Treiber, who once posted himself out of jail in a cardboard box, hanged himself in his prison cell at the weekend.
Treiber's suicide on Saturday came two months before he was due to stand trial for the murder of two young women. He had evaded and teased the police for two months after his unusual escape in September and was supposed to be the most closely guarded man in France. The banner headline in Le Parisien yesterday was: "Treiber's final escape".
The accused man's death angered the victims' families, who had hoped that his trial in April might clear up the many mysteries surrounding their deaths. Treiber, 46, a forest worker and gamekeeper with no criminal record, was charged with the kidnapping and murder of Geraldine Giraud, 36, and Katia Lherbier, 32, a lesbian couple, in November 2004.
He always protested his innocence, even though their half-burned bodies were found beneath stones in a septic tank in the garden of his home in Burgundy. Treiber was also found to have used their credit cards after they vanished from a weekend home nearby.
Police twice investigated suggestions that their deaths might have been the result of jealousies within a lesbian love triangle. Ms Giraud's aunt, who had previously lived with Ms Lherbier, was formally cleared of suspicion for a second time earlier this month.
Ms Giraud's father, Roland Giraud, a well-known TV actor, said he was "furious and devastated. This is just the last straw. Treiber was a coward to the end." His lawyer, Maître Francis Szpiner, said that the Giraud family "wanted a trial. They wanted explanations. There are hidden areas of this case which will now never be cleared up."
Despite being held in a high-security prison at Fleury-Mérogis south of Paris, and despite having made suicide threats in the past, Treiber was not the subject of anti-suicide precautions, such as unrippable bed-clothes. He was found hanged on Saturday morning after he tore up his sheets to make a noose. He left a brief note which said: "I am sick of being taken for a murderer and deprived of my loved ones. J-P."
In September, Treiber escaped from prison in Auxerre in northern Burgundy. He hid inside a cardboard box in the prison workshop and had himself "delivered" to the outside world as part of a consignment of tools.
He evaded a nationwide police hunt for more than two months but sent a series of letters to the French press promising to turn up for his trial and make explosive revelations. He was finally arrested near Paris in November.
In 2005, Geraldine Giraud's aunt, Marie-Christine Van Kampen, was placed under investigation for "complicity" in the murders. The accusation was later abandoned as unfounded. Ms Van Kampen faced renewed questioning at the end of last year but was cleared once again this month.
Treiber's estranged wife, Marie-Pascale, published a book last year in which she described her "15 years with a man who was unpredictable, manipulative and extraordinarily perverse ... who took pleasure in persecuting me and destroying me." She said that her husband told her in July 2004 that he knew a "lesbian couple, an aunt and niece". Later that year, she said, he told her he had "completed a well-paid piece of work which would make him financially secure".