Prosecutors accused in unsolved murders case

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The Independent Online

The unexplained disappearance, or unsolved murder, of at least 17 young women in northern Burgundy in the past 25 years was "intimately linked" to a violent sex ring operating in the region, a former public prosecutor said yesterday.

Daniel Stilinovic, 54, was giving evidence to a disciplinary hearing in which he and three colleagues have been accused of an "incomprehensible" failure to pursue investigations into a string of abductions and murders in the Auxerre-Chablis area.

Mr Stilinovic denied he had failed in his duties as a prosecutor. But he told a magistrates' disciplinary body that he was now convinced the persistent pattern of attacks was linked to a conspiracy to abduct, torture and rape young women in the Auxerre area, uncovered in the late 1980s.

"The two affairs are intimately linked, but that's only become obvious in the last year. There was no way of knowing it at the time. You can't make history go backwards," he said.

One of the other magistrates called to account in this affair, René Meyer, 67, has spoken of "corruption in high places" while denying his own guilt.

Separately from yesterday's hearing, a criminal investigation has been launched against "x", or persons unknown, for corruption and "sale of influence" inside the public prosecutor's department in Auxerre. It is the first time in French history that the justice system has launched an investigation into itself in this way. The case arises from the unsolved murder or disappearance of at least 17 young women in the Auxerre area, including a British student, Joanna Parrish, 21, who was found raped and strangled in May 1990.

The four public prosecutors, who held office successively between 1979 and 1999, are accused by their fellow magistrates of failing to act on clear evidence and wrongly closing down or impeding investigations into abductions and murders.

All deny any wrongdoing. Mr Meyer refused to appear before the inquiry, saying he had booked a holiday.

In the case of rape and torture referred to by Mr Stilinovic, a wealthy local man, Claude Dunand, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1991 for abducting young women and attacking them in the cellar of his home in the suburbs of Auxerre.

A list of names of other people implicated in the attacks – including several "notables" – had allegedly been drawn up by police but disappeared from the file.