PEOPLE who murder their partners are often cunning and manipulative.
And that was certainly the case with Jonathann Daval – an IT worker, 36, who hoodwinked the French public with his crocodile tears when his wife Alexia, 29, was found dead in woodlands.
But despite Daval's convincing performance as a grieving widower in front of news cameras – police probing his wife's murder suspected he was lying.
The truth was that Daval had smashed his wife's head against a concrete wall multiple times and strangled her.
He then drove her body out to woodlands and burned it.
The IT worker then phoned the cops at lunch time on October 28, 2017, and reported Alexia missing claiming she had gone jogging that morning and had never returned.
The rural community of Gray-la-ville in eastern France rallied behind Daval and his wife's family.
A massive search was launched using dogs and helicopters and two days later Alexia's charred remains were found.
The case quickly caught the attention of the wider French public as the post-mortem showed the 29-year-old bank worker had been murdered.
FOOLED THE PUBLIC
Her death, which happened in the midst of the MeToo movement, raised fears there could be a killer targeting female joggers or hikers.
Yet, like so many murder cases, the culprit was known to the victim.
But when Jonathann Daval appeared heartbroken at a news conference, he successfully manipulated the hearts of the French public.
Standing beside his grieving in-laws, he said: "She was my foremost supporter, my oxygen."
He even wore his wedding jacket to Alexia's funeral.
Luckily, the homicide detectives were not swayed by Daval's performance.
They noticed scratch and bite marks on the killer's hands and he confessed he had argued with his wife before their jog.
The reality is that the couple's marriage was in a critical state.
Alexia had been with Daval since she was a teenager but when they married she realised he was unable to give her the family she craved.
Daval suffered from crippling erectile dysfunction – a condition which put strain on the relationship.
At the trial last November, the murderer's lawyer said his client had snapped and flown into a "rage" at the prospect of his wife leaving him.
A few weeks into the murder probe, police were focusing solely on Daval.
Neighbours told cops that they'd heard the suspect's car leaving in the early hours of the morning – on the same day Alexia was reported missing.
The supposedly-grieving husband told police he hadn't gone anywhere – yet, his vehicle's GPS showed it had been driven.
Tyre tracks near where the body was found matched Daval's car as well.
LIED TO COPS
And when grilled by police, the 36-year-old finally cracked and confessed to the murder – claiming it was an accident.
Despite the confession, he denied setting fire to her body but eventually admitted to that too in 2019.
He changed his story again several times and even withdrew his confession at one point blaming his brother-in-law for the killing.
Daval though eventually admitted to everything all over again.
And in November, when the judge asked him whether he admitted to “being the only person implicated in the death” he replied “yes”.
Before he was jailed for 25 years he turned to his wife’s parents and said “sorry, sorry" but remained impassive as the verdict was read out.
You’re Not Alone
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday/Sunday 10am-8pm
Outside the court, Alexia’s mum Isabelle Fouillot: “It is a very good decision, exactly what I hoped, at the height of our suffering.
“That will allow us to turn a page.”
Defence lawyer Ornella Spatafora indicated there would be no appeal against the sentence.
Prosecutors had described the 2017 murder as “an almost perfect conjugal crime.”
They said:"Jonathann Daval is a manipulator who, full of his own power, killed his wife because she wanted to leave him,"
The horrific crime shocked France with around 10,000 people turning up at the couple’s quiet town to take part in a silent march in Alexia's memory.
In 2019, 135,840 women were victims of domestic violence in the country, according to official figures.
Another 146 females were murdered by their partner or former partner, an increase of 25 on the previous year.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.
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