Accused killer of 8-year-old girl in France could be linked to 40 unsolved cases

Nordahl Lelandais, accompanied by prison officers, arriving at a courthouse in Chamberyon, France, on May 3, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A former soldier who has confessed to killing an eight-year-old girl in a case that horrified France went on trial on Monday (May 3) on charges of murdering another man just months before.

Police initially said after Nordahl Lelandais was arrested in 2017 that they were looking again at 40 unsolved disappearances and cold cases, including the 2012 massacre of a British-Iraqi family in their car in the Alps.

But since then, nothing has emerged to back the theories that the former military dog handler was a serial killer. He has insisted that both the killings of the girl and the 24-year-old soldier were accidental.

Here are some of the most high-profile cases the 38-year-old has been linked to:

Child vanished at a wedding

Eight-year-old Maelys De Araujo vanished on Aug 27, 2017 from a wedding in the Alps.

For six months, the police searched in vain for her body in a case that gripped the nation.

Lelandais had been a guest at the wedding and swiftly became the chief suspect, but he denied the crime until the child's DNA was found in his car.

The military dog trainer finally guided investigators to her body in February 2018.

Lelandais admitted to having killed the girl "by mistake" and hiding her corpse.

Killing of young hitchhiker

Lelandais went on trial on Monday for murdering another soldier four months before he killed Maelys.

Mr Arthur Noyer, 24, was last seen in April 2017 as he was hitchhiking in the town of Chambery after leaving a nightclub.

Parts of his skull were found by a hiker in September that year and telephone records placed Mr Noyer and Lelandais in the same area at the same time on the night of the soldier's disappearance.

Investigators found that Lelandais, a martial arts fan, had looked up "decomposition of a human body" on his computer after the soldier vanished.

He was charged with the killing - which he admitted to police - in December 2017.

Sexual abuse of cousins

In separate investigations, Lelandais admitted to the sexual assault of two of his second cousins, both minors, who he also filmed.

He is also charged with molesting a third cousin, who was 14 at the time, on the day of her father's funeral.

Alps murder mystery

Prosecutors in 2017 said Lelandais may be connected to some 40 other unsolved cases. But more than three years later, none has been resolved.

This month, Grenoble prosecutor Jacques Dallest told local media that "Lelandais may have killed other people but we may never know".

However, a judicial source told AFP that "no link has been established and other disappearances".

The most notorious of these unsolved cases was the murder of a British family near the Alpine village of Chevaline in 2012. A cyclist was also gunned down.

The two young daughters of the family survived the gruesome attack, one hiding under her dead mother's skirts for hours.

Detectives said in 2019 that a different modus operandi made it unlikely Lelandais was responsible.

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