A jury in a French court has handed down a 25 year jail term to 36 year-old Jonathann Daval, found guilty of killing his wife Alexia and then burning her body in 2017. The verdict has brought to a close a saga which has shocked the country.
The 36-year-old Frenchman was impassive as the verdict was read out, bringing a six-day trial to a close. Earlier, Daval had said “Sorry, Sorry” in the dock, looking towards his wife’s parents.
“This is a very good decision, it’s exactly what I was hoping,” responded the victim’s mother Isabelle Fouillot after the jury’s decision in the court of Vesoul, in the east of France.
“This corresponds to our suffering and will allow us to turn the page.”
“The court has done its job well, it has understood our pain as well as the massacre of our daughter,” Alexia’s father Jean-Pierre Fouillot said.
The main prosecutor, Emmanuel Dupic had originally asked for a life sentence calling the 2017 murder “an almost perfect conjugal crime.”
An act of rage
“Jonathann Daval is a manipulator, who full of his own power, killed his wife because she wanted to leave him,” he said.
Randall Schwerdorffer, one of Daval’s lawyers told the court that “this murder was not premeditated, not thought through, it’s what we’d call an act of rage,” adding it happened during one of the couple’s arguments.
Daval finally confessed to beating his wife to death and burning her body in the woods after initially reporting her missing.
Daval initially said Alexia, a 29-year-old bank employee, had gone jogging and never came back.
The charred remains of Alexia Daval were found hidden under branches near their town of Gray-la-Ville in eastern France in October 2017.
After her death he appeared in tears at a press conference with his in-laws and leading one of several events organised countrywide in her memory.
Admission of guilt
Three months later, prosecutors said the IT worker confessed to the murder — admitting he had beaten his wife in a heated argument, knocking her face against a concrete wall, and strangling her.
He initially denied setting fire to her body, but finally admitted to that too, in June last year.
Daval changed his story several times, at one point withdrawing his confession, blaming his brother-in-law, and finally admitting to everything all over again.
On Monday, when asked by the judge whether he admitted to “being the only person implicated in the death” of his wife, Daval replied “yes”, appearing close to tears.
The murder highlighted the scourge of violence against women at the height of the global #MeToo campaign against sexual abuse and harassment of women.
On Monday, French authorities said 125,840 women were victims of domestic violence in 2019. Another 146 were murdered by their partner or ex-partner — 25 more than the previous year.