The Dominici affair, by juge Carrias
1 - How I became involved in the Lurs case.
When Sir Jack, Lady Ann and little Elizabeth Drummond were murdered at Lurs, near the Dominici family home on the night of 4-5 August 1952, I had been a magistrate for little more than a year. After completing my studies in 1951 I took up my first job as a deputy judge at the Toulon courts.
As a rule, I am not interested in current affairs, even in sensational crimes. Throughout my career, I’ve been more interested in civil rather than criminal cases, having specialized in expropriation rights.
In early August 1952, I was in my chambers in Toulon and was more interested in the beach when the day’s work was done. Though I was in touch with my family in Forcalquier, I paid little attention to the tragic end met by the English family in Lurs. Even afterwards I only glanced at the descriptions in the papers of the investigation led by Superintendents Edmond Sébeille and Fernand Constant and by the investigating magistrate Roger Périès, or of the trial in November 1954.
However, in early-1955 I was brought to take serious interest in this affair. On entering the office of the chief judge of the Aix-en-Provence Appeal Court to seek promotion, I was surprised to learn that he was sending me with immediate effect to Digne as an investigating judge, with a definite nomination to follow. The Ministry of Justice had just begun a new investigation into the Lurs crime and a new magistrate was required to conduct it. As Judge Roger Périès had been transferred to Marseilles, I was called to replace him and open a new investigation.
I was as astonished as I was pleased. Most deputy judges named as titular judges were required to spend several years in the north or east of France. But I was sent to the Basses-Alpes (Lower Alps, now Upper Provence Alps, Department), where my family had its roots and where my grandfather, Léon Lenoir, had been investigating judge in Forcalquier, 60 years earlier. And he too had been sent there to investigate a particularly difficult case. Although I was not espeecially attracted to criminal law, I was rather flattered by my promotion. With all the arrogance of youth, I didn’t bother asking myself whether I would be up to the job or not and if I would be able to cope with all the passions unleashed by the death sentence pronounced on 28 November 1954, or if I would not fall into the traps that would inevitably be set for me. I only wanted to move forward and get to the truth in a case on which I had formed no particular personal opinion, and been influenced by no pressure, as a sitting, free and thoughtful magistrate should.
I was completely open minded, but there had been leaks to the press, and I found myself dragged out of total obscurity into national notoriety, without any preparation. Even before I got back to Toulon from Aix, my home was surrounded by journalists. And even as I drove to Digne in my little Renault, a reporter was telling his readers of the sensational scoop that I had left with a bike on the roof of the car.
o Arrival in Digne.
It was only on arrival in Digne that I met those who had been involved in the Lurs crime; first of all, Louis Sabatier, the State Prosecutor and the investigating judge, Roger Périès. They informed me that as far as they were concerned all light had been shed on the case and justice had been done in court. The case was watertight. Gaston Dominici alone was guilty of the triple murder. Nothing remained to be uncovered and, consequently, my job seemed to them to be pointless and a foregone conclusion as a failure. This was the official line of the tribunal in Aix and the police department in Marseilles. According to this, all doubt about the case had been introduced by the media in Paris, which had followed the trial without understanding anything, and had spread to the ministry of justice and the Paris police department.
As to the other main actors in the first investigation, I saw even less of them, except for the investigating judge, Louis Sabatier. I must have met Superintendents Sébeille and Constant three or four times.
I was free to make up my own mind during my first investigation and I was naïve enough to think that a fresh pair of eyes might allow the case to be seen in a new light.
Every night I studied the files carefully until I was ready to begin the investigation.