The spectacular murders of a distinguished British scientist, his wife, and their young daughter in the depths of rural France in 1952 prompted one of the most notorious criminal investigations in postwar Europe. It is still a matter of passionate debate in France.
Sir Jack Drummond, with his wife, Lady Anne, and their ten-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, were on holiday on the French Riviera when they stopped to make camp just off the road near a farm called La Grand’ Terre in Provence. The family was found murdered the next morning. More than two years later, the barely literate, seventy-five-year-old proprietor of La Grand’ Terre, Gaston Dominici, was brought to trial, convicted, and condemned to death by guillotine.
When Dominici was convicted, there was general agreement that the ignorant, pitiless, and depraved old peasant had gotten what he deserved. At the time, he stood for everything backward and brutish about a peasantry left behind in the wake of France’s postwar transformation and burgeoning prosperity. But with time perspectives changed. Subsequent inquiries coupled with widespread doubts and misgivings prompted President de Gaulle to order his release from prison in 1960, and by the 1980s many in France came to believe—against all evidence—that Gaston Dominici was innocent. He had become a romanticized symbol of a simpler, genuine, and somehow more honest life from a bygone era.
Reconstructing the facts of the Drummond murders, The Dominici Affair redefines one of France’s most puzzling crimes and illustrates the profound changes in French society that took place following the Second World War.
Martin Kitchen is a historian and the author of numerous books on European history. His most recent books include Speer: Hitler’s Architect and Rommel’s Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941–1943.
“An engrossing investigation of the multiple murder of three English tourists in the French countryside in the 1950s. Martin Kitchen recreates the tangled threads of what was a famous case in its time. Fascinating!”—Thomas Hoobler, coauthor of The Crimes of Paris
“Martin Kitchen’s meticulous reconstruction of the twists and turns of the Dominici affair, the most sensational murder mystery in 1950s France, is likely to stand as the definitive account of the case. Readers will enjoy not only the story itself but the light this lurid drama casts on life in a remote corner of France and on the ambiguous status, in national life and imagination, of postwar France’s archaic peasant communities.”—Sarah Maza, author of Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments 1. A Fatal Journey 2. The Murder 3. The Police Investigation 4. Gaston Denounced 5. Confession 6. Two Lives 7. Gaston Dominici Awaits His Trial 8. The Trial: The First Phase 9. Gaston Dominici Found Guilty 10. The Chenevier Enquiry 11. The Case Is Closed 12. Reception Notes Bibliography Index