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Emile Louis, infamous French criminal

Émile Louis (born 1934) is a retired French bus driver and prime suspect in the disappearance of seven young women in the département of Yonne, Burgundy, in the late 1970s. In 2000 Louis confessed to their murders; he retracted this confession one month later.

Louis is currently (since March 2004) serving a 20-year jail sentence for the rape and torture of his last wife and of her daughter. He was also twice convicted of sexual attacks on minors: once in 1983 for which he was sentenced to four years in prison, and again in 1989 with a five-year jail term.

Émile Louis is a prime suspect in the disappearances in the Yonne département of seven young women with mild mental deficiencies between 1975 and 1980. The disappearances initially did not attract much attention as the girls had no close relatives and lived in homes for the handicapped; it was assumed that they had simply run away.

Louis confessed to murdering the seven girls in 2000 before retracting his statement. However, his statement led police to find the remains of two of the victims. Louis allegedly kidnapped the girls while driving a bus meant to transport them.

One recurring question is how the justice system could have ignored this string of disappearances for so long, even though suspicions had grown and some official reports indicating probable foul play had been produced. In particular, gendarme Christian Jambert submitted a report in 1984 designating Louis as a prime suspect.

On August 4, 1997, Jambert was found dead and judicial authorities found the cause to be suicide. However, an examination of his skull on March 31, 2004, indicated that two bullets had entered the brain, and both should have instantly been fatal.

In 1992, Pierre Charrier, the head of the home for handicapped young people where the disappeared girls were staying was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a 23-year-old handicapped woman. Nine years before, Nicole Charrier, his spouse, had testified in favour of Louis. The lack of reaction on the part of judicial authorities has led to suspicions that the blocking of enquiries was not out of negligence or incompetency, but because of the possible involvement of locally well-connected people in a network providing sadistic prostitution services.

Louis' trial for the seven murders started in November 2004. On November 10, the court visited the location where the bodies of two victims, Madeleine Dejust and Jacqueline Weis, were exhumed after Louis confessed their location to the Gendarmerie. Louis has retracted his confession and maintains his innocence.

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