French man gets 30 years jail for 2002 murder, rape

A French court on Monday sentenced a man to 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of a young woman almost two decades ago, in a case that has long gripped and shocked the country.

An appeals court in Douai in northern France confirmed the earlier 30 year jail sentence for Willy Bardon handed down by a lower court in 2019 but, crucially, added a conviction for murder as well as rape and abduction.

Bank employee Elodie Kulik, 24, was kidnapped, raped, strangled and her corpse then burned in January 2002 in Tertry, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Saint-Quentin in the Aisne region. 

In court for the verdict dressed in a black shirt and with head shaven, Bardon closed his eyes as the verdict was read out.

Since he was arrested in 2013, Bardon has always maintained his innocence in the murder of Kulik, a position he reaffirmed in court on Thursday. “I never took part in this horrific crime,” he said.

But the victim’s father Jacky said after the verdict that as in the initial verdict “he (Bardon) did not succeed in deceiving anyone”.

Addressing his dead daughter, Jacky Kulik added: “I kept my promise…. It is the end of my struggle.”

Bardon’s lawyer Gabriel Dumenil accused the court of ignoring defence arguments and said his client now intended to take the case to the Court of Cassation, France’s highest court of appeal.  

When he was initially convicted in December 2019, Bardon swallowed pesticide in a dramatic suicide bid in the courtroom and spent five days in hospital.

Before dying, Kulik managed to call emergency services and the harrowing 26-second recording was the key piece of evidence in the trial.

Another suspect Gregory Wiart, whose DNA was found at the scene, died in 2003. But six witnesses told the court in the initial trial they recognised the voice of Willy Bardon on the tape.

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