French woman on trial for murdering her abusive husband. Dead man's brother brands him 'a monster' and 'the devil' – a case of essential psychopathy

Adaryn

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This horrifying murder case is currently hitting the headlines in France. I'm posting about it here because it's a prime example of essential psychopathy, and shows the appalling failure of the judicial system which let this monster roam free and wreak havoc for decades.
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On Monday, a French woman, Valérie Bacot, will walk into a court to be tried for killing her stepfather turned husband. She has admitted shooting him dead and believes she should be punished.

In her defence, she is expected to tell the the hearing at at Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy how Daniel “Dany” Polette made her life hell from the day he raped her when she was 12, to the day he died 24 years later while prostituting her.

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Valérie Bacot

Bacot, who had four children with her alleged abuser, will say how she was convinced Polette would kill them all and how everyone knew he was a violent sexual predator but nobody said or did anything. And she will tell how when the children went to the gendarmes – twice – to report the abuse, they were told to go away and tell their terrified mother to come in herself.

She will say she had nowhere to go, nobody to turn to, no money and was so under Polette’s control she had no idea how to escape her daily terror of threats and violence.

The trial will once again shine a light on domestic violence in France and comes after a week in which three women were killed by former partners in a country that has one of the highest rates of femicide – classed here as the murder of a woman by a current or former partner – in Europe. So far this year at least 55 women have been killed by a current or ex partner in France.

In May, Fayard, one of France’s best-known publishing houses, published Bacot’s story: Tout le Monde Savait (Everyone Knew). The book makes grim reading: 198 pages detailing the relentless misery that began when Bacot, whose alcoholic mother and largely absent father had divorced, was 12 and stepfather Polette forced her to have sex. At the time she says she had no idea what he was doing and only realised after a biology lesson at school.

Polette was jailed for incest in 1995, but was allowed to return to the family home after three years and continued to rape Bacot. “Nobody seemed to find it bizarre that Daniel came back to live with us as if nothing had happened,” she writes. “Everyone knew but nobody said anything.”

Soon he was raping her again. One day she heard her mother say: “I don’t give a damn as long as she doesn’t become pregnant.” At 17 she did become pregnant and Polette installed her in a flat as his wife. Three more children followed, along with almost daily beatings.

Bacot writes that she and the children lived in fear of provoking Polette’s ire. He broke her nose, hit her over the head with a hammer, arranged for her to have lesbian encounters, which he filmed, and kept her a virtual prisoner. She was not allowed to speak to anyone when she went out shopping and he had his friends and relatives spy on her, she recounts.

Then Polette decided he would retire and prostitute Bacot. She recalls her youngest child finding a card Polette had made and asking what “escort girl” meant. Polette pimped his wife in in the back of his Peugeot 806 that he fitted with a mattress, while spying on her with clients and giving her instructions via an earpiece. He had a pistol, he said, just in case a client turned nasty. If Bacot didn’t do what he demanded, he beat her, she told investigators.

On 13 March, after she was raped by a client, she took the pistol her husband hid between the car seats and shot him.

“This is a woman who has been destroyed and devastated, not just by the lack of maternal love, the rapes, the blows, the denigration, the prostitution but also and above all by the indifference and the omerta of society,” write Bacot’s lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, in the preface.

“From her earliest age she was put through terrible things without anyone, not even those close to her, blinking an eye. They ignored her distress and her ordeal, which could be read on her face. The story of her life is deeply distressing.”
(…)

On Monday, the public prosecutor will argue that Bacot’s act was premeditated. In the book Bacot says she feared Polette was planning to abuse their teenage daughter and had told herself: “This has to stop.” Bonaggiunta says the defence will argue Bacot shot her husband because “it was a question of survival”.

“It could be argued that it was premeditated, but this was a woman who had been tyrannised her entire life, he controlled everything and this was the only way she could get out of this situation,” Bonaggiunta told the Guardian.

“The legal texts are clear: she killed him. There is no legal text to protect women like this who have been battered for years and for this to be taken into consideration as there is in Canada. It’s clear she’d been repeatedly hit and her brain was not functioning properly at the time. She was certainly in an altered state. To a certain extent it could be argued that she had no choice.”

In her book, Bacot says she is often asked why she did not leave her husband.

“I think if you haven’t lived this kind of life it’s difficult to understand. When your daily life is a series of blows, threats, insults and humiliations you end up being incapable of thought … your partner has brainwashed you. And you think everything he says is true. You think the problem is with you and not him and that you deserve everything you get,” she explains.


Bonaggiunta, who specialises in domestic violence cases, said there was an “inertia” in society over helping women and their children escape their abusers.

“When I heard this story my first thought was that this started with a little girl who was not helped, who was a victim of violence of which her parents were complicit,” she said. “She killed him but she was not a murderer. She was the victim.”

Bacot’s trial will last a week.

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Daniel Polette
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Testimonies of Polette's family are unanimous:

For 24 years, Daniel Polette sexually assaulted, physically abused and forcibly prostituted his wife, who was initially his stepdaughter. Murdered on 13 March 2016 by the mother of his last 4 children, the man is at the centre of the debates conducted at the Saône-et-Loire Assize Court in Chalon-sur-Saône. This Wednesday 23 June, family members and former companions of the man who was nicknamed "Dany" were called to the stand. Several people close to Valerie Bacot also intervened to talk about the family context in which she grew up.

And with 10 witnesses called to the stand on Wednesday, the day, particularly intense, offered its share of strong moments. Among the most striking testimonies, those of three members of Daniel Polette's family: his brother Alain and his little sisters Monique and Mireille.

The "devil" in the Polette family home

To understand Daniel Polette's personality, Monique, one of his sisters, is called to the stand. She took the floor after her younger sister, Mireille. The latter impressed the audience with her strong personality and her glibness. Monique was shy and fragile. Marked by the violence her brother inflicted on her, she still has difficulty talking about her childhood. She testifies while sitting down, suffering from regular discomfort.

"I was raped at the age of 12 by my brother. He laid me on the bed and told me 'what happens next is between you and me', threatening me with a gun to kill my mother and me," she says with a lump in her throat. Monique Polette was raped by her brother every week from the age of 12 to 16. One day, she refused to be sexually abused by Daniel Polette. The latter then beat her little sister. She never opposed her brother again. "My biggest regret is that I did not kill him. For me he was a torturer" she bursts into tears.

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Polette's ex-wife (and Bacot's own mother) is blaming her daughter:

The mother of a French woman on trial for her husband's murder has testified that the pair wanted to be together and she did not have to kill him to escape the marriage in testimony that could see her daughter jailed for life, if the jury agree.

Joelle Aubague - the mother of Vaerlie Bacot who is on trial for the murder of Daniel Polette - took to the stand today and launched a defence of her actions, having been painted as a neglectful drunk who turned a blind eye to Daniel's abuse.

Joelle - who was married to Daniel when he began abusing Valerie - insisted she knew nothing of the attacks until he was jailed, took Valerie to see him behind bars only because she wanted to go, and that it was her daughter's own decision to run off with him when she later fell pregnant with his child.

Asked whether Valerie could have escaped the relationship without killing Daniel, she said: 'There were other solutions'.

She was followed on the stand by Alain Polette, Daniel's younger brother who gave a very different account, telling the court his elder sibling was 'the devil' - a vile and abusive character for whom the term 'monster' was too kind.

Valerie does not contest killing Daniel with a single gunshot to the back of the head in 2016, but says she did it to escape 25 years of horrifying mental, physical and sexual abuse which should qualify her for a reduced sentence.

The case has sparked debate in France about how the legal system deals with abused women, and more than 600,000 signing a petition calling for all charges against Valerie to be dropped.

Opening the case on Monday, Valerie recounted abuse she suffered at Polette's hands - saying he had beaten her unconscious with a hammer, prostituted her out to other truck drivers, and threatened to kill their four children if she refused

The second day of the trial saw Valerie's three eldest children testify about their family life, saying their mother is 'not guilty' and had only killed Polette to 'protect us' after police refused to help.

Day three began today with Valerie's mother Joelle arriving at court where she launched a defence of her own actions and contradicted her daughter's earlier testimony, according to local site La Journal de Saone-et-Loire.

Previously, Valerie had told the court that Joelle had turned a blind eye when Polette - then her husband - began following her into the toilet aged 12 to sexually abuse her.

Joelle rejected that allegation, saying the abuse had happened behind her back while she was at work.

She claimed to have noticed that Valerie often sat on Daniel's lap, but assumed the pair were simply 'close'.

In 1996 Polette was jailed for sexually abusing Valerie after one of his sisters reported the abuse to police, but Joelle continued to visit him in jail.

According to Valerie's account, she was forced to attend the visits with her mother.

But Joelle rejected that, saying that Valerie had insisted on coming along with her - though admitted she had made a 'mistake' by visiting Polette in the first place.

When Polette was released from jail, Joelle invited him back into the family home where he quickly began abusing Valerie again - in court, Joelle was asked why she accepted him back.

'He needed a base, we gave him a second chance, which maybe wasn't normal...' she said.

A short time later, Valerie fell pregnant and the family collapsed - Valerie claims her mother threw her out and she ended up living with Polette because she had nowhere else to turn - another claim Joelle disputed.

Valerie and Daniel were in a 'romantic relationship', she insisted, adding that Valerie wrote a letter saying she wanted 'to live my life [and] stay with my man' while petitioning a court to be allowed to live with Polette - something Joelle had opposed.

After some legal wrangling, Valerie was granted her request. Joelle said that, from then on, she watched their marriage from a distance and assumed they were happy.

Asked whether she had ever been jealous of her daughter, she responded: 'Absolutely not, I'm not jealous by nature.'

Next to take the stand was Daniel's brother Alain, who described his elder sibling as 'despicable' - a violent thug with ready access to weapons who fought with his father and kept the whole family in a state of terror.

'I hid with one of my brothers one day, between the wall and a cupboard, because I thought he was going to kill us,' he said.

'I can't say anything positive about him. I lived in the devil's house because the devil was in it. What he did to Valérie, he's not the victim, it's her.'

That assertion was backed up by Régine and Josiane - two of Daniel's former lovers who said he was also controlling and abusive towards them.

When asked in turn whether he would have been capable of killing Valerie while they were married, each of them replied: 'Yes.'

Valerie had previously testified that she had no choice but to kill Polette to escape their marriage, fearing that he would kill her or her children otherwise.

'I wanted to save me, and my children,' Bacot said.

In a book published ahead of the trial, Bacot says she was abused from a young age - first by her older brother when she was aged five and then by Polette, who was initially her mother's partner.

Speaking to Le Parisien ahead of the trial, Bacot said the abuse began 'very quickly' after mother Joelle brought truck-driver Polette home when she was aged 12.

He initially played the doting stepfather but then began sexually abusing her - abuse which lasted for two years before she alerted police and Polette was arrested.

When Bacot was aged 14 he was jailed for four years for sexual abuse, but Bacot said her mother never cut off contact and would even take her to visit him in jail.

After two and a half years, Polette was released and immediately returned to the family home where the abuse resumed.

Bacot said she often thought about running away, but had nowhere to go - her grandparents would simply return her home, she believed, and her biological father wanted nothing to do with her. So she stayed.

Then, at the age of 17, Bacot fell pregnant with Polette's child and the family quickly fell apart.

Bacot says her mother kicked her out of the house, forcing her to go and live with Polette because she did not know where else to go.

She said Polette began physically and mentally abusing her shortly after their first child - a boy - was born.

'The first time it was because he thought I hadn't put the baby's toys away properly,' she said. 'But very quickly it became commonplace.

'If the coffee took too long to arrive, if it was too hot or too cold, he would get angry.

'Everything became a pretext for blows. You live with the idea that you deserve it because you are not doing things right.'

She said Polette controlled every aspect of her behaviour, forbidding her to go out except to shop or take the children to school, and would check her receipts when she got home to make sure she wasn't lying.

When he was unable to keep an eye on her, he would get others in the village where they lived to do it for him,
she claims.

He chose her hairstyle, her clothes, and the names for their children - which eventually totalled four.

Bacot says she wanted to take contraceptive pills or get abortions so she would stop falling pregnant, but was forbidden from going to the doctor.

The pair married in 2008, but that did little to end the abuse, Bacot says.

Polette began using weapons in his assaults - at one point knocking her out with a hammer over the Christmas holidays, and routinely threatened her with a gun.

He also began prostituting her out to other truck drivers.

Operating out of the back of a Peugeot people-carrier under the name of Adeline, Bacot says Polette watched the acts and dictated her movements via an earpiece.

But, so as to leave clients in no doubt about who she 'belonged' to, he had his initials tattooed near her genitals.

'He wanted to mark his territory, show others that I belonged to him,
' she added.

Bacot says her children contacted police twice on her behalf but were brushed off, with officers telling them that their mother needed to come to the station herself.

Things came to a head in 2016 as Polette routinely questioned Bacot's 14-year-old daughter about her sexuality - leading her to fear that he would start prostituting the teenager out as well.

Then, on March 13, came a visit from a violent client. Bacot said she refused to carry out a certain sex act for him, so he forced her into it - leaving her bleeding.

Afterwards, she claims Polette criticised her, telling her the man would refuse to come back and that she would have to make up for it.

Having tried to drug Polette using sleeping pills crushed into his coffee, Bacot then went for a revolver that she knew her husband kept between the seats in the back of the car.

While he was sitting in the front seat, she drew the handgun and fired it once through the back of his neck, killing him instantly.

Bacot then buried the body in a forest with the help of her two eldest sons and her daughter's boyfriend, who she says offered to help so police wouldn't take her away.

But in 2017, cops were alerted to the killing after the boyfriend confessed to his own mother - prompting her to call gendarmes.

They arrested Bacot who subsequently confessed to the killing, but was released on bail one year later pending trial.

Bacot's sons and the daughter's boyfriend were subsequently jailed for six months each for concealment of a corpse for the part they played in the cover-up.

Bacot now faces life in jail for murder. Her lawyers want the sentence reduced to 10 years in jail due to the abuse she suffered.

She made no comment as she arrived at the courthouse Monday, appearing intimidated by the crowd of reporters awaiting her.

Her lawyers said ahead of the trial that 'the extreme violence that she suffered for 25 years and the fear that her daughter would be next' pushed her to kill Polette.

The same lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, had already defended Jacqueline Sauvage, a French woman who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband but won a presidential pardon in 2016 after becoming a symbol for the fight against violence directed at women.

'These women who are victims of violence have no protection. The judiciary is still too slow, not reactive enough and too lenient towards the perpetrators who can continue to exercise their violent power,' Bonaggiunta told AFP.

'This is precisely what can push a desperate woman to kill in order to survive,' she said.

Bacot was 'certain that she needed to commit this act to protect her children'
, a court evaluation found.

More than 500,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Bacot, who risks life in prison for murder, be cleared of the charge.

Sources: Mother of Valerie Bacot on trial for murder in France takes the stand
Valérie Bacot : le mari violent, une victime que personne ne regrette
Woman to stand trial in France for killing stepfather after years of abuse
 

Jo Bugman

Padawan Learner
“I think if you haven’t lived this kind of life it’s difficult to understand. When your daily life is a series of blows, threats, insults and humiliations you end up being incapable of thought … your partner has brainwashed you. And you think everything he says is true. You think the problem is with you and not him and that you deserve everything you get,” she explains.
She explains this really well: the abuser's almost supernatural ability to make it seem like you're doing something wrong. For me, I found it my own mental gymnastics of assuming everyone is inherently nice, and truly evil people don't exist, that kept me guessing what I could do to make this relationship work. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call to others that are stuck in abusive relationships.
Very sad
 
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