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“An advanced state of decomposition”: Why Isabelle Mesnage’s body was so difficult to analyze

This Monday, June 20, 2022 opened the appeal trial of Jacques Rançon, a 62-year-old former forklift operator nicknamed “the killer of the Perpignan station”. He was sentenced in 2021 to 30 years’ imprisonment for the rape and murder of Isabelle Mesnage. The 20-year-old young woman at the time had gone hiking and had been found dead on July 3, 1986, at the edge of a wood, a dozen kilometers from Amiens.

Two days after her disappearance, with no news from the young woman, her employer alerted the gendarmerie, who collected some unreassuring information: a bloody backpack was found on July 2, it contained the wallet and identity papers of the disappeared. Two days later, the gendarmes locate the lifeless and half-dressed body of Isabelle Mesnage. For six years, the authorities sought the culprit of the death of Isabelle Mesnage. They suspect a work colleague for a time but the track is finally abandoned: the file is the subject of a dismissal in 1992.

It must be said that the body found three days after his disappearance is in a very advanced state of decomposition and makes forensic analysis difficult. Indeed, during the summer of 1986, strong heat fell on the region. The expert notes, however, that “the vagina, vulva and anus have completely disappeared, destroyed by vermineus proliferatione”, reminds BFMTV. The investigators comb the crime area, put the meager clues under seal and chain the hearings of witnesses in order to understand what happened to the victim.

Become what is called a cold box, an unsolved case, the Mesnage case arouses the interest of the lawyer Corinne Hermann who makes the link with the modus operandi of Jacques Rançon and his victims in Perpignan. Collaborating with master Seban, she reopened the file. Scientific advances contribute in particular to recognizing the author of the crime. “At the time, the pathologist imagined that the insects had committed the removal of the genitals, but we see that the section formed a right angle, necessarily requiring the intervention of a weapon.“, explained to BFMTV the lawyer Didier Seban. He also confided: “On a sample, you could not find DNA fifteen years ago and find a trace of it now, thanks to a very small quantity of blood, semen, to identify, at the level of the cell, the DNA of someone ‘a.” Despite the scientific evidence, Jacques Rançon denied the facts by letter, retracting after making a confession in police custody.

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