Date of Crime: June 23, 1991
Omar Raddad was convicted of the murder of Ghislaine Marchal. Marchal, 65, was a wealthy widow who lived alone in the affluent village of
Mougins, near Cannes on the French Riviera. One morning when Marchal
was relaxing by her pool, her neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Koster, called over
the fence and invited her to lunch at 1 p.m. Marchal readily accepted. She later telephoned a friend at 11:48 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., when Marchal
had not shown up at the Kosters for lunch, Mrs. Koster telephoned Marchal,
but there was no answer.
The next morning Marchal was found stabbed to death in her
basement. According to the medical examiner it had taken Marchal
between 15 and 30 minutes to die from her wounds. It appeared that
after being stabbed 18 times, Marchal had tried to prevent her assailant's
return by barricading herself in the basement. An iron bar and a
collapsible bed had been placed against the inside of the basement door. This door was the only means of entrance to or exit from the basement.
On the inside of the door was a message, “OMAR M'A TUER” (Omar
killed me), written in Marchal's blood, presumably by Marchal herself. Due to this evidence, Marchal's gardener, Omar Raddad, was arrested and
convicted of her murder.
However, there were problems with the evidence against Raddad: (1) If Marchal had written the message, she must have crawled from the
basement door to the other side of the basement where her body was found. Even though her wounds would have been bleeding, there was no trace of blood
on the floor between the two locations.
(2) Despite the evidence of a barricade, police had little
trouble pushing open the basement door. All they could be certain of
was that the iron bar and collapsible bed had fallen as they pushed their
way in. They had no way of telling how the obstructions had been
placed. The basement had been used to store junk. The bar and
bed may have just fallen against the door when the assailant slammed it shut
(3) The message “OMAR M'A TUER” was ungrammatical and should
have been written, “Omar m'a tué.” While the two sentences were
pronounced the same, the message was the type of mistake a foreigner or a
semi-literate person might make. Raddad was a Moroccan foreigner, but
he could not have written the message as he was illiterate. Marchal
was an educated woman, and it is doubtful that she would make such an error.
The evidence appeared as though Marchal's killer knew that
Raddad worked for Marchal, and to throw suspicion away from himself, he
framed Raddad. In both France and Morocco there was much public
sentiment against Raddad's conviction in that he had been convicted on such
inconclusive evidence. Raddad appealed his conviction to the French
Supreme Court (Court de Cassation) but the state attorney ruled that
Raddad's appeal was inadmissible in the absence of new evidence.
In 1998, during a state visit to Morocco, French President Jacques Chirac
found himself under pressure from King Hassan who had taken a personal
interest in Raddad's case. On Chirac's return to France he granted Raddad a
presidential pardon and released him from prison after 7 years of
confinement. However, unlike exoneration by the courts, the presidential
pardon did not vacate Raddad's conviction. Raddad is still considered a
murderer in the eyes of the law. [8/09]
Victims of the State,
Cases in Other Countries,
Same Name Crimes