A father missing for 20 years, a torn family and an accused “out of this world”: a story that is steeped in the strange, the dubious and the appalling in front of justice

“The Assize Court was faced with two possibilities, both disturbing and rare: either a son made his father’s body disappear, or a mother wrongly accused her son. » Thus the president of the court, Marc Trévidic, he summarized, by reading the motivation of the verdict, Thursday, September 22, the crux of the singular affair which had just occupied four days during the assizes of Val-d’ Oise: Patrick Wittier, 59, was accused by his mother, Marie-Thérèse Wittier, 92, of having killed, twenty years ago, his father, Jean Wittier, whose body has never been found.

To understand this story, which is steeped in the strange, the pathetic and the appalling, but above all in the doubtful and, ultimately, in the insoluble, we must first immerse ourselves in the family context. And, on that, at least, everyone is in agreement: at the Wittiers, in 2002, the atmosphere was poisonous.

At that time, Patrick Wittier still lives, at 39, in the small family house in Argenteuil that his big sister, Martine, had fled as soon as she could, at 18. His only two friends died when he was young – “it vaccinated me friends, since then, I no longer look” – he has no romantic relationship – “It’s not really my thing” – and lives on social benefits and undeclared odd jobs in the computer, which he does from the bedroom with the shutters eternally closed, upstairs, where he spends most of his time.

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He never goes down to greet his sister, whom he reproaches for her class contempt since she rose socially thanks to her marriage, when she visits her parents. He also makes sure never to meet his father, with whom relations are catastrophic. Jean Wittier, an authoritarian and miserly character, cannot stand the idleness of his son, who has refused to follow in his footsteps at EDF: he has installed padlocks on the refrigerator and cupboards to deprive him of food. Marie-Thérèse Wittier, a woman submissive to her husband, manages to feed her son in secret. “She had a rotten life”, says his daughter Martine, according to whom the situation degenerated when Patrick was born. “Before, everything was fine. Afterwards, I only knew my mother when she was depressed and in bed. »

Thrown in the trash

On September 19, 2002, Patrick Wittier and his mother went to the Argenteuil police station to report the disappearance of Jean Wittier, 73 years old. He didn’t come home after going to Paris by bike the day before to buy some DIY materials. No real investigation is launched, the procedure gets bogged down, the file goes astray. It doesn’t matter for Patrick Wittier, life is sweeter since the father is no longer there, the padlocks have disappeared from the cupboards and the fridge. Only his sister, Martine, gets busy and ends up wondering if a tragedy has not taken place in the family pavilion. Thanks to his obstinacy, the investigation starts again in 2015.

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A father missing for 20 years, a torn family and an accused “out of this world”: a story that is steeped in the strange, the dubious and the appalling in front of justice