Cold cases,  Mysteries

The Disappearance Of The Méchinaud Family, Analysis Of France’s Longest-Running Cold Case

The Méchinaud family disappeared in 1972

The Cold Cases Department, that has no equivalent in the world and which came into being in March 2022, has in its files the Méchinaud case, France’s oldest cold case. The parents and their two children disappeared on December 25, 1972, after a New Year’s Eve party with friends in Cognac. Five decades later, there is no trace of the Méchinaud family.

The Méchinauds’ last Christmas Eve

The Méchinaud's domicile in Boutiers-Saint Trojan, Charente
The Méchinaud’s house in Boutiers-Saint Trojan, Charente

On December 24, 1972, the entire Méchinaud family travelled from their home in Boutiers-Saint Trojan, Charente, to Cognac to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their friends. At around one o’clock in the morning, after a pleasant evening, Jacques, 31, Pierrette, 29, and their children Eric and Bruno, aged 7 and 4 respectively, climbed into their Simca 1100 to return home, 4 kilometers away (2.5 miles).

The evening had gone well, and all the family members seemed to be acting as usual. However, a week later, Jacques Méchinaud’s parents raised the alarm. They had heard nothing from their son and his family for several days. The gendarmes were dispatched to the scene. They found nothing suspicious. In the refrigerator, the food for Christmas dinner was spoiled, while the children’s presents were still under the tree.

A family picture whose colors have faded

Maurice Blanchon was Pierrette Méchinaud's lover
Maurice Blanchon had an adulterous relationship with Pierrette Méchinaud
Photo : La Charente Libre

As with any investigation, the investigators start by looking at the family members. They soon uncovered Pierrette’s adulterous affair with the Méchinauds’ neighbor, Maurice Blanchon. Blanchon explained that Jacques, an employee at the Saint Gobain factory in Châteaubernard, worked hard and reigned supreme over his household. He was regularly away on business and, according to Blanchon, Pierrette had often expressed concern about being alone with her children at night.

It seems that Jacques Méchinaud was aware of the affair shortly before the family’s disappearance, according to his brother and a colleague at Saint Gobain. Certainly wounded, did Jacques decide to remove his wife and, by extension, his entire family from Blanchon’s influence? According to Blanchon, Pierrette was considering divorce. According to one of Jacques Méchinaud’s brothers, he was a demanding man with strong principles. Keep in mind rhis story takes place in December 1972, in a village of around 1,300 souls.

All excavations remain unsuccessful

The Méchinauds only had to travel 4km to get home
Did the Méchinauds’ Simca 1100 fall into the Charente?

In the weeks and months following the Méchinaud family’s disappearance, numerous excavations were carried out, to no avail. The entire Charente area was turned upside down: villages, plains, woods, rivers, quarries. The Charente river was dredged for miles on end, as the theory of an accident was obviously being considered. On the route between Cognac and Boutiers-Saint Trojan, the Méchinauds had to cross a bridge over the river, as shown in the photo opposite. No evidence of any connection with the Méchinauds has been found. The Charente river was sounded again in 2011, 2012 and 2013, but not a trace was found. A georadar was used to probe the cavities.

Weeks, then months go by, and the Méchinauds remain nowhere to be found. The investigators decided to scrutinize all the corpses found in the region. For more than fifty years, all bones unearthed have been analyzed. Each time a body was discovered, a link with the Méchinauds was envisaged. As technology progressed, the DNA contained in the bones was studied. No body found in the vicinity belonged to a member of the Méchinaud family. The search for the garnet-red Simca 1100, registration number 544 JV 16, was also unsuccessful.

Family members and friends were exonerated

The 4 members of the Méchinaud family
Pierrette, Jacques, Eric and Bruno Méchinaud

Maurice Blanchon, Pierrette’s lover, was a prime suspect as early as 1973. His interrogations in the months following the Méchinauds’ prolonged absence left him untroubled. However, in 2020, when the investigation was reopened, Pierrette Méchinaud’s former lover was questioned again by the new investigators assigned to the case. His house and land were probed by technicians. The excavations failed to uncover any evidence relating to the Méchinauds.

Jacques Méchinaud was the eighth of eleven siblings. Jacques’ siblings, grandparents and other cousins were exonerated by the investigators. The family context and intra-familial relationships were scrutinized without leading to the slightest lead in correlation with the disappearance of Jacques, Pierrette, Bruno and Eric. The Méchinauds’ relatives – some of whom are, of course, now deceased – have not been able to mourn for all these years, even if the hope that their brother, sister, nephews and cousins are still alive remains.

The theory of voluntary disappearance remains valid

Are the Méchinauds off to Australia?
Have the Méchinauds set course for Australia?

In Pierrick Baudais’ article in Ouest France “Et si un jour, ils revenaient…” (And if one day, they came back…), Maurice Blanchon suggests that Jacques Méchinaud had expressed a wish to move to Australia. He adds that Pierrette didn’t feel like it, but that if her husband had made this choice “she must have followed him”. The lover leans towards the hypothesis of voluntary disappearance, and imagines that the Méchinauds set off abroad.

After all, Jacques Méchinaud had had the opportunity to travel abroad as part of his job. Moreover, a few days before his disappearance, Pierrette would have told her lover not to worry, without him knowing what she was implying.

Another element can be added to this thesis: a neighbor of the Méchinauds told the investigators that Jacques was a man not to be provoked, and that he had once confided to him that everyone would die if he were to learn that his wife was cheating on him. He added that there would be no remission, and that he knew of places where he and his family would never be found.

The Méchinaud family disappeared over fifty years ago. Today, this investigation is the longest-running cold case in France. Will the transfer of the case to the Cold Cases Department in Nanterre (Paris region), a unique structure in the world, soon reveal the fate of Jacques, Pierrette, Eric and Bruno Méchinaud? If they are still alive, the children are now aged 55 and 58. Let’s hope that the truth will soon come to light in this mystery that is still being debated in the Charente region. To discover other mysterious cases, we invite you to read our article Five mind blowing criminal cases.

More information on the case

Read the article in French

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