Crimes,  France

The Élodie Kulik Case, A Father’s Fight

Le viol et le meurtre d'Elodie Kulik dans la nuit glaciale

Every French person over the age of twenty is familiar with the Élodie Kulik case. This criminal case, which took place in 2002, left its mark on a French population horrified by the circumstances of the young woman’s death. The investigation was both a judicial epic and a father’s relentless struggle to find the truth.

A beautiful smile died on January 11, 2002

Elodie Kulik was 24 when she was killed
Elodie Kulik

In 2000, at the age of 22, Élodie Kulik became the youngest bank manager in France. Serious, rigorous and hard-working, she is also much appreciated for her empathy and kindness. What’s more, she had a very attractive physique. Élodie has a bright future ahead of her. On the night of January 10-11, 2002, what had been an idyllic destiny came to an abrupt end.

That evening, Élodie was dining with a friend in a Chinese restaurant in Saint Quentin, Picardy. At around 11pm, she headed for her home in Péronne, in the neighboring department of Somme. The night was freezing and fog had enveloped the region. But Émilie only had thirty minutes to drive before she found the warmth of the apartment she had recently moved into.

At 12:21 a.m., firefighters received a chilling call from a woman screaming on the phone that she was being threatened. The call was abruptly cut off after the operator heard the voices of two or even three men who appeared to be closing in on the caller.

Elodie Kulik was killed on January 11, 2002

In the hours that followed, and despite the fact that the departmental road was seldom used at night, three people reported an accident on the Catrigny commune, five kilometers (3 miles) from Péronne. A purse was found in the passenger compartment; it belonged to Élodie Kulik. Her parents contacted local hospitals, friends and acquaintances. No one knew where Élodie was.

The following day, a farmer spotted a black mass in a rubbish dump on disused military land in the commune of Tertry. It was a partially burnt female corpse. A few hours later, it was determined to be the body of Élodie Kulik. The young woman from Picardy had been raped and strangled. Darkness descended on the Kulik family, who had already lost two children in a car accident shortly before Élodie’s birth in 1978.

The dead ends of a difficult investigation

The crime scene in the countryland

Élodie’s killers left behind a wealth of clues. A condom containing semen, four other DNA samples, a cigarette butt and a fingerprint were found on the crime scene. These elements did not trigger any matches in the judicial databases. Jacky Kulik, Élodie’s father, launched the battle of his life to find his daughter’s murderers.

He would have to wait ten long years for the investigation to produce a solid lead. Nearly 70 DNA samples were taken in the year following Élodie’s murder, to no avail. It was the DNA of relatives that would give the investigation a boost, on the recommendation of an investigator.

Gregory Wiart raped and killed Elodie Kulik
Gregory Wiart raped and killed Elodie Kulik

As mentioned in our article Why is genealogical genetics revolutionizing crime solving?, the use of American companies specializing in genealogical databases has uncovered a DNA link to that of a local man, Grégory Wiart. Kinship DNA establishes a genetic connection between individuals in the same family. All it takes is for one of the family members concerned to submit a swab to a specialized company to find out more about his or her ethnic background, and on this basis, a brother, uncle or cousin can be traced.

Science and voice

This major breakthrough was altered by some very bad news: Grégory Wiart died in a car accident a year and a half after Élodie’s murder. His body was exhumed and the DNA matched one of those found on the corpse. Wiart was therefore involved in the young woman’s murder. His family was stunned, but the DNA analysis was conclusive. Wiart had been raised in the same village as Élodie, Monchy-Lagache. On this basis, and as one or two other voices were heard during Élodie’s desperate call for help, Wiart’s entourage was scrutinized by the investigators.

Willy Bardon may have killed Elodie Kulik
Willy Bardon, a major suspect

This led investigators to turn their attention to Willy Bardon, a close friend of Grégory Wiart, with whom he shared a passion for SUVs. It is plausible that Élodie, who was driving her car at the time, was pushed off the road by an off-road vehicle. Bardon, a loudmouth, was known for some of his actions bordering on the legal. Nor did his behavior with women speak in his favor. The range of his voice matched the sound recording of the attack on Élodie. In fact, when Willy Bardon was taken into police custody, he conceded that it was his voice before retracting his statement to the examining magistrate. The men in his group of friends also recognized his voice.

Two trials and nagging uncertainty

After a rigorous and very thorough scientific investigation, Bardon’s trial opened on November 21, 2019 in Amiens. He had been under electronic surveillance and house arrest since 2014. On December 6, he was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment for the abduction and rape of Élodie Kulik; the accused was found not guilty of murder.

The justice trays
Willy Bardon was tried twice

He appealed and his second trial began on June 14 2021 before the Douai court. On July 1, the verdict of thirty years’ imprisonment was confirmed. In addition to kidnapping and rape, the charge of murder was retained. Bardon appealed to the French Supreme Court. The appeal was rejected on November 30, 2022. His lawyers are now considering referring the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Willy Bardon maintains that he did not take part in the rape and murder of Élodie, and uncertainty as to his involvement has not been completely dispelled, since a third voice in the distance is said to be distinguishable on the recording used to incriminate him.

A father’s relentless fight

The Kulik family had suffered a family tragedy two years before Élodie was born. Their two children, aged five and six, had perished in a car accident. As soon as Élodie’s body was found on January 12, 2002, Jacky Kulik decided to fight to bring the truth to light, even more so when the investigation began to stall. He began by getting in touch with the Angélique un ange est passé association, which advocates better use of the FNAEG, the national genetic fingerprint database, by broadening the inclusion criteria.

Since DNA had been found at the crime scene, Mr. Kulik was interested in everything to do with nuclear DNA and scientific progress in this field. When the sperm left by Grégory Wiart in a condom found at the scene enabled his identification, it was a victory for Jacky Kulik, who for years had been advocating the extensive use of genetic fingerprinting, as the Anglo-Saxons had done long before the French.

Jacky Kulik holding the picture olf Elodie
Jacky Kulik, a courageous father

His pugnacity was also put to the test when his wife attempted suicide shortly after the violent death of their daughter. Rose-Marie Kulik remained in a coma for nine years before passing away in 2011. Nevertheless, Jacky Kulik, who had lost his father when he was still very young, persisted in his fight, reminding investigators, examining magistrates and politicians throughout the investigation. He conducted his own investigation, retracing Élodie’s route on the night of the tragedy, interviewing witnesses and exploiting every possible lead. He was even criticized for interfering with the gendarmes’ investigation. But his determination never wavered. Now aged 73, he can rest easy.

The Élodie Kulik case is an example of determination. The determination of the victim’s father, but also the determination of the investigators and the authorities. It is also a plebiscite for forensic science and new investigative techniques based, among other things, on new technologies.

More information on the case:

Read the article in French

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *