Maëlys de Araujo: Ex-soldier jailed for life for French girl’s murder


Former soldier and dog-handler Nordahl Lelandais has been found guilty of kidnapping an eight-year-old girl at a wedding and then murdering her.

Maëlys de Araujo’s murder in August 2017 shocked France and the case has been a high-profile one ever since.

The court in eastern France jailed Lelandais for life with a minimum term of 22 years.

He was also convicted of sexually assaulting two cousins, aged four and six, the same year.

At the start of the three-week trial the defendant, who turned 39 on the day of the verdict, initially said that he had killed Maëlys “involuntarily” and apologised to her family in court. But he later changed his story and admitted his action was deliberate.

Before the jury retired for six hours to consider its verdict, he apologised again.

Maëlys de Araujo had gone to the wedding with her parents and sister, in the eastern town of Pont-de-Beauvoisin, north of Grenoble, at the foot of the French Alps. Lelandais was also a guest.

The eight-year-old was last seen in the early hours of 27 August 2017 in the children’s play area at the wedding venue. Her remains were found near the town.

“I did kill Maëlys, I didn’t want to kill her,” he insisted at the start of the trial, suppressing sobs.

However, he later admitted it was done willingly and that he had panicked after experiencing a “hallucination”.

Lelandais was sentenced in May last year to 20 years in prison for murdering Arthur Noyer, a young soldier who was hitchhiking when he picked him up one night in April 2017, four months before he went on to murder Maëlys.

He claimed he had seen the soldier’s image in her face.
Nordahl Lelandais during the trial
Lelandais’ motive for the eight year-old’s murder remains unclear. He admitted to the court that he had paedophile urges, but he was not charged with rape and it was never established if he had abused Maëlys.

His denial of a sexual motive was rejected by the prosecution, who asked the jury to consider him “a major criminal, a major predator” and called him an “absolute social danger”.

Maëlys’s older sister has also strongly challenged the accused, urging him to provide answers on the circumstances of the girl’s death.

“Knowing why is essential to me and my family. I want to know if you raped my sister,” the 16-year-old asked, speaking directly to the accused, who then denied it.
French police block off a road near the Chartreuse regional park during the 2018 search
In February 2018, Lelandais led investigators to an area near his parents’ home at Domessin, not far from Pont-de-Beauvoisin, where her body was found.

After her disappearance, police questioned all 180 guests, and identified inconsistencies in his statements.

He was charged a week later, after police discovered DNA belonging to Maëlys on the dashboard of his car.

Lelandais initially maintained his innocence, claiming that although the girl may have been in his car, that did not prove his guilt.

He was also reported to have spent hours cleaning his car the next day with powerful detergents, claiming he was preparing to sell it.

When tiny traces of Maëlys’s blood were found in the car boot, he then divulged where her body was hidden.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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