Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès was said to have been arrested in Glasgow – but a source close to the investigation said the DNA test ‘turned out negative’
Scottish police have released a retired French Renault worker arrested after being mistaken for a man suspected of brutal killings of five family members.
DNA tests revealed Frenchman Guy Joao arrested at Glasgow airport is not suspected murderer Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, a source close to the investigation said today.
De Ligonnes was said to have gone ‘on the run’ after the bodies of his wife Agnes, 48, and children Arthur, 20, Tomas, 18, Anne, 16, and Benoit, 13, were found buried in the garden of the family house in Nantes, western France, along with their two pet Labradors.
French judicial sources had said Friday that police at Glasgow airport had arrested Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, who was subject to an international arrest warrant for the 2011 killings which transfixed France.
But on Saturday, sources close to the probe said a DNA test on the man being held in Scotland was ‘negative’.
Officers arrested 69-year-old Guy Joao in the mistaken belief that he was Dupont de Ligonnes, before searching his home in Limay, near Paris.
The source close to him said: ‘Mr Joao has now been released, and is back with his wife, Mary. He is clearly hugely upset by what has happened.’
De Ligonnes disappeared from his family home in April 2011, and after three weeks the remains of his children Arthur, Thomas, Anne and Benoit, aged 13 to 20 years, were discovered in the garden of their house along with his wife and the their two labradors.
They had been subject to a ‘methodical execution’, being shot twice in the head with a silenced weapon, before being wrapped them in sheets and buried under concrete.
However, neighbours of Mr Joao, who is a retired Renault worker on his way to visit his wife in Dunoon, Argyll and Bute, said he looks nothing like the suspected killer.
One neighbour in Limay, France said Mr Joao is six-foot tall with a ‘balding head, a little paunchy and a chubby face’.
French police searched the home of Guy Joao in Limay, north west of Paris after Scottish police arrested him in the mistaken belief he was murder suspect Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès
According to La Parisian, a neighbour Jacques said: ‘We ate together Thursday. Guy told me he had to go back to Scotland to find his wife. Moreover, when we found that the police were present at his home last night, we immediately called his wife. She confirmed that her husband had been arrested by the police and that she did not know why. For me, if the police really think it can be Xavier Dupont Ligonnès, I tell you: it’s a huge b******t.’
Neighbours said Mr Joao was born in Limay to parents of Portuguese origin.
Mario Vieira said: ‘His mother died ten years ago. We met more than thirty years ago at the Renault factory in Flins. By the end of his career, he had become a team leader before retiring.
‘He was married for the first time a long time ago, and then remarried two or three years ago with a Scottish girl, Mary, who has children. Since that time, Guy lives between Limay and Scotland, in Dunoon where they settled.’
Another neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, said Guy Joao does not ‘look anything like’ De Ligonnes.
Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, pictured with wife Agnes, 48, was subject to an international arrest warrant for the 2011 killings in a mystery that transfixed France
Police Scotland had issued a statement saying: ‘On Friday the 11th of October a man was arrested at Glasgow Airport and remains in police custody in connection with a European Arrest Warrant issued by the French authorities.
‘Inquiries are ongoing to confirm his identity and we continue to liaise with our colleagues in the relevant agencies.’
French media had earlier on Saturday reported that the man’s finger prints had partially matched those of the alleged assailant.
He was said to have gone ‘on the run’ after the bodies of Agnes, 49, and children Arthur (left), 20, Thomas (right), 18, Anne, 16, and Benoit, 13, were found buried in the garden of the family house in Nantes, western France, along with their two pet Labradors
He is suspected of shooting his family dead and burying them under the terrace of their elegant townhouse in the western city of Nantes. Pictured left is Anne, 16. Right: Benoit, 13
The bodies of Arthur, Thomas, Anne and Benoit (pictured) aged 13 to 20 years were found in the garden of their house on April 21, 2011
A female witness involved in the case had told Ouest France (West France) that De Ligonnès managed to start a new life in Scotland.
‘A very reliable source specifies that the fugitive had even remarried in Great Britain,’ the newspaper reported, although there was no indication as to whether this information had been passed on to the police, it adds.
He was said to have been using a passport in another man’s name. The home belonging to the man whose name was on the passport was raided.
‘It may be that De Ligonnès has radically disguised himself over the years, but there are still lots of questions to be answered,’ said a French investigating source.
‘The digital fingerprint identification was only partial – that’s why French forensics experts are on their way to Glasgow. DNA tests are already in progress.’
The De Ligonnès suspect has remained silent since his arrest, while Pierre Sennès, the Nantes prosecutor, has called for ‘prudence’.
Barriers placed at the front of a house in Limay, north-west of Paris, which is said to be the home of the man arrested late October 11 at Glasgow Airport
Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, pictured right in the garden of his Nantes house in August 2003 (left: His wife Agnes)
Relatives and friends attend a funeral ceremony outside the church of Saint Felix, in the French western city of Nantes, on April 28, 2011, in memory of the Dupont de Ligonnes family
This file photograph taken on April 14, 2012, shows people laying down flowers in front of the Dupont de Ligonnes family’s house as part of a silent march in the streets of Nantes, western France
‘Checks are being carried out to see if it really is Mr De Ligonnès,’ Mr Sennès explained.
Stéphane Goldstein, a lawyer for De Ligonnès’s sister, Christine, who believes he is innocent of the murders, said: ‘We are waiting for scientific confirmation that he is indeed Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès’.
Another investigating source said: ‘He did not try and resist arrest, but information corresponded with what is on a Europol search card. It is now being double checked.’
Two French sources close to the investigation said the aristocratic businessman was said to have been stopped at Glasgow airport on Friday after arriving on a flight from Paris.
The sources confirmed a fingerprint match had been made but one said a DNA analysis was being conducted to be ‘totally sure’ it was him.
Another source said Dupont de Ligonnes was travelling on a stolen French passport and had likely spent part of his time on the run in Britain.
People hold the coffin of a member of the Dupont de Ligonnes family during the funeral
A police officer stands in front of the residence in Limay, Yvelines on October 12, 2019
The suspect ‘remains in police custody in connection with a European Arrest Warrant issued by the French Authorities’, a Police Scotland spokeswoman said
He is suspected of shooting his family dead and burying them under the terrace of their elegant townhouse in the western city of Nantes.
Their bodies were found three weeks after the killings, during which time Dupont de Ligonnes reportedly told his teenage children’s school he had been transferred to a job in Australia.
He is said to have told friends he was a US secret agent who was being taken into a witness protection programme.
French prosecutors have said he killed all five of his victims in a ‘methodical execution’, shooting them each twice in the head at close range with a weapon fitted with a silencer.
He is believed to have covered them in quicklime and wrapped them in sheets before burying them under concrete.
Earlier on Friday, officers had picked out the suspect at the French capital’s Charles de Gaulle airport, but there was not enough time to seize him, so they alerted British police, who confirmed an arrest had been made.
The man ‘remains in police custody in connection with a European Arrest Warrant issued by the French Authorities’, a Police Scotland spokeswoman said earlier.
In this file photo taken on April 22, 2011 French Police officers stand guard in front of the Dupont de Ligonnes family house in Nantes, western France after French authorities issued an international search alert for Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes
Today: The house where Xavier Dupont De Ligonnes is suspected of having killed his wife and his four children eight years ago
A picture showing Benoit Dupont de Ligonnes, one of the five Dupont de Ligonnes family members, set in front of their house, where they were discovered in April 2011
French newspaper Liberation reported on suspicions that Dupont de Ligonnes had undergone plastic surgery, citing police sources, because his appearance had changed.
For years France has been gripped by the question of how Dupont de Ligonnes had disappeared without trace, with some suggesting he may have killed himself. Hundreds of reported sightings only added to the mystery.
In 2015, a letter and photo of two of his sons, signed with his name and the message ‘I am still alive’, was delivered to an AFP journalist but experts could not verify its authenticity.
The alleged killer evaded a police dragnet in the Var region of southern France in January last year after witnesses reported seeing a man resembling him near a monastery.
Hundreds of people take part in a march on April 26, 2011 in the French western city of Nantes, in memory of the five Dupont de Ligonnes family
The alleged killer evaded a police dragnet in the Var region of southern France in January last year after witnesses reported seeing a man resembling him near a monastery (pictured: Nantes, April 2011)
Europol is the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation which has helped in the eight-year hunt for De Ligonnès (pictured: Police hunt De Ligonnès in the south of France)
Yesterday evening French media outlets reported that De Ligonnès had been arrested at Glasgow Airport following a flight from Paris.
‘He was travelling under a false identify and had changed his appearance completely,’ said an investigating source.
This file photograph taken on April 23, 2011, shows a police seal on the front door of Dupont de Ligonnes’ family home in western French city of Nantes
‘He did not try and resist arrest, but information corresponded with what is on a Europol search card. It is now being double checked. He is now in the hands of Scottish police.’
Europol is the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation which has helped in the eight-year hunt for De Ligonnès.
Last year police searched underground caves and abandoned potassium mines in the area around Roquebrune-sur-Argens, in the south of France, where De Ligonnès was spotted by a CCTV camera in April 2011.
He had fled Nantes a few days earlier after neighbours reported not having seen any of the family for more than three weeks.
Detectives who visited initially found a severed leg under the garden terrace, and then uncovered the bodies of those who had been killed.
De Ligonnès originally came from Versailles, home of the pre-Revolutionary kings and queens of France, and was technically a count who could trace his lineage back generations.
A police seal on the front door of Dupont de Ligonnes’ family home in Nantes after French authorities issued an international search alert
The suspect had been arrested at Glasgow Airport following a flight from Paris
In confiscated emails he said that he considered himself to be part of a Roman Catholic elite which was superior to ‘the masses’.
‘I think I’ve got a superiority complex, you could call it that,’ he wrote. ‘But it’s based on a simple observation: I belong to a group of people who are intelligent, determined, balanced and in good moral and physical health. Such people are rare compared to the masses.’
Recalling his strict, devout childhood, De Ligonnès added: ‘All my adolescence was devoted to religion and faith, under the influence of my grand-mother and mother. To such an extent that I did not rebel like other adolescents, nor indulge in drugs or run after girls.’
De Ligonnès was last seen on April 15 2011 when he left a budget hotel at Roquebrune-sur-Argens, abandoning his car there.
He was wearing a backpack as he strolled through a car park into the surrounding countryside, and was picked up by a camera.
An extensive search was carried out in the area between April and June 2011 and – acting on new information – police resumed it last year, but found nothing.
People lay down flowers in front of the Dupont de Ligonnes family’s house as part of a silent march on April 14, 2012 in the streets of Nantes, western France
French authorities have been searching for Dupont de Ligonnès without success ever since the bodies of his wife, Agnes, and four children – Arthur, Thomas, Anne and Benoit – were discovered (pictured: French police hunting de Ligonnès in April 2011)
There was a theory that De Ligonnès may have committed suicide in the days after the slaughter, in which case police were searching for remains of his body.
However, prosecutors had never ruled out the possibility that De Ligonnès was living rough, or else is being hidden by members of his extended family, who own country homes around France.
De Ligonnès’ ancestors, who included the 19th Century poet Lamartine, originally lived in a southern province of France called the Rouergue.
Five months before the murders, De Ligonnès said he had inherited a .22 rifle from his father and started target practice at a Nantes shooting club.
Receipts found in his house also reveal that he bought a silencer, as well as a spade, a two-wheel trolley, chalk lime, and other equipment which could have been used to bury the bodies.
It also emerged that De Ligonnès, who ran a number of internet businesses, had severe financial difficulties.
According to Scottish police the arrested man’s ‘digital fingerprints’ correspond to that those recorded for De Ligonnès, French media reported.