Nordahl Lelandais, 39, was jailed for life after abducting Maëlys de Araujo, eight, from a wedding reception after being invited in the early hours to supply cocaine to the guests
Image: AFP via Getty Images)
A former soldier murdered an eight-year-old girl after abducting her from a wedding celebration.
Nordahl Lelandais was told on Friday by judges sitting at the Isere Assizes in Grenoble, eastern France, that he would not be allowed an appeal, and that the minimum time he would spend in jail was 22 years.
The 39-year-old had admitted abducting Maëlys de Araujo from a wedding reception in the Alpine town of Pont-de-Beauvoisin, near Chambery, in August 2017, prompting a widespread search.
Lelandais had been invited to the party to supply cocaine to other guests in the early hours of the morning.
The court heard how he then asked Maëlys to join him in looking at his pet dogs in his car.
Lelandais was seen inside his Audi A3 on CCTV at 2.47am, with Maëlys sitting next to him.
He returned to the wedding reception and showed little interest while everyone else was looking for the missing girl.
Lelandais denied involvement in her death for six months until detectives managed to pinpoint a drop of Maëlys’s blood in his car.
This finally prompted Lelandais to lead police to Maëlys’s remains in February 2018.
The defendant, who was working as a dog trainer at the time of his arrest, broke down in court as he described what happened.
He said he struck his victim “three or four times”, but denied meaning to kill her, and then returned to the party alone.
Prosecutors had described the former soldier as an “absolute social danger” and a “major criminal and predator”.
He was already serving a 20-year prison sentence for murdering another young soldier, Arthur Noyer, whom he met at a disco in April 2017.
And was also on trial for sexually abusing two other children, aged four and six, in their sleep.
Lelandais, who turned 39 on the day of the verdict, has been described by psychiatric experts as a psychopathic, narcissistic, and a pathological liar.
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In a statement before the court, Lelandais said: “I know the families will never accept my excuses, but I present them with the greatest sincerity.”
Lelandais is suspected of being involved in up to 15 unsolved murder cases, and at one stage was linked to the so-called Alps Murders – the unsolved case of the Al-Hillis, from Claygate, Surrey.
Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, were gunned down in a forest layby near Annecy in 2012, along with a French cyclist called Sylvain Mollier.
The couple’s seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, was pistol whipped, while her sister Zeena, four, was later discovered hiding under her mother’s body inside the family BMW.
This was just 30 miles from the town of Chambery, from where Maëlys was kidnapped by Lelandais.
Police have confirmed that they are still examining links between Lelandais and other unsolved murders, although there is currently no evidence that he killed the Al-Hillis or Mr Mollier.