A mother of four who shot her abusive husband after pimping her up truck drivers was found guilty of murder – but was released from court.
Valérie Bacot, 40, had seen life behind bars for killing Daniel Polette, her ex-stepfather, who later married her and abused her for years.
She admitted killing him with a gun he kept in the family’s personal van, but said she only did it because he regularly beat and raped her and forced her into prostitution.
“I wanted to save myself and my children,” said Bacot in front of a court in Châlons-sur-Saône, France.
In dramatic scenes on Friday evening, the fifth day of the murder trial, a jury was found guilty, but only after Attorney General Eric Jallet said the accused should “not go back to prison”.
Judges sentenced Bacot to four years in prison and three years probation. She has already been in custody for a year, which means she was able to go home on Friday night.
Mr. Jallet had said: “Willful murder is by no means self-defense. It is the willingness to kill willfully in the context of domestic violence. This court must apply the law.
“But there are several things to consider. The fact that she was beaten for so long that she tried to survive.”
Upon hearing Mr. Jallet’s words, an overwhelmed Bacot had collapsed in court, but she later returned to hear the verdict and the judges agreed to release her.
The case has fueled a nationwide debate in France about marital violence and whether victims can take the law into their own hands.
Almost a million people had signed a petition calling for the charges against Bacot to be dropped.
Polette, a truck driver, was 61 years old at the time of his death on March 13, 2016 when he died from a single gunshot wound to the neck.
Originally the lover of Bacot’s mother, he first raped Bacot when she was just 12 years old, the court heard.
Polette was imprisoned for sexually abusing Bacot at the age of 14, but was released after less than three years in prison and moved back in with her and her mother, Joëlle.
The abusive monster then arranged for Bacot to have sex with other men for money.
Bacot had admitted killing Polette, but in self-defense, when he forced her to prostitute herself at the Peugeot People Carrier near her home in Saône-et-Loire.
The mother says she shot Polette in the heat of the moment after she was also abused by a customer.
At the beginning of the trial, her mother, Joelle Aubague, testified that the couple wanted to be together and that she didn’t have to kill him to escape the marriage.
When asked whether Bacot could have escaped the relationship without killing her husband, she said: “There were other solutions.”
On the second day of the trial, her three oldest children testified about their family life, saying that their mother was “not guilty” and only killed Polette to “protect us” after the police refused to help.
Bacot says her children contacted the police twice on their behalf but were turned away and the officers told them that their mother must come to the station herself.
Things came to a head in 2016 when Polette routinely questioned Bacot’s 14-year-old daughter about her sexuality – which she feared he would prostitute the teenager as well.
While he was in the passenger seat, she drew the pistol and fired it once through the back of his neck, killing him instantly.
Bacot then buried the body in a forest with the help of her two eldest sons and her daughter’s friend, who she says offered her help so that the police wouldn’t take her away.
But in 2017 the police became aware of the murder after the boyfriend confessed to his own mother – which prompted them to call the police.
They arrested Bacot, who later confessed to the murder but was released on bail a year later, pending trial.
Bacot’s sons and the daughter’s boyfriend were each subsequently sentenced to six months in prison for hiding a body for their role in the cover-up.
The case also became a big talking point when Bacot started a book about her ordeal in October 2018 – while she was on bail and awaiting trial.
In it, she described the violence and humiliation she had suffered during her 25 years with Polette.
The book Everyone Knew (‘Tout le monde savait’) was published last month and became an instant bestseller.
The promotion included a television interview by Bacot that was seen by 4.5 million people.