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'Martyr of the A10': DNA leads to France arrests over 1987 murder

Police and a prosecutor present a leaflet to the media with a picture of the girl and a message reading "Who is she?"Image copyright

Image caption

Police re-opened the case in 2012 with a call for witnesses

French police have arrested a couple 31 years after their daughter was found dead, in a cold case revived through DNA evidence.

The mutilated body of the girl, who was unidentified, was found by the side of a motorway in central France in 1987.

The parents were traced after the DNA of their son, tested in an unrelated case, was matched with that of the girl, French media report.

They are to be questioned by a judge on Thursday and could face murder charges.

The parents have not been identified but are believed to be in their 60s. Police have not commented officially on reports of the arrests, which are said to have taken place on Tuesday.

Image copyright

Image caption

The girl was buried in an unmarked grave near the location where the body was found

The body was found in a ditch along the A10 motorway near the city of Blois in August 1987. The authorities were unable to identify her and she was believed to be between three and five years old at the time of her death.

The girl bore marks of horrific, long-standing abuse, such as broken bones and burns with an iron. Parts of her body were mutilated.

She was nicknamed the “little martyr of the A10”, and buried in an anonymous grave.

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The case baffled police for decades. It was reopened in 2012 when a call for witnesses was released with a picture of the dead girl’s face and the caption: “Who is she?”

The girl was described as having a blue checked shirt, curly black hair and a “Mediterranean (maybe North African) type”.

The apparent breakthrough happened last year, when a man was arrested over a violent incident.

His DNA reportedly identified him as the victim’s brother. Months of investigation then led police to the parents.

Other prominent cases revived thanks to DNA evidence include:

  • A former police officer arrested in April and accused of being the “Golden State killer” who carried out a string of rapes and murders in the US in the 1970s and 80s
  • The murder conviction in 2016 of an Italian man identified through DNA samples as the killer of 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio six years earlier

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