On the night of august 5 1952 a man named Sir Jack Drummond and his wife and 10-year-old daughter camped beside a main road in Provence within 100 yards of a french farmhouse called La Grand’Terre.
By morning all three were dead: the parents shot and the child clubbed down as she ran from her attacker.
The motive remained obscure.
The suspects soon narrowed down to a small group, almost all members of the Dominici family all who lied.
La Grand’Terre was the home of the Dominicis, a family of Franco-Italian peasant farmers: the patriarch Gaston, his wife Marie, their son Gustave, Gustave’s wife Yvette and their baby son Alain. It was Gustave who claimed to have found the three dead bodies around 5:30am on the morning of 5 August, and who flagged down a passing motorcyclist, Jean-Marie Olivier, telling him to fetch the police.Anne’s body was found near the car. Jack’s lay on the other side of the N96, covered by a camp bed. They had both been shot by a Rock-Ola rifle. The body of 10-year-old Elizabeth was found 77 metres away, down the path leading to the river, on the other side of the bridge over the railway. Her head had been brutally smashed in by the stock of the rifle. The barrel of the murder weapon was soon found in the river, with the stock a short distance downstream. It is likely that the force of the blow or blows used to kill Elizabeth had also broken the stock off the rifle.
Gaston Dominici was convicted of the murders in November 1954, and sentenced to the Guillotine. However, both the police investigation and the conduct of the trial had been widely criticised, and after two inconclusive inquiries, President René Coty commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Coty was succeeded in 1959 by President Charles de Gaulle, who ordered Dominici’s release on humanitarian grounds, but did not pardon him, nor grant his request for a retrial.
The Drummonds are buried in the classified cemetery of the well-known tourist town of Forcalquier, about 25 km East of Lurs. As Sir Jack had no more family, and the mother of Anne, Mrs Wilbraham didn’t ask for the bodies, exceptionally three British citizens are not buried in the UK. On the site of the drama near the stone bridge over the railway, there is a cross with childish votive offerings to mark the place where Elizabeth was found.
The murders remain a subject of hot dispute to this day in France, where they are referred to as L’affaire Dominici. Alain Dominici, a baby at the time of the murders, has spent a lifetime campaigning for the innocence of his grandfather.
The trial of Gaston Dominici, aged 77, for the murder of the English family Drummond was one of the most sensational ever to come before a french court, both in itself and because it made french legal history.
No less sensational was the police investigation that preceded it.
For almost three years the case was headline news in two countries.
Its true facts remain conjectural to this day.