Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès has been arrested in Glasgow
One of France’s most wanted men was arrested in Scotland last night, eight years after vanishing without trace following the murder of his wife and four children.
Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, 58, was subject to an international arrest warrant for the 2011 killings in a mystery that transfixed France.
He was said to have gone ‘on the run’ after the bodies of 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.
The aristocratic businessman was stopped at Glasgow airport on Friday after arriving on a flight from Paris, according to two French sources close to the investigation.
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.
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.
From top left: Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, his wife Agnes, and Arthur; from bottom left: Tomas, Anne and Benoit
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
People hold the coffin of a member of the Dupont de Ligonnes family during the funeral
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.
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
Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes smiling, a cigarette in his hand, in the garden of his Nantes house in August 2003
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 that Dupont de Ligonnes had undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance, citing police sources.
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.
‘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
De Ligonnès had been arrested at Glasgow Airport following a flight from Paris and was travelling under a false identity
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.
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’s 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. Among those he had been asking for money was a mistress in Paris.
According to Scottish police the arrested man’s ‘digital fingerprints’ correspond to that those recorded for De Ligonnès, French media reported.