The secrets of real experts (LE FIGARO)

Philippe Esperança, morpho-analyst: Blood on the trail

By Le Figaro, 21/07/2006.

“Espé” is the French specialist in the revelation and analysis of bloodstains. At the Institut de recherche criminelle de la gendarmerie nationale (IRCGN) in Rosny-sous-Bois, where he is assigned to the ATO department (anthropology, thanatology, odontology), Chief Philippe Esperança, 38, is the expert who discovered the terrible truth inside the chalet in Grand-Bornand (Haute-Savoie) after the massacre, in April 2003, of the five members of the Flactif family (Xavier, a 41-year-old property developer, his partner Graziella Ortolano, 36, and their three children, aged between 6 and 10). David Hotyat was sentenced on 30 June by the Haute-Savoie Assize Court to life imprisonment, with a security sentence of 22 years (David Hotyat has appealed this sentence).

Philippe Esperança, who was called to the stand to comment on his expert reports, told the court how the first IRCGN experts, who arrived at the chalet after the Flactif family’s unexplained disappearance, had called him because they suspected that “the place had been cleaned”.

When I arrived,” he said, “the chalet was perfectly tidy and clean. After my colleagues had made all the other findings (fingerprints, footprints, particle samples), we used the BlueStar. In a darkened room, this luminescent product turns blood traces blue, even if they have been carefully washed.

It didn't take me long," says Philippe Esperança, "to be sure that the small living room of the chalet had been cleaned. Thanks to the product we had sprayed, I could clearly see the traces of blood left on the floor by a sponge about fifteen centimetres wide."

Philippe Esperança, who was called to the stand to comment on his expert reports, told the court how the first IRCGN experts, who arrived at the chalet after the unexplained disappearance of the Flactif family, had called him because they suspected that “the place had been cleaned”.

When I arrived,” he said, “the chalet was perfectly tidy and clean. After my colleagues had made all the other findings (fingerprints, footprints, particle samples), we used BlueStar. In a dark room, this luminescent product turns blood traces blue, even if they have been carefully washed.

A few weeks later, at the request of the magistrate appointed to investigate the case, Chief Esperança returned to the chalet in Grand-Bornand. His mission: to reveal the traces in all the rooms and to proceed with their morphological analysis. On the second floor of the house, called ‘le gîte’,” explains the gendarme, “I found traces of blood from a person who had been hit at a height of less than a metre. DNA analysis showed that it was Mrs Ortolano. On the floor, the BlueStar showed extensive cleaning of the landing and a blood trail from the landing to the laundry room. On the staircase leading to the third level, after the product was used, you could clearly see the handling and dumping of bodies there given the very large amount of blood that had been spilled here.”

“On level three,” he continued, “we discovered several cleaning sites in the small living room, the kitchen and the large room, as well as acts of violence committed, for the first one, in the small living room with a firearm and which the DNA will say was Xavier Flactif. In the kitchen and its vicinity, we found evidence of violence committed by a blow (a first area of blood revealed between the kitchen table and the wall, and another between the kitchen table and the hall table). These two areas of blood matched the DNA of one of the couple’s two daughters.”

On the top floor of the cottage, the bedrooms: “There were, in the bedroom of Sarah, one of the Flactif’s daughters, traces – cleaned and revealed by the BlueStar – of blood spatter on the walls indicating that a blow had been delivered always at a height of less than a metre. The DNA was that of one of the two girls.

During the trial of the perpetrators and accomplices of this carnage, Philippe Esperança was questioned at length by the president of the assizes on the version of the facts given by David Hotyat, who explained that two mysterious individuals had hit him inside the chalet and that he had fainted.

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