Kidnapper benefits financially from writing book …

There is a law in all civilized countries that a convicted criminal can not benefit financially from his crime. This is a law which does not exist in France. Therefore, yesterday (Thursday, January 19, 2012) the French publishing company Le Cherche Midi published the memoir of a man not only convicted for kidnapping but also […]

Baron Empain at the time of his kidnapping

There is a law in all civilized countries that a convicted criminal can not benefit financially from his crime. This is a law which does not exist in France. Therefore, yesterday (Thursday, January 19, 2012) the French publishing company Le Cherche Midi published the memoir of a man not only convicted for kidnapping but also for drug dealing.

The convicted criminal’s name is Alain Caillol.

His book is titled Lumière (Light) and it comes to 216 pages and as I’ve seen on it is a best-seller here.

Let me say right away that I will not buy this criminal’s book and neither will I read it. The book costs €15($20 / £12). I would rather burn that money than give it to this criminal.

Caillol masterminded the kidnapping in 1978 of the Belgian industrialist and head of Schneider, Baron Édouard-Jean Empain. The Baron, then 40 years old, was grabbed at 10.30 a.m. as his chauffeur-driven automobile emerged from the basement parking area of his apartment building on Paris’s Avenue Foch in the 16th arrondissement (district). The armed kidnappers handcuffed the Baron and told him to do as they tell him or they will knock him down. The chauffeur, also handcuffed, was violently thrown into the back of a small van which raced off. He was later thrown from the van. The kidnappers had driven off with the Baron in his own car (a Peugeot 604). A few hours later the car was found abandoned outside Paris; there were no fingerprints in and on the vehicle. Neither the chauffeur, in a state of shock, nor the passersby who witnessed the kidnapping could give the police a trustworthy description of the kidnappers. It was a time of kidnapping and that of the Italian politician and former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in January of 1978 was still very much one everyone’s mind. (Moro was kidnapped and then killed by the Marxist-Leninist Red Brigades of Italy.) That the Baron’s chauffeur reported to the police that he had heard one of the kidnappers speak in German made the cops believe that the German faction of the Red Brigades had kidnapped the Baron.

For the following 63 days the police sought the Baron’s kidnappers. Going into not only the Baron’s professional life but also his private life, the media did not fail to report that the handsome and very wealthy 40-year-old married man and father, loved to play poker but loved even more the company of pretty women. It was also revealed that he was in debt: therefore, might he have arranged the kidnapping to get money from his family so that he could pay off his debt?

The kidnappers meanwhile left a note in a baggage hold at one of Paris’s railroad stations demanding FF80 million (€12 million / $15.5 million / £10.5 million) against their captive’s release. They called themselves the Noyaux armés pour l’autonomie populaire – the Armed Circle (or Cell) for a People’s Government (or something like that.)

To show that they meant business, the kidnappers, by then being identified in the media by the initials NAPAP, slipped the pinkie of the Baron’s left hand into the envelope. There was a threat (or promise) that another part of the Baron’s anatomy would be cut off next unless the ransom was paid. It would later be revealed that they had cut the finger off without having administered anesthesia.

Over the weeks that followed the kidnappers would several times set up meetings with the Baron’s family and his company for the ransom to be handed over, but each time, the kidnappers got cold feet and made a dash for it. Finally, another meeting was set up close to a highway south of Paris, but the police were staking out the place and there was a shoot out between them and the kidnappers. One of the kidnappers was killed, another wounded, so too two police inspectors. Through the wounded kidnapper, a man who had already served time for bank robbery, the police learned the name of the man who masterminded the kidnapping. It was Alain Caillol.

Caillol, in police custody, and the police having promised him that his accomplishes won’t be arrested, then phoned them and told them to let the Baron go. This they did. They drove the Baron, always so dashing, but then bearded, dishevelled and 20 kilos lighter after 63 days of imprisonment, to a wasteland outside Paris. From there he walked to a Metro (underground railroad) station, bought a ticket with the FF10 note the kidnappers had given him, and descending in central Paris, he telephoned his wife from a public phone booth to say that he’d been freed. He broke down crying in the police car sent to pick him up.

The kidnappers were arrested; police technicians had identified the number Caillol had called through the dialling tone.

The Baron had been kept in the dark the entire 63 days of his kidnapping, sometimes in a tent set up in a basement. He had a chain around his neck. His little finger was cut off on the day of his kidnapping. He never saw the faces of his kidnappers because they were always masked.

In 1982, four years after the kidnapping, the trial of the 8 kidnappers – 6 men and 2 women – opened in Paris. (There had been 10 kidnappers but apart from the one who had died during the shoot-out with the police, another had died during a later bank robbery.) The trial lasted 16 days. Caillol was sentenced to 20 years, the others from between two to five years.

Caillol was released after 11 years, but went back into prison in 2001 for 8 years for drug dealing. He now says that writing his book is his mea culpa. “We owe him the truth,” he says in media interviews. The ‘him’ is the Baron.

They owe the Baron much more than that!

His marriage did not survive the kidnapping; having learned of her husband’s nocturnal activities his wife did not want to remain married to him. He also lost his position as head of Schneider after which he set off for the States only with a backpack. He was a broken man. Today, he is back living in Belgian and he is married to another French woman, and he remains out of the public eye. This book will undoubtedly earn him some unwanted publicity again.

So what I say to you now is: If you have €15 ($20/£12) burning a hole in your pocket, give it to charity, but do not give it to this criminal. Or drop it into the paper cup of a beggar sitting in the street.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

One Response to “Kidnapper benefits financially from writing book …”

  1. 1
    Catrine Says:

    Well said Marilyn. I wish everybody would agree and refuse to support criminals who cash in on their crimes but there are people out there whose moral compass is not the same as ours.

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