The daughter of a French woman who has not been seen since March 27 has appealed to her mother to ‘give us a sign’ of life and free the family from the turmoil of worry.
Eva-Louise Pialle, 20, made the appeal on BFMTV almost two months after Karine Equivillon disappeared from their Vendée home. She reportedly left a text message saying that she would come back.
But the family did not hear from the 54-year-old, prompting partner Michel Pialle to report her missing to police on April 3.
Ms Pialle said: “Come back, make a sign, very simply. Even if she has decided to draw a line under us, which is hard, I want to know that she is OK, that’s all I want to know. If she wants to come back, my door is open, dad’s door is open, she shouldn’t hesitate.
“If she is afraid of coming back, no one will judge her. People make mistakes.”
‘Mum has gone’
Ms Pialle also recalled the moment her father told her that her mother was missing. She was taking a bus with a friend, running errands, she said. “My father called me, as he does often, and said: ‘Listen, I don’t know if everything is OK…Mum has gone.”
Ms Pialle added: “It’s not like her. It’s very surprising, that’s why we didn’t believe it at first. Especially as she left a text that doesn't explain anything, but says she'll be back.
“[But] she's a very suspicious person. She doesn’t trust blindly. Maybe she feels too afraid to come back now, but she shouldn't.”
On April 8 and 9, one of Ms Esquivillon’s two sons from a previous marriage contacted the gendarmerie, worried about his mother. Her eldest son later told Le Parisien his mother was “slightly troubled”, but that it “seems impossible” that she would have left “the last two children behind”.
One of Ms Esquivillon’s daughters told Le Figaro: “I haven’t heard from her, not even a message for my birthday, even though I have a close relationship with her.”
But Mr Pialle told BFMTV that Karine “left voluntarily”. He has said that she took “her money, her wallet, and her handbag” and a “whole pile of things that she had prepared in advance, I think”.
He said: “If she wants to start her life again, she can just tell us. Of course, it will take time for us to process it, or many years of therapy maybe, even therapy for the kids, but we won’t judge her, it’s her choice. But at least we will be reassured and free from the worry.”
On his Facebook page, he has called for people to share any sightings of her “particularly in the south of France where she wanted to go”.
However, Adélaïde Esquivillon, Karine’s sister, said: “If she wanted to go and rest somewhere, she could have spoken to her children, hugged them before leaving…we can say things without having to flee.
“She’s quite a fearful person, who likes to be at home with her children.”
Adélaïde said: “It’s not at all like my sister. She’s a loving mother who did everything for her family, her home. [I am] very worried and have a bad feeling about this.”
An inquiry into possible ‘kidnapping and sequestration’ by X has now been opened into the case, with the gendarmerie calling for witnesses or information.
Divers have searched local water areas, canine teams have searched local fields, and criminal ID technicians have been working on the case, the gendarmerie has said.
Ms Pialle said that “it’s to be expected” that her father would be considered a suspect, but she said that she does not believe he is involved.
She said: “It’s to be expected that he would be a suspect. When you look at events today, the first suspect is always the husband or the ex-partner. [My parents] were no longer together in an intimate relationship.
“So the gendarmerie followed this lead, but there’s nothing to prove my father is involved.”
Mr Pialle responded to rumours, saying: “Rumours say that I am a killer, that they need to search my garden, but this has already been done. Investigators have run products everywhere, they have even searched my wells, they’ve checked everything.
“If someone comes into my house and takes photos of the children, I will make a formal complaint,” he said.
What we know so far
Ms Esquivillon lived with her husband and their three children in lieu-dit La Malnoue, near Maché (Vendée), a small, rural commune of 1,500 residents.
Despite having no longer been a couple for the past four years, the two lived in the same house, Mr Pialle said. He told France Télévisions: “We realised quickly that she would struggle to financially take care of the house by herself.”
She is thought to have disappeared around 16:30, and is described as “thin”, 1m67 in height, with “black, mid-length curly hair”.
Mr Pialle said: “She was dressed in a grey jumper, black trousers, with a black coat, and was holding a black handbag with a chain. The day that she left, she told me that she would not be coming with me to college [to pick up the kids].”
He said she disappeared while her husband had gone outside to get the cat. Afterwards, he said, he received a text message reading: “I’m tired of living together but not as a couple. I’m going to look for something. I’ll come back to you for the kids.”
On April 9, the mayor of Maché, Frédéric Rager, found Ms Esquivillon's mobile phone while he was out walking with his family, two kilometres from the couple's home.
He told France 3 Pays de la Loire that the phone was in a ditch, but “very clean and dry”. It was turned on and “had a comfortable battery level", he said. However, the SIM card had been removed.
Mr Rager said: “We know of this family because they’ve been living in the commune for around 20 years, but they are very discreet people who live far from the centre. We hardly ever saw them. The gendarmerie is inquiring, which is worrying and makes you ask questions.
“All I hope for is that it’s a happy ending.”