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This month in history – December 10, 50 and 100 years ago in France

We look back at important events that happened in December 2012, 1972 and 1922

Micheline Ostermeyer, born December 1922, was the first French woman to win an Olympic athletics medal; she was the great-niece of Victor Hugo Pic: Boris15 / Neveshkin Nikolay

December, 2012 - Teenage girl snatches baby

A 17-year-old girl, Lucie, kidnapped a newborn baby from a maternity unit in Nancy. Wearing a blouse resembling a medical uniform, she claimed to a suspicious patient that she was a nurse taking a baby to another room so that the mother could rest.

The pair were traced thanks to the Alerte-Enlèvement system, set up in France in 2006 to help locate abducted minors and involving media channels and passenger transport companies. 

The infant was found unharmed in the property where Lucie, an apprentice hairdresser, lived with her boyfriend. 

Her lawyer insisted a “personal, private and relatively recent story” explained the girl’s actions, and she had gone to the hospital to be in a maternal environment.

Read more: Woman tells of attempted kidnapping by Uber driver in Paris

December, 1972 - Missing family mystery 

On Christmas Eve, a family of four went missing when returning from a gathering at a friend’s home in Cognac (Charente). 

Jacques Méchinaud, 31, his wife Pierrette, 29, and their children Eric and Bruno, seven and four, began driving home around 01:00 in a journey that should have taken only a few minutes.

They never arrived and police have no leads to suggest what might have happened to them. 

No bodies have ever been found, nor has any sign of their car or any witnesses.

Children’s wrapped Christmas presents were found waiting for them at their home and no clothes were missing.

It was later discovered that Pierrette had a lover but it is not thought this man was linked to the family’s disappearance. 

Read more: Dismembered body of cyclist found at tourist site in southern France

December, 1922 - Olympian Ostermeyer born 

December 23 saw the birth of Micheline Ostermeyer, the first French woman to win an Olympic athletics medal.

Ostermeyer was the great-niece of Victor Hugo, and niece of the composer Lucien Laroche. 

As a child, she lived in Tunisia and after the outbreak of World War Two performed weekly piano recitals on Radio Tunis.

It was during this time that she started competing in sporting events. 

Shortly afterwards, she won two golds and a bronze at the 1948 London Olympics for shot put, discus and high jump.

After her shot put victory, she gave an impromptu Beethoven performance at her team’s headquarters and a concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Read more: Paris Olympics 2024: How can I become a volunteer?

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