Man suspected of killing family reported to be at French convent

Sightings of the suspect come in regularly with the latest being taken seriously and police running DNA tests

Gendarmerie investigators are taking this latest tip-off seriously
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Police are investigating after a man suspected of killing his whole family and then going on the run from police for 13 years has reportedly been sighted in eastern France.

Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès is suspected of killing his wife and four children in Nantes in 2011. He has never been formally charged, but is thought to have been on the run since the bodies were discovered buried under the terrace of the former family home.

Police have now interviewed several members of a religious convent community named Les sœurs de Béthanie, in Montferrand-le-Château in Doubs (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), confirmed the Besançon prosecutor Etienne Manteaux.

Interviews and DNA tests

Investigators in Besançon are taking the sighting seriously, running DNA tests on some drinks cans that were reportedly used by the man in question, to establish if it was indeed Mr Dupont de Ligonnès.

The tip-off came from a woman, who “thinks she recognised him” during a religious ceremony at the convent. The community regularly takes in former female offenders to help them reintegrate into society. Another woman also came into the local gendarmerie station and reported a similar suspicion.

“One of the members came accompanied by a man called Jean,” explained Mr Manteaux. The man reportedly said he had been “walking the roads” since 2023, and did not have any identity documents. He stayed at the convent for two nights and then left.

However, of the seven community members to have been interviewed, four said they did not believe the man looked anything like Mr Dupont de Ligonnès, and three said they were not sure.

More than 1,750 reports from all over the world

So-called “sightings” of Mr Dupont de Ligonnès are regularly reported to police, and have been since he first went on the run. Most are dismissed, as they are based on distance sightings with little evidence.

At the end of March this year Nantes public prosecutor Renaud Gaudeul said that, to date, "more than 1,750 reports" of people having seen Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès had been "received and investigated", in France and abroad. 

This has increased since the 2024 publication of a book - entitled Xavier, mon frère, présumé innocent - by Christine Dupont de Ligonnès, his sister.

Most reports, however, turn out to be nothing more than sightings of someone unrelated, who looks vaguely similar.

Serious investigations

Police do still take some reports very seriously, however, with investigators working internationally in an attempt to find Mr Dupont de Ligonnès.

In October 2019 Scottish authorities arrested a man who was suspected of being Mr Dupont de Ligonnès at Glasgow airport, and took him into custody. 

DNA tests confirmed that the man was in fact named Guy Joao who was in fact a retiree living in Yvelines and regularly travelled to and from Scotland.

Another high-profile tip-off and investigation happened in 2018, when a “monk” at the monastery Saint-Désert-des-Carmes, in the village of Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var; Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) was said to look similar to Mr Dupont de Ligonnès.

Read more: Hunt for alleged murderer leads to silent monastery

Police travelled to the monastery “respectfully”, they said at the time, but the visit was challenging, as the monks have all taken a vow of silence, and are not normally allowed to speak. 

Police felt that the monks’ vow of silence could have worked to the suspect’s advantage; however, the man reported to look like the suspect simply looked similar from a distance.

That tip-off was taken seriously because Mr Dupont de Ligonnès was last officially seen in the Var department in April 2011. CCTV footage showed him taking out €30 at a cash machine, after leaving a Formule 1 hotel. He also spent summer holidays in Var as a child.