1980s cold case brought to new light 30 years later

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1980s cold case revived in France
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1980s cold case revived in France
This undated photo shows Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, who was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
This undated photo shows Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, who was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Serge Remy (3rdL), the firefighter who recovered the body of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, stands next to French judge Maurice Simon and investigators who point the place where the body was found in the Vologne river, in Bruyeres, France, October 14, 1987. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
A mannequin, which represents the body of 4-year-old Gregory Villemin, is seen during the reconstruction of his murder in the Vologne river in Docelles, eastern France, November 17, 1987. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE CRIME LAW)
Murielle Bolle, sister-in-law of Bernard Laroche, arrives at Dijon courthouse, eastern France, November 3, 1993 for the start of the trial of Jean-Marie Villemin, father of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, accused of shooting her brother-in law, Laroche, in 1985. REUTERS/Robert Pratta (FRANCE)
The family of Bernard Laroche cries close to his coffin during the funeral ceremony in Jussarupt village, eastern France, April 2, 1985. Laroche has been shot to death by his cousin Jean-Marie Villemin, the father of murdered 4-year-old Gregory. REUTERS/Stringer (FRANCE)
Jean-Marie Villemin, father of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, surrended by French gendarmes as he attends the reconstruction of his son's murder in the Vologne river, in Docelles, eastern France, October 30, 1985. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
Jean-Marie (L) and Christine Villemin, parents of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, and her lawyer Henri Garaud are seen in this undated picture in Nancy, France. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen
Jean-Marie Villemin, father of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, arrives at Dijon prison, eastern France, December 16, 1993, after receiving a 5-year sentence, one suspended, for the murder of his cousin Bernard Laroche in 1985. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE)
Christine (L) and Jean-Marie Villemin (C), parents of murdered 4-year-old Gregory, attend the reconstruction of their son's murder in the Vologne river in Docelles, eastern France, October 14, 1987. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE)
From L-R, General Olivier Kim, Jean-Jacques Bosc, Prosecutor at Dijon's Court of Appeals, and Colonel Dominique Lambert attend a news conference about the murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the crime, in Dijon, France, June 15, 2017. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
French gendarmes stand guard at an entrance to the Dijon Court of Appeals where two relatives are presented to the judge in the unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the crime, in Dijon, France, June 16, 2017. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
French gendarmes surround a police vehicle as Jacqueline Jacob is transferred from Dijon's Court of Appeals after she was questioned by the judge in unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the crime, in Dijon, France, June 16, 2017. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
French lawyer Stephane Giuranna is surrounded by media as he arrives at Dijon's Court of Appeals where relatives are presented to the judge in the unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the crime, in Dijon, France, June 16, 2017. Gregory Villemin, a 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Robert Pratta
A sign by the Vologne River is seen by a bridge in Docelles, France, June 16, 2017. French gendarmes continue their investigation in the unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
A car drives past the city entrance sign in Docelles, France, June 16, 2017. French gendarmes continue their investigation in the unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
General view of the Vologne River in Lepanges-sur-Vologne, France, June 16, 2017. French gendarmes continue their investigation in the unsolved murder of Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river, near his home in a village in eastern France. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
Members of the media work outside the house of Marcel and Jacqueline Jacob in Aumontzey, France, June 17, 2017. A couple in their 70s were put under investigation on Friday over the unsolved murder of their four-year-old great nephew, Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
General view of the Vologne river and the village of Docelles, France, June 17, 2017. A couple in their 70s were put under investigation on Friday over the unsolved murder of their four-year-old great nephew, Gregory Villemin, 32 years after the 4-year-old boy, was found dead in October 1984 with his feet and hands bound in the Vologne river. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot
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DIJON, France (Reuters) - A couple in their 70s were put under investigation in France on Friday over the grisly murder of their four-year-old great nephew over 30 years ago, reviving memories of an infamous case and sweeping news of an impending election off the front pages.

The discovery in a river of Gregory Villemin's body in October 1984, bound hand and foot, led to a revenge killing, and the murder has remained unsolved even though it has been reopened several times.

Now the arrest of Jacqueline and Marcel Jacob, following forensic improvements in criminal investigation, has gripped the nation once more and is dominating newspapers and TV news bulletins even as France prepares for a final round of elections on Sunday.

Gregory's body was found in the Vologne river near his home in a remote village in eastern France.

The "Gregory Affair" case was reopened most recently in 2008, when French detectives found DNA traces on a letter, raising hopes that advances in DNA identification might help identify the killer at last.

The letter in question was one of a series of anonymous and threatening ones sent to Gregory's parents before and after Gregory's death, claiming to be from the killer.

Jean-Jacques Bosc, prosecutor in Dijon, said that thanks to improved methods in the study of handwriting in conjunction with other evidence, the couple - aunt and uncle to Gregory's father - were now under investigation for "kidnapping leading to death."

"The people who took part in that kidnapping are the authors of the crime," Bosc told reporters at a news conference on Friday, adding that investigators believed the original suspect in the case, their nephew Bernard Laroche, now dead, was also involved.

Being put under formal investigation in France can be a step on the way to charges, but it does not necessarily lead to a trial. The couple's lawyers and a lawyer for Laroche's widow said their clients denied any involvement, and that they would contest the investigation.

Laroche was charged with the murder of Gregory soon after it took place, but he was later freed after evidence against him was thrown out by prosecutors.

Convinced that his cousin Laroche was the murderer, Gregory's father Jean-Marie Villemin shot him dead in 1985 and served four years in jail for the act.

Gregory's mother, Christine Villemin also became a suspect because witnesses said they had seen her at the post office on the day that one of the mysterious letters was sent.

She was placed under formal investigation but cleared in 1993. The case was reopened in 1999, and again in 2008.

(Additional reporting by Gilbert Reilhac in Strasbourg; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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