Some encounters stand out in a journalists life. One for certain was my interview with Jean-Louis B., the convicted murderer and rapist who just became Switzerlands most wanted fugitive after escaping Monday from his guards' watch on an outing outside of prison.
It was snowing outside that day in February 1999 when I met Jean-Louis B. inside the gates of the Bochuz prison where this unusual convict was serving his sentence. The prisoner was thought to be the most dangerous man in the country. Authorities had considered all sorts of cures for his persistent violence, from chemical or physical castration (which he refused) to a lobotomy. Finally, the psychiatrists admitted they were powerless.
B., who was 53 at the time, entered the visiting room. He was tall and imposing, with very short hair. He wore an earring, and around his neck hung a cross and two medals of the Virgin Mary. This man seemed nothing like the sexual offenders who keep a low profile in prison. Slightly tense, he started talking about himself. He had not lost his accent from the Jura region during these long years in prison. Nor had he lost his sense of humor. He liked to imitate Thorbergs guards in Swiss German.
But the subject of our meeting was serious. At the time, B. was asking the Swiss justice system to free him at the end of his sentence. Psychological experts had described him as dangerous and incurable, and his request had been opposed in the name of public security. B. wanted to convince them that he had changed, that he understood the gravity of his actions and that he could now be trusted.
Very quickly, as he talked about his dark past, his eyes lit up. He abandoned his falsely neutral and consensual tone, revealing his lifelong inner revolt. This is the violent streak that worried the experts and caused the authorities so much trouble. In the only language he mastered, jailhouse slang, and using his infallible memory, he talked about himself. In a scary way. His face had a very harsh expression that sometimes became almost childish. This tension is impossible to forget. Especially when I tried to contradict him, or when he looked at me intensely.
I made people suffer without realizing it. I deserve my sentence, but I dont deserve more. I think about these sad stories and I tell myself that everything must have started when I was barely five. I already looked at my moms ass. Then I met my first wife at a gala at Porrentruy. She is the one who asked me to sodomize her. I got to like it, but she stopped letting me do it. Thats when I decided to choose other women. For 20 years, I rebelled against everything. My parents, society, the judges, the psychiatrists who wanted to calm me down with electroshocks and tranquilizers. In prison, I was not scared of going into solitary confinement. Since 1990, something changed. I dont know if Im still the same man, but I agree to obey the rules.
There was still one subject he would not talk about. The fact that his first victim was no other than his own sister. He had sexually abused her when he was still a minor. He was the only boy in a family of four children.
Then he talked about the woman he met and married in prison. He used the same crude words. We exchanged little messages when we were both held at the Champ-Dollon prison. She was convicted for fraud. Her letters were more moving than the ones her roommate sent me. She became my idol. Shes from Napoli, has three kids. She has some nerve. We had to wait one year before the administration let us meet in private in the visiting room. I love her even if shes obese and has a twisted nose since she fell down a few days ago. The other day, she even hit me. It was the first time a women hit me. Ten years ago, I would have smashed her face.
His future, he hoped would be like this: I want to live with her and show her the Jura forest of my childhood. I want to find a job to protect the little dignity I have left. And continue painting. I love painting. Especially womens faces. He had nearly said it all.
Read the original article in French.