The appeal trial of Lionel Anaïs is held until Wednesday, September 14 at the assizes of Guéret. He had been sentenced to 12 years at first instance for the murder of a homeless man found in the Charentes station in Limoges.
December 4, 2018. Regulars of the place advance in a disused freight hangar of the Charentes station in Limoges. Abandoned for years, the site alternately shelters skaters and homeless people. Tags on the walls, broken windows, empty bottles and rubbish litter the ground. Lying on a mattress, a naked body, lifeless, in an advanced state of decomposition. In his clenched hand, a paper from the primary health insurance fund on which his name appears: Jean-Francois Vagney. He was 38 years old. A homeless person known to the police. Under judicial supervision, he had to report regularly to the police station. Pointing interrupted during the month of November. No one had reported him missing or subsequently claimed his body.
According to initial findings, the death goes back a good month. Accidental or natural death is quickly ruled out by forensic experts. The autopsy points to a broken nose and three broken ribs. But the state of the corpse does not make it possible to establish with certainty the origin of the death. This is the crux of the matter.
Investigators will take several weeks to trace the course of events. In March 2019, the victim’s telephone communications and banking transactions directed the investigation towards three suspects. The first two are discarded. The last, a 51-year-old man ends up confessing to a violent dispute with the victim. It’s Lionel Anais.
According to his account, one evening in November, the two men would have come to blows. After drinking a lot, smoking cannabis and crack, a conflict breaks out. It is in particular the insults uttered against the mother of the accused who would have made him come out of his hinges. A blow from the head is struck in the nose of the victim then blows from the bars of a chair on his limbs. Lionel Anaïs leaves the scene having taken care to relieve the victim of his meager possessions. According to him, Jean-François Vagney was still alive at that time. He is indicted for “violence resulting in death without intention to give it” and theft.
Lionel Anaïs has often had to deal with justice. His first conviction was when he was 20 years old. In 1987, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft with violence. Thirteen other convictions of the same ilk will add to his criminal record. Last of four siblings, all placed by child welfare, he is tossed between several foster families. Himself the father of 3 children, their custody was withdrawn from him in the mid-1990s. Alcohol problems and multiple convictions took their toll. Marginalized, he wandered with other homeless people in the streets of Limoges.
An unfortunately almost banal journey which once again illustrates the sinking of the care of children in care, far too many of whom end up in this same prison box.
At first instance, his lawyer pointed to his emotionally deficient childhood. The insults uttered against an idealized mother, whom he hardly knew, would explain his outburst of violence.
This was already the whole issue at the Haute-Vienne assizes in December 2021. If it is certain that his blows caused the fractures, were they nevertheless lethal for the victim? No, say the lawyers. On paper, a broken nose and three broken ribs are not fatal. What did the victim die of then? Hypothermia?
A gray area, a doubt that could have benefited Lionel Anaïs. This was not the case at first instance. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
For this appeal trial, it is now up to Félix Gluckstein to succeed in instilling this doubt.
“A headbutt and two sticks in the arms which end in the Assize Court with 15 years of criminal imprisonment, no! The victim was not beaten. None of the experts will be able to say that the beatings are the cause of death . They will all say: we don’t know. There are plenty of factors: hypothermia, alcohol. When there are experts who say we don’t know, how do you expect these conclusions to be used by the prosecutor to affirm that the beatings are the cause of death?” protests the lawyer.
The accused faces up to 15 years in prison. The verdict is expected on Wednesday.
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