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Image showing Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès to a distributor in Roquebrune-sur-Argens on April 11, 2011. THOMAS COEX / AFP

Friday, October 11, the French media wrongly announce the arrest in Scotland of Xavier Dupont Ligonnès, sought for eight years for the fivefold murder of his family in Nantes.

It did not take a day for the soufflé to fall, turning a resounding scoop into a general fiasco. The information that Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès was arrested in Scotland was therefore wrong , but the speed with which it was relayed makes it a perfect case of school runaway media.

It is 20:40 Friday, October 11 when Le Parisien announces the arrest of the fugitive Nantes at Glasgow airport. His identity was confirmed by the comparison of fingerprints made by the Scottish police. The newspaper will later explain that it has obtained this information from five different sources. But for now, he is satisfied with the simple formula: " according to the information of the Parisian".


The announcement is like a thunderclap in newsrooms that are busy with their own sources to check the news. And for good reason: the case Dupont de Ligonnès is one of the biggest criminal enigmas of recent decades in France. It goes back to April 2011 when the bodies of the wife of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès and their four children are discovered buried under the terrace of their house in Nantes. Autopsies reveal that they were shot to the tipping end with a long rifle rifle.

The father has disappeared. His last appearance was on April 15, 2011 when a surveillance camera filmed him leaving a Formula 1 hotel in Roquebrune-sur-Argens (Var) with a case on his back that could contain a rifle. Since then, all the reports reached by the investigators have led to false leads. Is Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès in France, abroad? Or did he commit suicide? Eight years of research and the mystery remains intact.

But this Friday night, he seems about to be lifted. At 21:01, the Agence France-Presse confirms the information of the Parisian , on the basis of a " source close to the investigation ". Eight minutes later, she explains: " Mr Dupont de Ligonnès had been spotted by the police at the Paris airport of Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle before boarding, but the police did not have time to intervene and warned Interpol. When he arrived in Glasgow, he was checked, and according to the English police, his fingerprints match. "

Prudence in Marseille

As very often, the news is picked up as is by most media, including RFI. The news sites go live and the news channels continuously in special edition. The newspapers hasten to change their "one" without using the conditional. From Courrier Picard to La Dépêche du Midi , all the regional press or almost announces the end of the run. In Marseille, however, Provence prefers to play caution and matches its headline with a question mark.

To read this Saturday in @laprovence pic.twitter.com/wcbQHAlwdD

Guilhem RICAVY (@guilhemricavy) October 12, 2019

At 23:15, AFP quotes the Scottish police who confirms that a man was arrested at Glasgow Airport at the request of the French authorities, without confirming that he is indeed the most wanted man in France . " The investigation is continuing to confirm her identity, " she adds. French investigators also flew to Glasgow to compare the DNA of the person arrested with that of the fugitive. The details continue to fall: "according to a source close to the investigation", the arrest follows an anonymous tip, and according to another, the man was traveling with a passport stolen in 2014. On Twitter, "Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès "," XDDL "and" Glasgow "are the top 3 topics on the social network.

Searches are conducted in Limay, Yvelines, the home of the man arrested in Glasgow. Several media send their reporters on the spot to investigate his relatives. The first doubts arise: the one whose name is now known - Guy Joao - is he really the same person as Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès? Impossible, assure the neighbors, it is an old one of Renault which lives there since 30 years. The public prosecutor of Nantes, Pierre Sennes, calls for caution. Pending the investigators' checks, " it is necessary (...) to be cautious ". It is 0:26, a long night of uncertainty begins.

Mea culpa

In the morning papers on RFI, the affirmative gradually gives way to the conditional. At 10:51, an urgent AFP falls on the screens of journalists: " Doubt about the identity of the man arrested in Glasgow (source close to the investigation) . It is followed less than two hours later by another Reuters with information from the BFMTV channel which quotes itself a source close to the record: " The man arrested in Glasgow is not Xavier Dupont Ligonnès . This is confirmed by Agence France-Presse at 12:55.

In the afternoon, the media make their mea culpa . On Twitter, some remind the importance of citing its sources and question the possibility of doing it in titles. " France Info has, therefore, helped to deliver a false news, " says its director Vincent Giret in conclusion of a series of tweets.

6/7 We believe that we have taken the necessary precautions in handling this case but it is clear that the arrest of Xavier Dupont De Ligonnès was wrong.
Franceinfo has, therefore, contributed to deliver a false news.

Vincent Giret (@vincentgiret) October 12, 2019

The Parisian tells in an article behind the scenes of his revelation and apologizes to the family of victims, AFP returns to the chronology of this failure, while after this umpteenth rebound, the mystery Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, him, remains .