“Why did I shoot? It is a question I shall ask myself all my life”
Marc Cécillon was born on 30 July 1959 at Bourgoin-Jailleu and achieved two measures of fame. The first began in 1988 when he was selected to play rugby for France against Ireland. He went on to win 46 caps, his last in 1995 and he captained France on five occasions. He played in both the 1991 and 1995 World Cups.
Nine years later, he achieved his second spell in the limelight when he murdered his wife Chantal. Cécillon and Chantal, 44, were invited to a garden party at the Flosailles villa of Christian and Babeth Beguy at Saint-Savin, near Bourgoin. Chantal arrived without her husband. There were rumours of infidelities on his part and even of an illegitimate son. It was 11pm when Cécillon finally turned up to the event, already drunk.
He slapped Madame Beguy and, unsurprisingly, he was asked to leave. Perhaps equally unsurprisingly, Chantal refused to accompany him. Cécillon left the party alone and went to their home where he collected a .357 magnum. He returned to the event just before midnight where he shot his wife four times at point-blank range in the arm, chest and head in front of about 60 witnesses.
It took about a dozen people to overpower the former rugby player. Alexandre, the Beguys’ teenage son, threw a breezeblock, hitting Cécillon on the back but making no impression. When the police arrived, Cécillon was tied to a chair with electrical cord and was asking for Chantal.
Saturday 7 August 2004
Cécillon, who had been known as “the calm man of rugby”, was arrested and went on trial at the Court of Assizes at Isere, in Grenoble on 6 November 2006. Prosecutor Francoise Pavan-Dubois said that Cécillon had not acted on the spur of the moment but had planned to kill his wife.
In court Cécillon said, “I wanted my wife to come back with me. I wanted the two of us to leave together. Why did I shoot? It is a question I shall ask myself all my life. I didn’t plan anything. I wish I could understand.” The defence claimed the killing was a crime of passion, committed under the influence of alcohol and that in addition Cécillon was depressed after his retirement from top-class sport.
On 10 November 2006 the former rugby player was found guilty of murder, rather than the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail, five more years than the prosecution had demanded. On 3 December 2008 the sentence was reduced to 14 years on appeal.
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Cécillon’s male friends made excuses for him. Their wives were not so understanding. Pascale Tordo, the wife of retired rugby player Jean Francois Tordo said, “‘He was a drunk. He drank, he screwed and he always got away with it because he was Marc Cécillon. That’s what 20 years of alcohol does to you — little by little it destroys you. Marc could not cope with his life. When you kill your wife, you are killing your life.”