In Chalon-sur-Saône, France, the assize trial of Valérie Bacot (40), the woman who became pregnant at the age of 17 after being raped by her stepfather, forced to marry him, and shot him dead after nearly 25 years of daily hell, began on Monday amid great media interest. She risks life in prison for the murder. More than 550,000 French people have petitioned for her release.
The events happened on March 13, 2016, in the Saône-et-Loire department. Bacot then shot dead truck driver Daniel Polette (61), the initial stepfather who fathered four children with her and had become her violent husband. He had come into her life at age 12 as her mother’s new boyfriend. By then, Bacot had been the victim of incest at the hands of her brother.
Polette is guilty of s*xual abuse and assault almost daily during Bacot’s adolescence. The facts came to light, and the man was remanded in custody. He was given four years’ imprisonment in 1996 but was released eighteen months later.
Once again, at large, he simply returns to the home and resumes sexual abuse as usual. Bacot is still a minor when she becomes pregnant. The signal for Polette to end the relationship with her mother, leave the property, and move in with his stepdaughter. The mother relents and even helps pack.
Her book, “Tout le monde savait” (“Everyone knew”), published on May 12, details how she endured the nearly 25 years – 18 of which were years of forced marriage. Polette beats and threatens her on the assembly line while trying to raise their four young children.
The woman is completely broken and obedient when Polette forces her into prost!tution. He drops her off at highway stops where she must satisfy motorists and truckers as ‘Adeline’. Pimp/husband Polette watches from his Peugeot 806 and relays instructions to her via earpieces.
When, in March 2016, Polette suggests the idea of using their 14-year-old daughter as a teenage prost!tute as well, Bacot has had enough. She shoots him dead in the Peugeot 806 on the evening on her way back from a highway parking lot. She hides the body at night and gets help from the three eldest children, including her daughter. Her boyfriend is also present.
More than a year later, he confessed to helping his mother bury the body. She goes to the gendarmerie. Bacot, the oldest three children, and the boyfriend have to come along for questioning in October 2017. Bacot faces the charge of murder and is locked up in prison. In theory, she risks life in prison; after all, the Peugeot 806 was not about self-defense. After a year, she is released and allowed to await her trial at home with an ankle bracelet.
The case has since taken on national proportions. Millions of French people watch in May how Bacot tells her story of the facts in an interview with TF1 in tears.
In January, a support committee launched a petition that more than 550,000 people have now signed. “Even if she committed murder by killing her torturer, and given the 25 years of suffering she endured in great indifference, it is her freedom that we ask,” it reads. “We can no longer look away from her and so many other women who are victims of domestic violence.” The assize process runs until Friday.
For her defense, Bacot calls on masters Nathalie Tomasini and Janine Bonaggiunta. The two were also the lawyers of Jacqueline Sauvage in a court case that made all of France shudder. After 47 years of marriage filled with abuse and mistreatment, this woman shot and killed her husband, received a ten-year prison sentence for it, but was released by a decision of then French President François Hollande. Sauvage died at home in 2020 at the age of 72.