Officers with France’s Central Office for the Repression of Violence Against Persons (OCRVP) arrested Bruno L., 62, on December 13, 2022 for the sexual assault of five teenaged girls in Paris and Charente-Maritime between December 4, 1998 and June 8, 2008.
The victims were all teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 who were kidnapped at gun point in the city, and then transported by vehicle to an isolated area in the woods where he sexually assaulted them. He was known as the “prédateur des bois”, or the “Predator of the Woods.”
A DNA profile of a single suspect was developed from the sexual assault kits provided by the five victims. There were no hits to a suspect in the Automated National File of Genetic Prints (Fichier National Automatisé des Empreintes Génétiques – FNAEG), which is France’s national law enforcement DNA database.
After no new leads were produced, on August 25, 2021, the investigating judge issued an international letter rogatory to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use genetic genealogy to identify the unknown suspect. Letters rogatory are a diplomatic means by which a court from one jurisdiction seeks judicial assistance from authorities in another nation state. On October 24, 2022, the FBI issued a report to the judge in which it identified a most-recent ancestral couple (MRCA) for the suspect.
Prosecutor Laure Beccuau stated that Bruno L. matched a description of the perpetrator and a vehicle used to kidnap and transport the victims. Bruno L. has admitted to four of the rapes, but he continues to deny the first offence that took place in December of 1998. He has been charged with kidnapping, forcible confinement, and sexual assault with a weapon against the five of the victims, as well as armed robbery of two of the victims. He is currently being held on bail.
News of the arrest sparked renewed criticisms of France’s ban on the use of commercial DNA tests. France’s Bioethics Law bans the purchase and use of DNA tests outside of medical and legal proceedings. Only authorities such as doctors, judges, and medical researchers can legally authorize DNA testing.
Taking a test with one of the commercial genealogical companies carries a fine of up to 3,750 euros, although there is no evidence that anyone has even been fined under the law. French genealogists frequently find ways to skirt the law, but it has limited the number of persons in France who make use of DTC databases. Others argue that the ban is causing France to fall behind in genomics research.
The Bioethics Law is revised every 7 years. The last revision was in 2019. Activists worked hard to convince the government to legalize D2C DNA testing, and they pointed out that it is an unjustified limitation on personal autonomy. However, many French scientists and bioethicists opposed the legalization of DNA tests, raising privacy concerns, and arguing that it is dangerous for ordinary people to receive complex information about their health and ancestry without professional guidance.
As Christian Dina, a geneticist at the University of Nantes explained to Stat News, “These tests can be dangerous. They can induce needless panic… They can, in this country of Molière, create imaginary invalids.”
As a result, the National Assembly decided against legalization. The next revision will be in 2026.
Agence France Press. “Un Homme en garde a vue pour des viols en série entre 1998 et 2008.” Le Point, December 14, 2022. Accessed May 21, 2023. https://www-lepoint-fr.translate.goog/justice/un-homme-en-garde-a-vue-pour-des-viols-en-serie-entre-1998-et-2008–14-12-2022-2501776_2386.php?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc.
Agence France Press. “Un sexagénaire inculpé pour des viols en série entre 1998 et 2008.” Le Point, December 15, 2022. Accessed May 21, 2023. https://www-lepoint-fr.translate.goog/faits-divers/un-sexagenaire-inculpe-pour-des-viols-en-serie-entre-1998-et-2008–15-12-2022-2501945_2627.php?_x_tr_sl=fr&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc’.
Boodman, Eric. “In France, it’s Illegal for Consumers to Order a DNA Spit Kit. Activists are Fighting Over Lifting the Ban.” Stat News, November 14, 2029. https://www.statnews.com/2019/11/14/france-consumer-genetic-testing-ban/.
De Morant, Guillaume. “Première en France : arrestation d’un criminel par la généalogie génétique.” La Revue Française de Généalogie, May 17, 2023. Accessed May 21, 2023. https://www.rfgenealogie.com/infos/premiere-en-france-arrestation-d-un-criminel-par-la-genealogie-genetique.
La Montagne. “Affaire du ‘prédateur des bois’: un suspect interpellé après plus de vingt ans d’enquête.” La Montagne, December 16, 2022. Accessed May 21, 2023. https://www.lamontagne.fr/rochelle-17000/actualites/affaire-du-predateur-des-bois-un-suspect-interpelle-apres-plus-de-vingt-ans-d-enquete_14233068/.