Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Key Unlocks More Mysteries About Corpse in Suitcase

Map of France with Lorient marker.

Two Parisian women have been arrested and charged with the murder of a man whose body was found stuffed inside a suitcase that was floating in the sea off of the coast of Lorient, France.

One of the women, 27,  is the proprietor of a prostitution ring and the other alleged killer, 25, comes from Lorient. Both are listed as employees at the massage parlor, French newspaper Ouest-France reported.

A key found in the corpse’s pocked led police to the victim’s apartment, allowing investigators to identify the victim who was in his fifties and worked at a massage parlor in Paris. Details about the victim’s job function at the massage parlor were not disclosed, but police told reporters that their investigation involved a prostitution ring in Paris and in Lorient.

A 28-year-old woman and a man in his sixties were questioned and released, but have been charged with helping the alleged killers hide the corpse. The man, who is from Lorient, is believed to have placed the suitcase with the body inside it in the sea off the coast of Lorient.

Police discovered the body after a skipper of a sailing yacht found the suitcase with human body parts hanging out of it, floating in the sea. Half-submerged, half-open, there was no doubt in the skipper’s mind that the suitcase contained a dead body.

The local coast guard made its way to the location and confirmed that a human body was indeed stuffed inside the suitcase. Weighing over 200 lbs, the French maritime police were called to haul the suitcase onto the boat.

The key that helped investigators identify the body of a man found floating at sea in a suitcase.

The key that helped investigators identify the body of a man found floating at sea in a suitcase.

Inside the suitcase was the body of the victim with duct tape wrapped around his face. The autopsy revealed that this was a murder victim, whose killer had asphyxiated him, but there were no visible signs of trauma or injury. Badly decomposed, investigators produced a software-generated portrait of what the man might have looked like, but no one came forward to confirm the identity of the victim. The video cameras at the port at Lorient and the surrounding area revealed nothing suspicious.

The only clue was a key was found in the victim’s pocket. There were about 400 places where that model key was made in France, which would be time consuming to track down. Other than that police were left with little to go on; while they concluded that the man was an obvious victim of foul play, they were forced to put the file on the back burner while tracking down and interviewing wholesalers and retailers of that key.

Nearly two years later, their detective work paid off. A locksmith in Paris remembered a job in which he had to change the front-door locks of an apartment. It was apparent that the apartment dweller was no longer living there, he said. While the police would not reveal details about what they found in the Parisian apartment, the locksmith reportedly said it was obvious that the apartment had been uninhabited for some time.

“A locksmith remembered entering that apartment in Paris,” Christine Le Crom, an assistant prosecutor in Lorient, told Le Parisien. “We tried to open the door with the key, and bingo, it was the right one.”

Le Crom said that the break in the case was a matter of good luck. After all, what were the chances that an apartment that was broken into and that required new locks belonged to a murder victim mysteriously found floating in the sea hundreds of miles away from Paris?

More details are expected to be released about the case, pending the investigation.

More: Key Unlocks Secret of Corpse Found in Suitcase

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