Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Risqué Management: The Murder of Edouard Stern

Escape to Sydney

Cécile's actions immediately after she fired the four bullets into Edouard's face and body at point blank range are a major source of debate between prosecutors and Cécile's defense attorney. The defense claims that Cécile acted in a distraught and irrational matter after the crime, while the prosecution maintains that she had rational motives for everything she did after murdering Edouard and remained in full control of her mental faculties.

After killing Edouard, Cécile began trying to remove her traces from the crime scene. She gathered her fetish gear--tights, a dog-collar, a latex suit and other accessories, the murder weapon, the two other high-caliber pistols Edouard kept in a drawer, and the four spent pistol shell casings. She then left the apartment, locking the door behind her with her set of keys.

Cécile sped off in the BMW Mini that Gillet let her use when in Switzerland en route to Gillet's apartment in Clarens. Along the way, she dumped the pistols in Lake Léman. Once in Clarens, Cécile explained to Gillet that she had a horrible fight with Edouard and that she was leaving town for a few days.

That night, Cécile boarded a train for Rome, but realized that she had mistakenly gotten on board a local commuter train when it left the station. She got off the train at the nearby town of Villeneuve and took a cab to the airport in Milan, about 185 miles away for a reported sum of 800 euros ($1,061). Along the way, Cécile threw the spent shell casings from the murder weapon and the keys to Edouard's apartment out the window.

The airport was closed when she arrived at about 4:30 a.m. Cécile offered to pay more for the cab driver to take her to Rome, but he refused. Cécile then began pounding against the cab window with her firsts, screaming hysterically. She ended up waiting outside in the cold at the front entrance until the airport opened a couple of hours later at which time she bought a one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia. Cécile reportedly chose Australia as her destination since it was, for her, the "place the farthest away that she could go to," and was also a place to which she had once accompanied Edouard on a business trip.

Before boarding a connecting flight later that day in Vienna, Cécile called her lawyer and gave instructions to attempt to block Edouard's attempts to recover the million dollars from her account. Cécile then took a heavy dose of the anti-anxiety medication bromazepam and slept for most of the 24-hour flight to Sydney. Once there, she checked herself into an airport hotel.

Marc Bonnant, Stern family lawyer
Marc Bonnant, Stern family lawyer
Cécile didn't spend a long time in Sydney but while there, she called several people. She phoned her lawyer and her bank about the money. Cécile also called Edouard's half-sister Fabienne, expressing shock over the phone when Fabienne told her about the discovery of Edouard's body. According to Marc Bonnant, an attorney representing the Stern family, Cécile pretended to cry, which for him, was a "cynical" act.

Bonnant's assessment of Cécile's case is that Cécile's trip to Australia was part of a cold and calculated plan, not an erratic mad dash across the world made in the heat of the moment. While in Sydney, Cécile instructed her husband by phone, for example, to wash down the Mini with which she drove to and from Edouard's apartment on the day of the murder.

When Cécile left Edouard for dead after shooting him, Bonnant posits, she did not know whether he was still alive or not. Bonnant maintains that Cécile learned during a phone call to a friend of a rumor that said Edouard had died after she'd left the country, and she exalted over the phone that it could not have been she who killed him because she had an alibi. She then decided to go back to Switzerland after shrewdly and rationally determining that her return would make her seem less culpable, Bonnant maintains.

While in Sydney, Cécile also mailed a package containing clothes items to her uncle and aunt who lived in Nancy, France. According to some reports, Cécile sent normal clothes, such as such as slacks, a blouse, and a brassiere, but in fact, Bonnant claimed, the package contained the fetish garb she had been wearing when she shot Edouard.

Cécile only remained in Sydney for about 24 hours before she was on another flight headed back to Switzerland. When the plane touched down in Singapore for a layover, Cécile had a panic attack and began screaming hysterically when she read about Edouard's murder on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro. A doctor was called who reluctantly agreed to let her continue on the flight and gave her a prescription for more sedatives.

But while Cécile did appear to be in a hysterical state of mind, she also managed to call her lawyer and bank while in Singapore. She also contacted her aunt in Nancy, who agreed to pick her up at the airport and take her to Clarens.

When Cécile walked through customs in Zurich, the police were already waiting for her, and she was brought to the police station for the first round of questioning.

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