Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Macabre Nightmare at a French Chateau

The Good Life in France

The Hall family moved to Le Chatellier in 1998, joining the ranks of over 150,000 British expatriates who live in France. Top-rate and very affordable healthcare, good schools, and world-famous French cuisine are among the attractions that draw expatriates to France, not only from the UK but from the world over.

Map with Chateau de Fretay locator
Map with Chateau de Fretay locator

The favorable British pound-to-euro exchange rate at the time the Hall family moved to France often meant that prime real estate in France could be had at relatively affordable prices compared to sky-high prices in Britain. It was possible for families to sell average single-family homes in the UK and to then snap up property in France of the sort that would have been out of reach for all but the wealthy back home. For the Hall family, this meant that the Halls were able to buy for a relatively modest sum the 125-acre Chateau de Fretay estate in one of the most beautiful regions in France. The Brittany sea coast and Mont Saint Michel, a world-famous tourist attraction, were a 30-minute drive away.

After settling into the bucolic estate, the three children, according to local townspeople, integrated well into the school system and easily made friends. The children, who are now young adults, became bilingual, unlike Mr. Hall, who spoke very little French, and Mrs. Hall, who barely spoke the language, according to a employee at the Le Chatellier mayor's office.

"The children attended school here locally and I can confirm that all three had plenty of friends in the region," the mayor of Le Chatellier said.

In the small village of Le Chatellier where most of the townspeople know each other, Mr. and Mrs. Hall were definitely outsiders. They mostly kept to themselves, driving around town in Jaguars and BMWs, and remaining very discreet in their comings and goings. The only memorable incident the mayor of Le Chatellier could recall at all was when Mr. Hall's horse strayed onto a neighbor's property. "He went and got his horse, and that was the end of the affair," Sourdin said.

Mrs. Hall, 49 at the time of her death, stood out in that she was, according to several people truTV interviewed, a remarkably attractive woman. "She was what you call 'une belle femme,'" the owner of the local bar Mauduit Francois, told truTV.

Le Kasteller restaurant
Le Kasteller restaurant

But in contrast to his beautiful wife and aside from his taste for fancy cars, nothing about Mr. Hall's personal demeanor was flashy, and he certainly did not act like someone who would later kill his wife, the bar owner said. "He would come in occasionally and drink a beer like anybody else," he said. "He was absolutely no trouble at all."

Mr. Hall would dine occasionally at a nearby restaurant called Le Kasteller, sometimes with friends from the UK, all the while remaining very discreet. For the restaurant owner, he was even too quiet. "I sometimes felt like coming up to him and shaking him, he was so calm," she said.

Mr. Hall had recently suffered a stroke, yet it was mild enough for Mr. Hall to continue driving himself to local bars and restaurants. Hall's stroke became common knowledge in the town, the owner of Mauduit Francois said. Yet, the bar owner said he did not see any noticeable changes in Mr. Hall's behavior. After the stroke, he would still come in and have a few beers at the bar, keeping to himself as usual, and then leave.

However, during the years leading up to the death of his wife, all was not well. Indeed, the reserved Englishman was facing pressures relating to the financial viability of his estate, despite the calm demeanor of his public face. Kept mostly out of sight beyond the estate's walls, the problems remained hidden to neighbors and the townspeople.

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