The Drummond Family Murder Mystery

Sir Jack Drummond and his wife and daughter.

Sir Jack Drummond and his wife and daughter.

Sir Jack Drummond was a notable British biochemist known for his research on vitamins and nutrition. During World War II, Drummond served the British government’s Ministry of Food, and helped design the rationing diet the government implemented during the time. After the war, he stopped working for the government and became the Director of Research at the Boots pharmaceutical company.

In July 1952, Drummond, his wife Ann, and their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth went on a family holiday on the French Riviera. On the night of August 4th, they camped out by the banks of the Durance river in Provençal, a region in southern France. The following morning, Gustave Dominici, a son of the nearest family that lived in the area, discovered Elizabeth’s body near the river. Her skull had been battered in by a rifle butt. Drummond and his wife’s bodies were found near-by. They had been shot, but as their autopsies would show, by two different weapons. Parts of one of the guns used to kill them was found in the river. It was identified as a Rock-Ola M1 Carbine, a model popular with the American military. Gustave alerted a cyclist passing by, and police arrived on the scene about a half-hour later.

Gustav and his family gave conflicting reports about their contact with the Drummonds the night before. They said they heard gunshots around 1 AM, but assumed they had come from poachers. After a relative reported to the police that he saw Ann and Elizabeth at the Dominici farm the night before their murder, the family’s story fell into further doubt. After being questioned again, Gustave and his brother Clovis admitted that their father, Gaston, killed the Drummonds. Gaston, a frail 75-year-old illiterate farmer who used a walking stick to get around, eventually confessed to the crime. He said that he and Ann had been caught having sex by Sir Drummond, and in a panic shot them both. He then found Elizabeth and beat her to death as she tried running away.

Despite retracting his statement later on, claiming he only confessed to try to protect his family, Gaston was found guilty and sentenced to death. A great protest was made over his conviction, and he was eventually pardoned and released by President Charles De Gaulle in 1960.

Gaston’s absurd confession got a number of things wrong about the crime scene. He was very likely innocent, and his family continues fighting to this day to clear his name. They point out that the rifle found in the river wasn’t Gaston’s, and he had no idea how to use one. Secondly, other locals who passed by the area that night the Drummonds went camping reported seeing several men near the their car, none of whom resembled Sir Jack or Gaston and his sons. Lastly, Drummond’s camera was missing, and has never been found.

Gaston’s grandson, Alain, believes the Drummonds were killed by KGB agents. Investigator Raymond Badin finds this idea credible as well, believing Drummond was on an espionage mission for the British secret services. “The Dominicis’ strange behaviour indicates they knew a lot more about the crime than they ever let on,” Badin told The Guardian in July 2002, ‘But they were not guilty of the murders. I think they plainly got caught up in something far bigger than themselves.’


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