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Detained 40 years for the murder of a child, Patrick Henry is dead

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – MYCHELE DANIAU – | Patrick Henry (D) and his lawyer Thierry Levy, at the court of Caen, August 22, 2002

He was released in September after 40 years in prison for the death of a child, a crime that was remembered: Patrick Henry, who became a symbol of the fight for the abolition of the death penalty he narrowly escaped, died Sunday at 64 years of cancer.

Since the suspension of his medical sentence on 15 September, the one who was one of the oldest and most famous prisoners in France lived in the North, where his friend Martine Veys, a 67-year-old prison visitor, had found him housing.

“He died Sunday at 10:30 am at the CHU Lille lung cancer”, told AFP the woman who supported him, with his spouse, since 1992.

On the day of his release from prison, Patrick Henry’s lawyer, Hugo Lévy, said: “He has the emaciated face of the one who sees death approaching”.

Since his life sentence in 1977, this man born in Troyes (Aube) March 31, 1953 had aged in the shadow of prisons Caen, Val-de-Reuil, St. Maur and Melun.

His crime: the murder of Philippe Bertrand, 7 years old, kidnapped on 31 January 1976 at the exit of the school of Pont-Sainte-Marie, near Troyes, against a ransom demand.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – STF – | Patrick Henry (g) after arrest on February 18, 1976 and Philippe Bertrand murdered on January 30, 1976

The young VRP then strangled the boy, before hiding his body under the bed of a hotel room. He was first sighted and then released, and told the press that the murderers of children should be killed.

This villainous and cynical crime had caused considerable emotion and controversy in France. “France is afraid,” said JT presenter Roger Gicquel on the evening of the discovery of the corpse of the child, February 17, 1976.

– Missed redemption –

Glacial during his trial, the defendant had saved his head only thanks to the historic pleading of lawyer Robert Badinter, ardent opponent of the death penalty and who will obtain in 1981 his abolition as Minister of the Seals of François Mitterrand .

To the jurors of the assize court of the Aube who had decided to spare him, the young blond man with big glasses had launched: “You will not have to regret it!” “Since then, this promise has served me as a pilgrim’s staff for the next twenty years,” he said in 1996.

However, Patrick Henry’s judicial path appears as that of a missed redemption.

Released for good behavior in 2001, the former inmate turned computer expert is arrested for shoplifting the following year. A few weeks later, he was then arrested again in Spain, this time with 10 kilos of cannabis. A case that earned him a return to prison.

Since then, the inmate has repeatedly requested unsuccessful parole. In 2011, he even went on a hunger strike.

Patrick Henry, who had dropped out of school in 5th grade before heading for a cooking CAP, obtained in prison his scientific baccalaureate by correspondence, then a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a DUT in computer science. He said he was convinced that if he had received a general culture earlier, he would not have been a murderer.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – JACQUES DEMARTHON – | Lawyer Hugo Levy and prison visitor Martine Veys in Paris on September 15, 2017

His fellow prisoners remembered a man hated for his crime by Pasha, whose detention center in Caen was the kingdom. He was also sentenced to prison in 1989 for drug trafficking.

For his friend Martine Veys, who spoke Sunday “the hatred conveyed by his name”, Patrick Henry, since his release from prison and “despite the physical pain and the heaviness of care, had moments of happiness like never before knew”.

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