A Tragic Accident on the E42 Expressway: The Case of Cécilia and Bruno

2023-11-29 12:06:00

Twenty minutes later, Cécilia no longer responds. At 6:43 p.m., Bruno answers his mother-in-law’s call. He calmly declares that they have returned, that Cécilia cannot answer but that she is doing “marvelously well”.

He lies. Cécilia was fatally mowed down by several cars traveling on the E42, in the Mons-Brussels direction, near Thieu. She was hit on the central lane of the expressway and thrown onto the third lane. It was then 6:30 p.m.

He flees to Brussels

Bruno cowardly fled to Brussels. He claims to have been afraid because of his criminal record. On November 21, 2013, he received a six-year prison sentence for attempted homicide.

He declared, during his first hearing, that his partner had been drinking, that she was on antidepressants, that she had had a drinking attack, banging on the door windows. While he was traveling at 90-100 km/h, she allegedly pulled on the handbrake. Cécilia then got out of the vehicle, went behind the car and ran onto the highway.

On Wednesday, the one who is accused of involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist a person in danger confirmed this version before the criminal court, believing that Cécilia braked because she wanted to get out to vomit on the side of the road. The rest is just an accident…

The defendant evokes a black hole, a moment of panic from the moment he saw a car drive over his wife’s body. “I saw the first impact and then I closed my eyes,” he says.

Confronted with civil parties

The defendant was confronted with numerous questions asked by the civil parties, Cécilia’s relatives.

Why wait a week before going to the police. The defendant admits that he got behind the wheel while drunk. Was he afraid of being controlled? He replies that he didn’t think about that, shocked by what had just happened. “A month earlier, she had thrown herself out of a taxi,” he said.

Me Diana Mitanis notes that he had scratch marks on his hands, but the defendant does not remember an argument in the car.

Why did you get rid of Cécilia’s GSM and remove the SIM card from her phone? The question is asked by Me Mainz. The defendant mentions the black hole. However, Mr. Mainz notes that he called a friend, just after the events, telling him the facts and adding that he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. “You also told him that you are going to flee to Spain,” insists Me Mainz. “I don’t remember saying that,” replies the defendant.

It was predicted and intentional, according to the family

Me Diana Mitanis, lawyer for a civil party, speaks of a “very complex” couple, with a woman “totally under the influence of a man with whom she was in love, despite his violence”. The lawyer explains that he tried to run her over with his car, when she was four months pregnant. “What happened was predicted,” argues the lawyer.

Me Mainz and the victim’s family are convinced that it is not suicide, but a voluntary act. Cécilia would have been pushed onto the fast lane by her companion, “whose criminal record shows that he does not care about the physical integrity of others”, pleads Me Mainz. However, he admits that he does not have enough evidence to prove a voluntary act.

The criminal lawyer does not believe in the black hole invoked by the defendant, denounced by anonymous information on February 5, 2019. “He deprived us of several elements useful to the investigation, his phone which he got rid of, his car. For what ? He doesn’t explain it to us. And how could he know that three vehicles drove over the victim’s body, closing his eyes? ”, asks Me Mainz.

For the lawyer, there is no reason to react in this way in the case of an accident, nor to hide for eight days in a building in Saint-Ghislain, before being denounced by an anonymous call, on February 5, 2019. This behavior also surprises Me Nicolas Docquier, the last lawyer for the civil parties. “The postures he adopted throughout the investigation are surprising, he was confronted with his own lies,” declares the lawyer.

Cécilia’s family regrets that the defendant did not warn them of the tragedy, they would have gone straight to the scene of the tragedy. “I went there and I didn’t see any signs of braking,” says Cécilia’s dad, shocked and bruised.

Unexplained stop

The public prosecutor accepts the accident theory and considers that the defendant should have called for help instead of fleeing. “At the time of the events, at 6:30 p.m., visibility was good, but traffic was heavy,” indicates the deputy king’s prosecutor.

A first car hit the victim, an unpredictable obstacle emerging from a vehicle parked on the emergency lane, the front towards the lawn. Cécilia died instantly, crushed by other cars.

The deputy prosecutor believes that the defendant’s version does not hold water. The drinking crisis? The prosecution doesn’t believe it. The magistrate specifies that the victim had been drinking, but that she was not in an advanced state of intoxication. The dose of medication was not very high either, according to the toxicology examination. “Furthermore, he stated that they were both in a good mood and suddenly she pulled the handbrake.”

On the other hand, according to the prosecution, the theory of a violent argument in the car is proven by the defendant’s DNA, found under the victim’s nails. “The couple’s child spoke about the climate within the couple, that his father was aggressive, that he could be very mean to his mother.” The child speaks of beatings, attempts at strangulation. Other witnesses confirm this testimony.

The stop in the emergency lane is unexplained, there was no reason to stop. According to witnesses, he got out of the car to follow her. The public prosecutor does not retain moral facts, which could explain why the victim’s pants were pulled down. The forensic examination provides no conclusive evidence in this regard. The causal link between the arrest and the death has been established, according to the prosecution.

A traffic offender

The prosecution requires the conviction of Bruno for the two charges and asks to sentence him to a minimum prison term of four years, to pay a fine and to revoke his driving license for a period of one year.

The accused being, in fact, a traffic offender. In 2021, the Mons police court convicted him for a hit-and-run accident. He then had twenty criminal records, including seventeen for traffic violations.

The acquittal pleaded

Me Sonia Martines pleaded acquittal for manslaughter and abstention from guilt. She states that the people who received the defendant at their home on the evening of the incident declared that he was in a state of shock, that he was trembling. His lack of memory could be explained by heavy medication.

Concerning manslaughter, the lawyer argues that the victim freely got out of the car and chose to cross the expressway. “We do not know when the samples were taken. She had a level of 2.13 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. We are at the stage of drunkenness”.

The lawyer reads a medical report mentioning that Cécilia showed signs of depression. Medication was provided in 2013. The family doctor stated that Cécilia said she was depressed and tired, showing signs of anxiety.

She concludes that the victim was able to pull the handbrake, in order to encourage his companion to stop the vehicle. “He committed no fault, he kept control of his vehicle and parked on the shoulder,” insists Mr. Martines.

Concerning the culpable abstention, the lawyer believes that he would have taken a risk by crossing the expressway.

Judgment on January 8.

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