The former criminal lawyer, Hervé Rouzaud Le Boeuf, has retired. He had made himself known to the general public on the occasion of the Caroline Dickinson affair at the end of the 90s. Meeting with a colorful character. He shares with us his facetious view of our time.
“Well, I’ll be waiting for you on Thursday for a green tea from Burundi!” Appointment was therefore made on a Thursday in June with Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf. A few years ago, he was called Maître Rouzaud Le Bœuf. But the lawyer definitely hung up his dress in 2014. “Except for the demonstrations of lawyers. There I still have the right to put it, he laughs. It feels good to demonstrate, it shakes up the routine!”
The Dickinson Affair
Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf, for the oldest, remains unfailingly linked to the Caroline Dickinson affair. He was the lawyer for the family of this young English schoolgirl, raped and killed in a youth hostel in Pleine-Fougères, in Ille-et-Vilaine in July 1996. One of these miscellaneous facts that mark the spirits with horror of the facts and the length of the investigation. It lasted five years until a stroke of luck delivered the culprit, Francisco Arce Montes.
Five years of stalking, then a trial that will last four years. These are a total of nine years during which the face and silhouette of Maître Rouzaud Le Bœuf has adorned the newspapers, commenting on the different stages of a case that seemed endless.
The taste for detail
A slender silhouette with hat and bow tie. “When I started to plead, it was unthinkable for a lawyer not to wear a tie. I prefer the bow tie, it’s funnier” he replies playfully.
A perfect articulation, a posed air and so British! But who is Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf in real life? It was with this question in mind that I arrived at the foot of his building. His directions were extremely precise: the address and landmarks, the code for the first intercom, go to the end of the vaulted passage, then the four granite steps to the right and a second intercom in his name. An extreme sense of detail.
Finally, at the top of a flight of wooden steps, all askew, as the 18th century buildings in the center of Rennes reserve, the map of Brittany with five departments pinned to an apartment door. Here I am.
The love of books and languages
The door opens into a hallway filled with books. Books everywhere in piles on the floor or on shelves. Recent books, old books. Books in French, English and Breton. “Enez du” (The Black Island) by Tintin at the top of a pile catches my eye.
“Do you speak Breton?”, I ask him. “Ya, a tammig, (yes, a little), Vannetais! he rejoices. I am from the Vannes region. I spent part of my childhood in Sainte-Armelle. It was my grandparents’ maid who taught me Breton.”
The man is smiling, affable. And to explain to me that his maternal branch has its roots in the Morbihan area around the Rhuys peninsula and Quiberon. Their ancestors, rich Catholic peasants. Then maternal grandparents, teachers in the public who were interested in the Breton language. A position totally against the current of the doctrine of the time which prohibited the Bretons from using their language. Only one language had citizenship on the national territory: French.
My grandparents never tied clogs around the necks of students who spoke Breton at school as was the practice.
Her father, a captain in the merchant navy, was often absent. So it is this maternal branch, mother and grandparents, which marked the young boy. “A Catholic and social family is essentialspecifies the septuagenarian by insisting on the ‘and’. Respect for the poor, the humble, the little ones.”
His friend, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, former examining magistrate, emblematic figure in the fight against corruption, says of him that he is an honest man in the sense of the 18th century. “Someone fundamentally selfless” specifies the former magistrate, now retired.
A need for serenity and justice
For years, Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf deserted the pews of the church. But since a serious depression which put him on the ground for three years, he has returned there. A way for him to find serenity. Well, not always: “I had a clash with the priest of the church where I gohe protests. He asked a mentally retarded woman out.”
And injustice, he can’t stand! Sitting in his chair, straight in the eyes, he offers an explanation: “I was the eldest of six siblings, responsible for the family from my earliest childhood to take care of others.” This is a ready-made explanation for his career as a criminal lawyer.
And yet, it is nothing. The young Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf, passionate about literature and languages, first turned to studies in letters and philology.
He did not study law until later in order to be able to accompany his sick brother to law school. “It bored me, I preferred to go and read by the sea. Until a presentation on the rights of the concubine. In 1972, there were not many” he giggles, facetious. He gets his law degree but still doesn’t know what to do with his life.
Back to the Jesuits. The former student became a French teacher there. But his thirst for new experiences led him to Exeter in England in 1979.
I was a lecturer at the University of Exeter for four years. I would have stayed there but Mrs. Thatcher was emptying all the universities of teachers.
A follower of the side step
It is therefore perfectly bilingual that he returns to France. On the advice of a friend, he becomes a lawyer. “Something had to be done!” he quips. Always quick to point out the comical nature of a situation. A follower of the side step.
One thing leading to another, our man was spotted by the British consulate as a lawyer who spoke perfect English. He then defends British nationals, victims or accused, having trouble with French justice.
Dickinson and Van Ruymbeke
This is how he becomes the lawyer for the family of Caroline Dickinson, after the rape and murder of the high school student in July 1996. It will take five years to find the culprit, Francisco Arce Montes, a sexual predator itinerant and elusive. The man will be sentenced on appeal in June 2005. During these nine years, Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf supported the English family in its quest for truth and its misunderstanding of the French judicial system.
Renaud Van Ruymbeke was the second examining magistrate on this difficult investigation (there will be a third when Judge Van Ruymbeke leaves for Paris to investigate the Elf affair in 2000). “When I retrieved the Dickinson fileremembers Renaud Van Ruymbeke, there was no contact between the previous judge and the family. I was keen to establish a dialogue with the Dickinsons. I kept them informed of the progress or failures of the investigation through Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf, their lawyer.
Six years separate the two lawyers. Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf set up as a lawyer in Rennes in September 1987. Renaud Van Ruymbeke was appointed counselor at the Rennes Court of Appeal in December 1988.
We knew each other like that. We had professional relationships. And then, as the Dickinson affair progressed, we became friends.
When, in 2000, Renaud Van Ruymbeke joined the financial division, he went back and forth between Paris and Rennes, where his family still lives. “That’s when I formed more of a relationship with Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœufcontinues Renaud Van Ruymbeke. He has values and a high idea of his profession. It was these qualities that I gradually appreciated and since then he has become a friend.”
The former magistrate emphasizes the courtesy of his friend. “He was a lawyer listened to because he did not attack justice and did not cheat. When he said something, we knew it was true. You know, we see everything.”
Other highlights of his career
When Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf is asked about the cases that have marked him the most, he immediately quotes James Kopp. This American anti-abortion activist wanted by the FBI for the assassination of a gynecologist practicing abortions (voluntary terminations of pregnancy) was one of his clients.
“I also had this extraordinary story of Ibrahim Allam, a client, accused of a double murder at sea aboard a sailboat.” A scenario worthy of René Clément. The criminal will obtain the acquittal of his client: “I had become convinced that he was not guilty. I would not have come to his defense if I did not believe it.”
Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf will maintain that the two young people fell into the sea accidentally and will avoid what could have been an abusive conviction.
Angry at the silence of Nathalie Appéré on the fate of the Uyghurs
At 75, his disgust for any form of injustice remains intact. “I can get angryhe concedes. Usually I’m more of a diplomat, but when there’s no choice, there’s no choice.”
The object of his anger today is the silence of the mayor of Rennes, Nathalie Appéré, on the situation of the Uyghurs: “I am shocked by Ms. Appéré’s silence regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. She goes to China regularly since Rennes is twinned with Jinan. And not a word. This silence makes me uncomfortable intellectually and morally.”
It was by chance that the lawyer discovered the barbarity with which this Chinese, Turkish-speaking and Muslim ethnic group is treated by the Beijing regime. “I have devoted the last 20 years of my career to the files of asylum applications and the expulsion of foreigners”.
Today, Hervé Rouzaud Le Bœuf, spends his retirement between his reading and his friends. His daughters, of whom he had custody after his separation in the middle of the Dickinson affair, have taken off: “I miss them, but I don’t tell them. A parent can’t tell their children that.”
He laughs as he admits that life on earth still interests him: “It’s not a great time at the moment, it’s hard for young people. But I’m in no hurry to go see Saint-Pierre” he amuses himself by pouring me a cup of tea. “The proof is in the eating” he smiled.