A woman has tonight been found guilty of murdering her rapist husband who pimped her out to truck drivers – but she will not spend another night in prison.
French mother-of-four Valérie Bacot, 40, had faced life in a cell for killing Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior.
She had admitted killing him using a weapon he kept in the family people carrier, but said she only did it because he regularly beat and raped her, and forced her into prostitution.
‘I wanted to save me and my children,’ Bacot had told the Saône-et-Loire Assizes Court in Châlons-sur-Saône, France.
In dramatic scenes on Friday evening, the fifth day of the murder trial, a jury handed down a guilty verdict, but only after Advocate General Eric Jallet had said the defendant ‘should not return to prison’.
Valérie Bacot, 40, from France, pictured leaving Chalon-sur-Saone Courthouse at the end of her trial on charges of murdering her stepfather turned husband
On March 13, 2016, Bacot shot Polette (pictured) – then aged 61 – in the back of the neck with his gun after, she claims, he threatened to prostitute their 14-year-old daughter
He instead said that Bacot should be punished with five years in prison, with four suspended.
As it was, judges sentenced Bacot to four years in prison, with three years in prison.
She has already spent a year on remand, meaning she was free to go home on Friday night.
Mr Jallet had said: ‘Premeditated murder is by no means self-defense. It is a willingness to kill, premeditated, in a context of domestic violence. This court must apply the law.
‘But there are different things to take into account. The fact that she is beaten for so long, that she wanted to survive.’
On hearing the words from Mr Jallet, an overcome Bacot had collapsed in court, but she later returned to hear the verdict, and the judges agreeing to release her.
The case has fuelled a nationwide debate in France about conjugal violence, and whether victims should be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Close to a million people had signed a petition demanding the charges against Bacot were dropped.
Polette, a lorry driver, was 61 at the time of his death on March 13 2016, when he succumbed to single bullet wound to the neck.
He was originally the lover of Bacot’s mother, and first raped Bacot when she was just 12, the court heard.
Bacot leaves Chalon-Sur-Saone Courthouse, flanked by relatives and lawyers, as she is applauded and congratulated by passers-by in central-eastern France
A woman talks and thanks Bacot, left, as she leaves Chalon-sur-Saone Courthouse, flanked by relatives and lawyers, on June 25
Bacot pictured leaving the courthouse in France on Friday evening. Bacot had admitted killing Polette, but in self-defence as he forced her to prostitute herself in the Peugeot People Carrier, close to their home in Saône-et-Loire
Polette was jailed for sexually abusing Bacot when she was 14 but was released after less than three years in jail and moved back in with her and her mother, Joëlle.
He then arranged for Bacot to start sleeping with other men for money.
Bacot had admitted killing Polette, but in self-defence as he forced her to prostitute herself in the Peugeot People Carrier, close to their home in Saône-et-Loire.
Bacot says she shot Polette in the heat of the moment after also being abused by a client.
Earlier in the trial her mother, Joelle Aubague, testified that the pair wanted to be together and she did not have to kill him to escape the marriage.
Asked whether Bacot could have escaped the relationship without killing her husband, she said: ‘There were other solutions’.
The second day of the trial saw Valerie’s three eldest children testify about their family life, saying their mother was ‘not guilty’ and had only killed Polette to ‘protect us’ after police refused to help.
Bacot says her children contacted police twice on her behalf but were brushed off, with officers telling them that their mother needed to come to the station herself.
Ms Bacot (pictured arriving in court today) has admitted to killing Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior and who had made her life hell
Medical staff arrive after Bacot felt unwell inside the courtroom at the Chalon-sur-Saone Courthouse today
Things came to a head in 2016 as Polette routinely questioned Bacot’s 14-year-old daughter about her sexuality – leading her to fear that he would start prostituting the teenager out as well.
While he was sitting in the front seat, she drew the handgun and fired it once through the back of his neck, killing him instantly.
Bacot then buried the body in a forest with the help of her two eldest sons and her daughter’s boyfriend, who she says offered to help so police wouldn’t take her away.
But in 2017, police were alerted to the killing after the boyfriend confessed to his own mother – prompting her to call gendarmes.
They arrested Bacot who subsequently confessed to the killing, but was released on bail one year later pending trial.
Bacot’s sons and the daughter’s boyfriend were subsequently jailed for six months each for concealment of a corpse for the part they played in the cover-up.
The case also became a huge talking point when Bacot started a book about her ordeal in October 2018 – while she was on bail and awaiting trial.
Bacot, now aged 40, says Polette began abusing her aged 12 when he was her stepfather – but later forced her into marriage and had four children with her
Journalists wait outside the courtroom in Chalon-sur-Saone, France, where Bacot is standing trial for Polette’s murder
In it, she described the violence and humiliation she suffered during her 25 years with Polette.
The book, Everyone Knew (Tout le Monde Savait), was published last month, and immediately became a bestseller.
Promotion included a television interview of Bacot watched by some 4.5 million people.
She was compared to Jacqueline Sauvage, who was sentenced to ten years in 2012 for shooting dead her abusive husband, who she claimed had driven their son to suicide.
François Hollande, then the President of France, later gave Sauvage a full pardon.
Bacot is being defended by the same two lawyers who represented Sauvage, and they are using the case to highlight failings in social services.
Janine Bonaggiunta, one of the barristers, said: ‘The justice system remains too slow, not reactive enough and is not tough enough against conjugal violence.It is this that can lead a desperate woman to kill in order to survive.’
The trial verdict is expected to be handed down on Friday evening.