Camille Kolber was a pensioner living in Hassel when police found him killed in his sleep.
In this weekly series, RTL Today dives into a Luxembourgish crime case. Some are solved, others continue to baffle investigators until this day.
Camille Kolber, a 71-year-old man living by himself in a big house on the Killebierg in Hassel, was killed by an intruder on 31 October 2010. The killer left mysterious symbols at and around the crime scene, all linked to faith and religion. What was the killer's motif? And why would they want to harm a pensioner? To this day, the murder mystery remains unsolved.
Listen to this week's episode of DNA: Luxembourg Crime Podcast:
Camille Kolber was a man with a big, generous heart appreciated by the local community. He seemed to live a well-balanced life: he liked to drink, but was not an alcoholic. He enjoyed good food, but was also a sporty individual. He was a sociable person who welcomed a lot of guests over to his home. He was also rich: his fortune was calculated at around €4 million, although he was said to have debts of €1.5 million.
The crime case involves several individuals who were believed to have been linked to Camille’s death, people that Camille began meeting in the years prior to his death.
Take Pascal, for example. In 2004, when Camille was 69 years old, the two fell in love. Pascal was 44 years old, an age difference of 25 years. The two got along very well at the start of the relationship, but instead of marrying, Camille legally adopted Pascal.
This is possible in Luxembourg, as the adoption framework allows for simple adoption, by which the adopted person legally remains part of their original family. There must also be a minimum age gap of 15 years between the adopting adult and the adopted. Due to their age difference of 25 years, Pascal was legally adopted as a son, plus Camille decided to add him to his will as the sole beneficiary.
A third person entered Camille and Pascal’s life: Jeremy. Jeremy ended up falling in love with Pascal, and not with Camille, and they quickly made plans to launch a bed and breakfast in Canada together. There was a strange atmosphere at home. Camille found himself blackmailed and threatened by people around him quite frequently, possibly also by Pascal and Jeremy themselves, with one of the main reasons being Camille’s wealth.
Camille was fed up and ended his relationship with Pascal in 2008. Later that year he removed Pascal from his will. But, in doing so, he named Pascal’s brother, Julien, as the new beneficiary.
The night in question
On 31 October 2010, Camille was getting ready for a relaxed, cosy evening at home. He had a friend over. They spent the evening together with a drink, and at 10pm the friend left. At some point that night, Camille locked up the house and headed off to bed. His dog Tommy slept beside him on the bedroom floor.
Later that night, somebody entered Camille’s home, makes their way into the bedroom and murdered him in his sleep with an axe. The dog remained quiet and unharmed.
When police arrive at the scene, they found a cleaned murder weapon left, surprisingly, beside the body of Camille. It had no traces of DNA on it. In the hallway outside the bedroom, officers came across mysterious symbols and items. For example, there was a bible lying on the table with a kitchen knife stuck into it. Someone had scribbled the word “paedophile” on a page.
Furthermore, there was a Christian cross which had been turned upside down. These were symbols that were most likely left behind by the criminal or multiple criminals to portray a certain image or demand a certain interpretation, and they wanted them to be found by police.
A graphologist, or handwriting expert, was called in to take a closer look at the scribbles. The expert compared the written word to the handwriting of ten other people that were in close contact with Camille. After ruling out a first individual with absolutely no match, eight more that were close but not close enough, one person matched the handwriting rather precisely - it was the handwriting of a man called Edouard. So who is Edouard, and how did he get involved in this story?
Words scribbled into a bible (reconstruction). / © DNA
Edouard the killer?
In 2010, Jeremy asked a work colleague whether he knew of anyone who could end Camille’s life, and whether he had any weapons to do the job. We know this because the witness who was approached by Jeremy eventually stepped forward to police. It is not clear whether this witness was the person who put Jeremy in touch with Edouard, along with another woman, called Marina. Marina and Edouard both knew each other.
On 31 October in 2010, when Camille was killed, Pascal and Jeremy were on holiday in France. They had an alibi for this, but of course that does not have to mean they are innocent - they could have tasked someone else to do the dirty job.
Investigators searched Edouard’s browsing history and traced his movements. They discovered that he spent a considerable amount of time on the internet, researching police operations but also looking up snake poison. According to Edouard’s lawyer, he was never in a stable financial situation, and was thought to do anything for cash.
On the evening prior to Camille’s death, Edouard’s browsing history indicates that he had been researching unsolved crime cases in Luxembourg. Then around 10pm he dropped offline. Between 10.15pm and 3.40am, the time period that Edouard is offline and also the time period in which the coroner believes Camille to have died, Edouard does not have an alibi. Shortly after 4am, Edouard appears back online, when he is watching porn and reading RTL news.
That afternoon, the record shows that there is frequent contact between Edouard and Jeremy. Edouard receives a text message from Jeremy, stating: “Sorry, I did not receive the payment for the car”. Does it indicate the job has been completed, and Edouard is expecting his payment?
In the following weeks, Edouard was very active on the web, scouring news sites about any information on the Hassel murder. Police were keeping a close eye on Edouard, but they needed more proof prior to an arrest. Undercover officers followed Edouard around outside, and watched him meet Jeremy on a parking lot in Leudelange. There, Jeremy handed over €4,000 in cash - not much for a murder.
Meanwhile, the handwriting expert that was called in to analyse the scribbles in the bible concluded with 90% chance that the word “paedophile” was written by Edouard. The public prosecutor’s office put out an arrest warrant in collaboration with neighbouring countries. Edouard was arrested in Luxembourg, and Jeremy and Pascal were located in Versailles by French police.
As a recap, the investigation has four main suspects: Edouard, the presumed killer, Marina, who established the contact, Pascal and Jeremy. Even though the duo had an alibi and were out of the country, they may have had an interest in killing Camille Kolber.
Marina was invited to come to the police station because investigators wanted to find out how and to what extent she was involved in the crime, which could be aiding and abetting murder. But maybe she was tricked into something else.
Well, the investigation became very grim, because Marina ends up committing suicide prior to police questioning. She hanged herself, leaving a letter behind to apologise to her family for taking her life.
In court...but no conclusion
When Pascal, Jeremy and Edouard are in detention awaiting trial, suddenly Pascal started speaking up. He said Edouard committed the crime, and that Jeremy gave the green light for the killing. He himself would not have been involved.
Edouard was clearly not happy with this story, and while watching RTL news that evening from his cell, he wrote a letter to the station, which read the following:
"On the evening of 08.11.2011 at 7.30pm you reported on the horrific crime in Hassel. You said that I, Edouard, pushed police on the track of the adoptive son and his partner. THAT IS WRONG!! It is exactly the opposite.
I must underline that all completed analysis (DNA, etc) do not match mine. Any testimonies I make to help substantiate my claims are being withheld from the court. Since the summer break there has been no developments in the case, that’s the normal way of the Luxembourgish justice department.
As you were unable to match DNA with mine I wonder how much longer I have to remain innocent behind bars."
Court proceedings began in October 2013. Twenty court hearings were held to complete the trial at first instance. There were over 100 witnesses that were heard. Pascal, 47 at the time, Jeremy 39 and Edouard, 42 claimed they were innocent, but could not explain what happened. The lawyers of the three defendants argued that there was an absence of traces of DNA and pointed to the strange behaviour of the victim’s dog, which was lying beside Camille when he was murdered. No DNA from Edouard was found in the house.
By the end of the first trial, all three of the men were sentenced to life imprisonment. The victim’s adopted son, Pascal, was tried as the instigator of the crime. His new companion, Jeremy, did not stop him and would have given the necessary instructions. Edouard, meanwhile, is believed to have been the perpetrator who executed the crime with the axe. Their motive would have been money.
The judge read the following: "The elements, by themselves, do not establish the facts. But putting them all together, it's pretty compelling. So even though Edouard’s DNA was not found at the scene of the crime, the history of his computer had revealed that, as of mid-August, research on the Internet on various weapons and ways of killing had been carried out. The public prosecutor's office had therefore requested confirmation of the life imprisonment for the three defendants.” He added that in case of doubt, the Court of Appeal could hear witnesses again.
And indeed the case went to the Court of Appeal...where they were acquitted. The defense argued there was too much doubt and no clear evidence these three were involved in Camille’s murder. Before being acquitted of the murder, the trio spent nearly four years in prison, and they may now have the option of claiming damages. Getting a life sentence at first instance and being acquitted by the Court of Appeal is rather rare. So to this day the Hassel murder remains unsolved.
In December 2011, two months after the death of his adopted father, Pascal waived his right to become the beneficiary, however, this could be a trick to seem innocent and in mourning. In an interview with RTL following his release from prison, Pascal said that he knew who had killed his adoptive father - but never shared a name.
The house was torn down in early 2012. The case remains unsolved.