ROME—Few would argue how Valérie Bacot rationalized pulling the trigger that sent a fatal bullet into the back of her stepfather-turned-husband Daniel Polette’s neck on March 13, 2016. She had earlier unsuccessfully tried to poison him with a sleeping pill, and she said she knew he was grooming their 14-year-old daughter for serial rape. She was tired of years of abuse and being pimped out to strangers in the family minivan, so she did what she thought she had to do.
“I took the gun,” she said in an emotional interview with Le Parisien ahead of her June 21 murder trial that could send her to prison for life. “There was a loud noise, the flash, the smell. I got out of the car, opened the door, he fell. I thought only of saving myself because I was sure he was going to kill me.”
Bacot then told her oldest children—who she says were borne of rape—that she had killed the monster they called their father. They admitted they helped bury his body in a forest. All the while, she packed dirt on the hastily dug grave—she said she worried he would come back to life. “The only thing I thought about was putting dirt on it,” she said. “Because I was afraid he would come out and kill us.”
The 40-year-old and two of her children were arrested in October 2017 when Polette’s body was found after the mother of her son’s girlfriend, who had been involved in the hasty burial, turned her in. Since that time, more than 400,000 people have signed a petition to ask Emmanuel Macron for a presidential pardon that could save Bacot, though opponents say presidents have no place in the court of law. Interest in her case has galvanized those fighting against domestic violence, not just in France, but across Europe where, on average, one woman is killed every three days by an angry partner. A television interview in France ahead of her trial garnered 4.5 million viewers, and her horrific memoir Tout le monde savait or Everyone Knew is a national bestseller in France.
Bacot’s lawyers told The Daily Beast that they are “withdrawing from the media” in the weeks leading up to the trial to focus on her defense, saying, “We will neither give interviews nor make any statements during the several weeks to come.”
The case harkens back to Jacqueline Sauvage, another French woman who fatally shot her husband after years of abuse against her and her children. Sauvage won a presidential pardon after being sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder. Bacot’s supporters believe her case merits the same consideration, though in both cases, the women were failed by a system that did not protect them from years of documented abuse. In Bacot’s case, her children went to police more than once to try to help their mother, but police turned them away because they were minors.
“Even though she committed murder by killing her torturer, and taking…
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