FURY has erupted over a woman who is facing a murder trial for allegedly killing her rapist stepdad to protect their daughter after years of abuse.
Valerie Bacot, 40, was pimped out to work as a prostitute for truck drivers by the abusive man, Daniel Polette, whom she married in France.
“I had to put an end to it,” Bacot wrote in a book published last month called ‘Everybody Knew’, adding: “I was afraid, all the time.”
About 590,000 supporters have signed an online petition calling for her ‘freedom’ and to be cleared of murder.
It says that she was “only a child” when she met her stepdad, and that she is a victim of domestic violence.
Bacot was 12 when her mother’s then partner, Daniel Polette, who was 25 years her senior, raped her for the first time.
Every evening, when she returned from school, he assaulted her.
“In the village of La Clayette, in Saône-et-Loire, everyone suspected it. But nobody said anything,” the petition explains.
He was sent to prison in 1995 for four years, but after his release returned and resumed the serial rapes.
Polette “told my mother that he wouldn’t start again. But he did,” Bacot told the court.
The trial, which opened today in the Assize Court of Chalon-sur-Saone in France’s central Burgundy region, is due to run through until Friday.
When she was 17, Bacot became pregnant – and was thrown out of the house by her alcoholic mum, Joëlle.
The teen went to live with Polette. They married in 2008.
She told the court: “I wanted to keep my child. I had nobody. Where could I go?”
Polette, also a heavy drinker, became increasingly violent, attacking her with a hammer at one point.
She said: “At first he would slap me, later that became kicking, then punches and then choking.”
Bacot described her life with Polette as an “extreme hell”.
Polette ordered her to work as a prostitute for truck drivers, using the back of a Peugeot people carrier.
He would issue instructions to her via an earpiece he forced her to wear to make sure she complied with the demands of clients whom he charged between 20-50 euros (£17-£43).
Investigators established that Polette threatened to kill her if she refused, pointing a gun at her many times.
When Polette started questioning their 14-year old daughter Karline about her budding sexuality, Bacot said she decided that “this has to stop”.
On March 2016, Polette ordered his wife to undergo yet another sexual humiliation by a client.
But, she used a pistol that he kept in the car to kill him with a single bullet to the back of the neck while he was in the driver’s seat.
Bacot told the court she wanted to ensure her daughter wouldn’t suffer the same fate that she had. “I wanted to save her,” the mum added.
The circumstances of the shooting rule out any possible claim of legitimate self-defence.
Bacot hid her husband’s body in a forest with the help of two of her four children.
In October 2017 she was arrested and confessed to killing him – but in self-defence as he had forced her to prostitute herself.
One year later, she was released on bail.
Bacot was “certain that she needed to commit this act to protect her children”, a court evaluation found.
She made no comment as she arrived at the courthouse Monday, a slight figure with a ponytail and a black jacket who appeared intimidated by the crowd of reporters.
Her lawyers said ahead of the trial that “the extreme violence that she suffered for 25 years and the fear that her daughter would be next” pushed her to kill Polette.
The same lawyers, Janine Bonaggiunta and Nathalie Tomasini, have previously defended Jacqueline Sauvage.
She’s a French woman who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her abusive husband, but won a presidential pardon in 2016 after becoming a symbol for the fight against violence directed at women.
“These women who are victims of violence have no protection.
“The judiciary is still too slow, not reactive enough and too lenient towards the perpetrators who can continue to exercise their violent power,” said Bonaggiunta.
“This is precisely what can push a desperate woman to kill in order to survive,” she added.
The trial continues in Chalon-sur-Saône.
HOW YOU CAN GET HELP:
Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:
- Always keep your phone nearby.
- Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
- If you are in danger, call 999.
- Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, where you call 999 and press ‘55’ if you can’t safely speak.
- Always keep some money or a bank card on you, including change in case you need a pay phone or bus fare.
- If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to move towards an exit if you are inside the house and get your phone in case you need to call for help.
- Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other potential weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom.
SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.