Husband admits killing that gripped France

Jonathan Daval said he killed his wife, although 'it was an accident and he regrets it'

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 8, 2017 relatives of Alexia Daval, (fromL) her father Jean-Pierre Fouillot, her mother Isabelle Fouillot, her husband Jonathan Daval, and her sister Stephanie walk past her portrait during at the basilica Notre Dame in Gray at the end of her funeral.
Alexia Daval's husband Jonathan Daval was arrested on January 29, 2018 by gendarmes at his home in Gray, the prosecutor of Besancon announced. / AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON
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A French IT worker on Tuesday admitted to killing his wife in a case that has gripped the country since her charred remains were found in a wood in October.

The body of Alexia Daval, a 29-year-old bank employee, was hidden under tree branches near their town of Gray-la-Ville in eastern France.

Her husband Jonathan Daval, 34, had insisted that Alexia had gone jogging on October 28 and not returned.

In the days after her death he cut a distraught figure, appearing in tears at a press conference with her parents and leading one of the running outings organised across the country in her memory.

But his lawyers said Daval admitted he killed his wife, although "he says it was an accident, that he did not want to do it, and that he regrets it".

“He strangled her,” lawyer Randall Schwerdorffer said, adding that his client’s motivation “was not criminal”.

“There were some very strong tensions in their relationship as a couple,” he added.

“Alexia had an overwhelming personality, so he felt diminished, stifled. At one point too many words were said, a fit of anger proved too much, and he couldn't control himself.”

Following the announcement, local prosecutor Edwige Roux-Morizot announced that Daval had been charged with his wife’s murder.

Mr Schwerdorffer said Daval maintains that he acted alone – but he added that his client insisted he did not set fire to his wife’s body.

The murder case shocked the couple's peaceful town, where 10,000 people turning out for a silent march in her memory.

Daval, initially questioned as a witness, had told police an argument with his wife turned physical on the day before her disappearance, which he said explained the scratches and bite marks on her hands.

Several sources told AFP the couple were experiencing marital problems.

Police arrested Daval on Monday and searched his home after interviewing more than 200 people over the past three months.

Police sources said a neighbour had reported hearing a car leaving the couple’s home on the night before Alexia was reported missing – a fact supported by a tracking device on his work car.

Traces of tyres matching those of Daval's car were discovered close to where Alexia’s body was found, Mr Schwerdorffer said.

A source close to the inquiry also said the body was covered in a sheet that was thought to come from the couple’s home.