Seychelles street artist's murder trial ends

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The murder trial of French street artist Thomas Debatisse ended on Tuesday (April 12) in Victoria, Seychelles, after over two months of trying to establish the circumstances behind the death of his girlfriend, who was found lifeless in a Seychelles hotel.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Seychelles is expected on Thursday, after a final review of the facts by the judge.

The prosecution, which has not requested a sentence under Seychelles law, considers the case to be murder, punishable by life imprisonment.

Thomas Debatisse, a 35-year-old street artist from Nice (south-east France) where he is known by the nickname Otom, maintains his innocence and his defence is based on a French investigation that favours the hypothesis of hanging and therefore suicide.

Emmanuelle Badibanga, 32, manager of an events venue in Nice, was found on 27 April 2021 hanging from the towel rail in their bathroom at Club Med on the island of Sainte-Anne, where they were staying.

An autopsy, carried out by a Cuban doctor seconded to Seychelles, concluded that she had been strangled. Thomas Debatisse was arrested and has been in prison since 5 May.

In his plea on Monday and Tuesday, the Seychelles lawyer of the French artist questioned the autopsy report, in the presence of his client.

"He (the coroner) did not do any scientific analysis, he only did eyeballs analysis, (...) we have to do scientific analysis to have the truth," said Bazil Hoareau.

The defence relies on a parallel investigation opened for "voluntary homicide by spouse" by the French justice in Nice, whose conclusions are opposite.

A report filed on 14 December, after the Nice prosecutor's office asked two other experts - both professors of medicine and forensic scientists - to re-examine the forensic examinations carried out, states that "all the elements point to a hanging (...) and not a strangulation".

On Friday, prosecutor Hemanth Kumar stressed that, although they concluded that the victim had been hanged, these experts "stated (during the trial) that it was impossible for the victim to have hanged herself with the scarf found on Emmanuelle Badibanga.

Moreover, "the forensic doctor who went to the scene of the accident is formal, it is impossible to hang oneself with the scarf that was found around the neck of the victim," he said, before repeating the conclusions of the report: "Emmanuelle Badibanga was strangled from behind.

If convicted, Thomas Debatisse will have to serve his prison sentence in Seychelles as there is no extradition agreement between France and the archipelago.

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