AFP - A French judge decided Wednesday to reopen one of France's darkest murder mysteries, in the hope DNA tests can help find the killer of a four-year-old boy, 24 years ago, lawyers said.
Gregory Villemin was found tied up and drowned in the Vologne river in a bleak area of the Vosges mountains in eastern France in October 1984.
A day later, a poison-pen letter arrived at the home of the child's parents -- who had been receiving anonymous hate mail since 1981 -- claiming responsibility for the murder, and calling it "revenge."
The killing sparked a 17-year legal saga that was wrapped up in 2001, after failing to identity either the killer or the sender of the mysterious letters.
Christine and Jean-Marie Villemin, who have both served time in prison in connection with their son's killing, sought to have the case reopened to allow for DNA testing of the rope used to tie up their son.
Their lawyer, Marie-Christine Chastant-Morand, said the appeal court in eastern Dijon had agreed to allow investigators to search for traces of DNA on evidence seized during the probe.
The case of "Little Gregory," as it is known, became one of France's most notorious post-war criminal mysteries, as police sought to untangle a web of family hatreds and local jealousies.
A second cousin of the child, Bernard Laroche, was charged with the killing, based on evidence given by a sister-in-law, but was released from custody after she withdrew her claims -- only to be shot dead by the boy's father in 1985.
Jean-Marie Villemin spent two and half years in prison for the crime.
Later that year, his wife Christine was charged with her son's murder. She was finally cleared eight years later and all charges against her dropped.
The inquiry was reopened briefly in 2000 to allow for DNA testing of a stamp on a hate letter sent to the Villemins months before the murder, but the probe yielded no new clues to the killer's identity.