Thomas Debatisse had been incarcerated since May 5, 2021. At dawn on Friday April 15, after more than two months of trial in the Seychelles, the French street artist was acquitted. “It’s the end of the humiliation,” said Thomas Debatisse, after the announcement of the decision. He left the courthouse with his mother and stepfather. He risked life in prison. The jury of five men and two women delivered their verdict at 4.30 a.m. (0030 GMT), deciding by six votes to two that the Frenchman was not guilty of the murder of Emmanuelle Badibanga, 32.
This manager of a place dedicated to events in Nice was found on April 27, 2021 hanging from the towel hook in their bathroom at Club Med on the island of Sainte-Anne, where they were staying. Thomas Debatisse, a 35-year-old street artist from Nice where he is known by the nickname of Otom, claimed his innocence and his defense was based on a French investigation favoring the hypothesis of a hanging and therefore of a suicide.
The longest trial ever held in the Seychelles
“I had no doubt that it was an innocent man that was being judged. For me, the Seychellois police must review their protocol,” said Bazil Hoareau, lawyer for Thomas Debatisse, while questioning the skills of the medical examiner who carried out the autopsy of the victim. “It was thanks to the help of French experts, who demonstrated that the pathologist from Seychelles had lied to the court and that he was incompetent, this is what allowed us to obtain the acquittal”, said Bazil Hoareau. Richard Sedillot, another defense lawyer, said he was “very happy that the jury, by a very large majority, realized what we thought from the start, that is to say the ‘innocence of Thomas’.
The 30-year-old’s mother burst into tears in her son’s arms, confident that the verdict was “a deliverance”. “It was very hard,” said Anne Debatisse. Emmanuelle Badibanga’s sister left the courtroom without saying a word. This trial was the longest ever held in the Seychelles, with no less than twenty-five people called to the stand to give evidence.