One of the greatest traumas imaginable is when parents have to deal with the disappearance of a child. Statistics show that the first 48 hours after a child’s disappearance are the most critical for finding them alive. After the 48 hour window, chances of finding the child alive become gravely slim…
In the quaint, rural village of Goas al Ladu, France, the mysterious disappearance of a 2-year-old girl, and the inexplicable events that followed, has made it one of that country’s most bizarre stories.
A French Village
Goas al Ludu, a rural town in the outskirts of France, boasts breathtaking views of one of the world’s most beautiful country landscapes. The picturesque town is the epitome of old French culture, with its’ vintage shops and cafes dating back hundreds of years.
Citizens of the historic town have family lineage that also stretches back hundreds of years. In an increasingly populated world, Goas al Ladu is a place unlike any other, where citizens know one another on a first name basis. A sort of place where a neighbor is treated like family.
Far From Perfect
However, when taking a deeper look into the perfect town, you will see that it is, in reality, far from perfect. It is a town that holds a deep, dark secret in the tragic disappearance of a little girl – a disappearance that has left a permanent stain on its beauty.
Perfect Day to Play
It was a gorgeous spring day in the outskirts of France. Blooming flowers boasting every color of the rainbow and endless green hills painted the countryside. It was a perfect day for Pauline to play underneath the sun on her family farm.
Safe to Play
It was a quiet and safe area, and the family never worried about letting her children play on the farm. Pauline’s mother, like the rest of the residents, were grateful to live in a place where crime was unheard of. But one evening in April of 1922, tragic circumstances would permanently shatter the very core of the town.
When she called Little Pauline to supper, she was horrified when the little girl didn’t respond. Pauline’s mother frantically ran outside, desperately searching for her daughter, shouting her name as loud as she could, but to no avail. In a small town, with everything nearby, the distressed mother ran to the police for help.
Shocked by the little girl’s disappearance, police and townspeople banded together to comb the landscape for her, but they came up empty-handed. The little girl’s mysterious disappearance quickly gained media attention. “La Petite Pauline Picard,” as the media dubbed her, had vanished without a trace.
What Happened to Little Pauline?
Many people offered different versions of what they speculated had happened to Little Pauline. She was widely assumed to have been eaten by a boar or taken by roaming gypsies. But, one thing was for sure, the little girl was nowhere to be found, leaving her family utterly devastated.
Unexpected news from Cherbourg, a town 250 miles away of a little girl matching Pauline’s description having been found by police seemed miraculous. When an officer showed a photo of the child to Pauline’s mother, Le Matin, she burst into tears, crying, “That’s my daughter! My poor little Pauline!” Overcome with joy, the couple drove to Cherbourg to take their daughter home.
Pauline’s parents could not believe their eyes when just a few feet away, their daughter stood. Endless nights of worrying and tears seemed like a distant nightmare once they had found their daughter. But the story of Little Pauline was far from over. Their daughter’s reaction, or lack thereof, raised endless questions that quickly grew into a heartbreaking paranoia for the Picards.
How had their toddler wandered 250 miles? And if she did, without succumbing to the elements? And most importantly, why did their precious daughter not seem to recognize her parents or her brothers and sisters? And, most worrisome, they couldn’t understand how she had forgotten the unique Breton dialect she had spoken.
The only explanation that seemed plausible is that their little girl was experiencing memory loss brought on by post-traumatic stress. Pauline’s parents and family formulated the idea that Pauline had possibly been abducted and abused by her kidnapper. While the girl didn’t seem to recognize her family, they, including her brothers, sisters and even their neighbors, all recognized her. But, the mystery to Pauline’s disappearance would soon become even more bizarre.
A Mysterious Lady
People were coming forward claiming that Little Pauline was with an enigmatic woman dressed in rags before she was taken by Cherbourg police. The involvement of the media was immense, considering the circumstances of the case. They maintained that this woman was the key to unraveling the mystery of Pauline’s disappearance.
She Is Not Our Daughter
Though newspapers from Paris to New York delighted over the miraculous return of Little Pauline, the Picards were consumed with continuous suspicions that the child living in their house was not theirs. After all, they were her parents, and had realized the girl they had found was completely different than Pauline. She was much more quiet, reclusive, and had no desire to bond with her family.
These worries were confirmed when a local farmer, Yves Martin, seemingly made a disturbing confession to the Picards. He showed up to their farm in an erratic manner, claiming that he had killed their beloved child. Utterly shocked and devastated, the Picards did not know what to believe anymore.
Yves Martin shakily asked the Picards whether they thought the little girl in the house was their daughter before screaming, “God help me, I’m guilty!” and running off (he was later admitted to an asylum). But, the deranged man’s confession had not been taken seriously with the lack of details and his obvious mental instability. However, ironically, soon after, a discovery was made that would terrify a nation.
A Grisly Scene
On May 26, one month after Pauline was discovered in Cherbourg, a cyclist made a gruesome discovery. He found the lifeless, naked body of a small girl not far from the Picard farm. The head, feet and hands had been removed, preventing positive identification, but next to it was a neatly folded pile of children’s clothes, among which were the black-and-white checkered dress, navy blue jacket and black tights Little Pauline had been wearing the day she disappeared.
A Second Victim
Next to the dismembered body of the child, the skull of fully grown man was found, introducing the idea of a second victim. Also, the police and search team insisted that they had been over the area where the body was found countless times. “So careful was the search made at the time of Pauline’s disappearance that the body would have been discovered had it been lying where it was found,” The New York Times reported. All of which suggested that the body had been moved there recently because the killer wanted it to be found.
What Happened to The Little Girl?
The Picards could no longer bear anymore heartache. Sadly, after the body was found, the Picards determined that the girl found in Cherbourg could not be their Pauline, and she was sent to live in an orphanage. But unanswered questions have remained over the last century as to how the Picards could have been so certain that the little girl found 250 miles away was theirs.
Mystery Remains Unsolved
Experts point out that parents often suffer from a very confusing psychological state after a child’s death. It is possible that in a state of extreme grief, the Picards had mistaken another child as their own. But lacking DNA evidence to confirm whether the dismembered body found in the woods was indeed Little Pauline, this tragic mystery sadly remains unsolved, robbing the Picards of their precious daughter and the closure they desperately needed.