They had a dream; a dream that they would spend their sunset years quietly, in a beach house in Africa. And French couple Francois Cherer Robert Daniel and Brigette Mery, both in their 60s, immediately settled for Zanzibar as the place to retire.
To realise their mission, the couple sold their sole property, a castle in a village near the city of Mulhouse, close to the border with Germany. They then travelled over 67000 Kilometres and arrived in the village of Matemwe on the northeast coast of the spice island early last year.
What they saw was blissful and immediately fell in love with the long shoreline with white sandy beaches from Matemwe, Pwani Mchangani down to Uroa.
It is not for nothing that this shoreline attracts more tourists in the island compared to any other beaches.
The Citizen on Sunday has learnt that the old couple planned to sink all their savings and the proceeds from the sale of the castle to toast the beauty of Matemwe by setting up a tourist hotel.
But as the enthusiastic couple plotted an exciting new chapter of their lives in Tanzania, little did they know that they would soon be lying dead, buried deep in a well, in the very dream home.
That Zanzibar dream was brutally cut short in December after the couple was robbed off their lives by suspects who were said to be the same people that they relied on to learn the ropes.
The murder shocked the country and attracted widespread attention, especially after sniffer dogs traced their remains deep in the well.
Investigations are underway and four suspects, all locals, are in police custody awaiting trial.
The puzzle remains why the couple was killed, amid undertones of greed to reportedly grab from the French nationals who, according to sources in France, had flown in with just the fat cheque worth hundreds of millions of shillings after disposing of all their possessions there.
Upon arriving in Matemwe, the couple bought a house from one of the suspects, a one storey bungalow located in an area resided by the well-to-do. It was barely two hundred metres off the main road and about 30 metres to the sea.
According to police sources, the house originally belonged to an Italian woman married to one of the suspects.
The Italian woman built the house after separating from her husband. It was built on a plot they jointly owned but which they divided when they separated.
After sometime, the lady decided to go back to Italy and sold the house to an Italian man. The new owner would later also go back home after securing the property. The police say he placed its care on one of the suspects.
The police investigations show that the caretaker manipulated the land ownership documents to purport to own the house which he then sold for over Sh250 million to the French couple when they came calling. This is despite knowing well that the same house belonged to the Italian who had taken a sabbatical.
“The French national had nothing to worry about as their host was well known and was also one of the successful hoteliers in the area,” the police, who investigated the matter, told The Citizen on Sunday.
“They were best of friends is all we know and spent many hours together. He would deliver fish to the couple. They were that close,” a neighbour said of one of the suspects in custody.
Police say their investigations show problems may have started when the Italian man, who was the rightful owner of the house, indicated he would be coming back to his property any time soon.
What happened in between and up to the time that the skeletons of the two were dug out of the well is the subject of the investigation and the conjured whispers around the village.
But shocking is the revelation that the couple’s killers were cold-blooded and intent on completely covering their track. “They suffocated the woman and stabbed her husband on the neck using a sharp object,” said our police sources.
Police had to dig deep the well and remove pieces of the bones as the killers had covered them using 15 bags of pure cement in a bid to bury them for ages without being caught, it would appear.
But unknown to the killers, according to the police, a dog owned by the French couple and which had been poisoned was forgotten in the house.
Almost a week later, it began to decay and emitted a pungent smell and attracted flies. The gate to the home was also left open unlike what was the norm. There were no signs of life in the house and the news that the couple had gone missing started to rent the air in the village.
A local leader, Mr Denge Khamis Silima, said he was on December 9 last year given the news of the suspicion around the house. “We went in and found the dog that belonged to the couple dead. We then made a report to police,” he told The Citizen on Sunday.
“Had it not been for the smell, flies and the open gate, it would have been impossible even to guess what had happened in there, it is a quiet street and people here mind their own business,” said Mr Silima.
“Police had a difficult time understanding where to start. The couple was missing, yet the house was intact… it is like they had only left five minutes ago.”
According to a French national in Dar es Salaam privy to the shocking case, early investigations ruled out any escape as their names were not found in any of the exit points from Zanzibar.
He said police summoned from South Africa, the neighbour and some of his relatives to help in the investigations when no clue would lead to their whereabouts.
In mid-January police had almost given up on the wait for any breakthrough when a suggestion was made to bring on board a trained police sniffer dog. The dog would be the answer to the puzzle.
“It ran to the well from inside the house six times. It was now clear that something was in the well…and then the man who was with us started trembling so hard that it was immediately noticed. That is when he was put under arrest for further questioning. Orders were given to uproot the well from where the remains were found,” explained the Dar es Salaam source.
“We are 99 per cent certain it was the couple who were dumped in there, but we are awaiting DNA confirmation. It is a sad story, they had no children and what remains in France is their distant relatives. The parents of the murdered lady are still alive in their late eighties and a word of their missing is yet to be passed as officials are awaiting DNA results,” said the French source.
The police say relevant charges will be brought against the suspects once investigations are completed.