Indictment follows 16-month investigation of attack that has been the talk of France
SOISSONS, France––Christophe Ellul, 46, boyfriend of November 16, 2019 pit bull attack fatality Elisa Pilarski, 29, was on March 4, 2021 indicted for manslaughter by Soissons prosecutor Julien Morino-Ros.
Pilarski was six months pregnant. Ellul, the father of their unborn son Enzo, was released on his own recognizance. A trial date has not yet been set.
Julien Morino-Ros and staff concluded, after a 16-month investigation, that only Ellul’s pit bull Curtis was involved in Pilarski’s unwitnessed death in the Retz Forest, near Ellul’s home.
Pilarski had moved in with Ellul just nine days before her death, relocating from Rebenacq, in the French Atlantic Pyranees region, just north of Spain.
The indictment states that Ellul “unintentionally caused [Pilarski’s] death” through what French law defines as circumstances amounting to “clumsiness, recklessness, inattention, negligence, or a breach of an obligation of prudence or safety.”
As pit bulls are banned in France, the mere import of Curtis from a breeder in the Netherlands, using paperwork misidentifying his ancestry, may be construed as “a breach of an obligation of prudence or safety.”
Ellul and friends have contended ever since Pilarski’s death that Curtis was a 34-pound Patterdale/whippet mix, not a pit bull of nearly twice that size.
Ellul and friends have further insisted that Pilarski was killed by a pack of 21 Poitevin hounds, from among 62 of the rare hounds kept by the Paris-based Le Rallye de la Passion hunting club. There is, however, no record of Poitevin hounds ever killing a human.
The 21 hounds, pursued by horsemen, were released nearby to hunt deer about half an hour to an hour after forensic examination indicates that Pilarski died.
An autopsy found that Pilarski died from “hemorrhage following several bites to the upper and lower limbs as well as to her head.”
Vets confirmed ANIMALS 24-7 findings
Two court-appointed veterinarians testified that Curtis was “the only author of the bites that caused the death,” adding that the attack was the result of “unnatural” training, ostensibly for competition in weight-pulling, climbing, and configuration, which “shaped in Curtis a behavior of predation diverted from purpose.”
“The vets established with certainty,” FranceBleu said, “that Curtis is indeed a pit bull,” who was “illegally imported, with forged documents.”
This confirmed details of Curtis’ origin discovered by ANIMALS 24-7 researcher Beth Clifton and initially published on November 25, 2019.
Both Drago and Curtis, ANIMALS 24-7 reported, are pedigreed two-year-old American pit bull terriers apparently bred by Sharon DeWit of Hitam Kennel in the Netherlands. Curtis was originally named Dark Midnight.
“Fighting dogs, war machines in combat”
The French tabloid Oise-Hebdo (Oise Weekly) reported that Ellul, in several emails, wrote that his dogs “Drago and Curtis are real pit bulls,” whose “origins are designed to make fighting dogs, war machines in combat.”
The Ellul/Pilarski household in Saint-Pierre-Aigle also included three other pit bulls. Chivas and Lady belonged to Ellul; Ice arrived with Pilarski. The pit bulls were reportedly kept in separate cages in the home, and were exercised separately.
Poitvin hounds cleared
DNA test results released on November 3, 2020 by Eric Boussuge, prosecutor for the district of Amiens, supported the veterinarians’ finding that only Curtis participated in killing Pilarski.
DNA was tested from all five of the Ellul/Pilarski pit bulls and all 62 of the Poitevin hounds kept by the Le Rallye de la Passion hunting club.
Among the few undisputed facts about the case are that Pilarski was walking Curtis at the time she was attacked, and that Ellul found Curtis alongside Pilarski’s badly mauled body in a ravine below a trail.
Ellul, and advocates for Curtis and pit bulls in general, as well as other opponents of hunting with dogs, have argued ever since the fatal attack occurred that the pack of hunting hounds was responsible, or at least contributed to the incident.
“There is nothing against the hunting hounds”
Ellul was indicted for manslaughter 30 days after attorney Xavier Terquem Adoue, representing Pilarski’s mother and uncle, Nathalie and Vincent Labastarde, indicated to Fabrice Alves Teixeira of the newspaper Oise Hebdo that he believed an indictment was overdue.
“We examined the file together with my assistant,” Xavier Terquem Adoue said. “And we couldn’t be more neutral: there was one who thought [Pilarski was killed because of] hunting with hounds, and the other that it was more Curtis.
“But from halfway through the study of the investigation file our conviction was made: there is nothing against the hunting hounds. If we want to incriminate the hunters, it is perhaps on their failure to come to the aid of Christophe Ellul when they met him in the forest.
“What can be said very simply,” Xavier Terquem Adoue explained, “is that the hunting dogs could not have been there when Elisa was killed. Elisa telephoned Christophe at 1:19 p.m.,” complaining to Ellul, he contends, that she was already under attack by the hounds.
The newspaper Sud Ouest and Agence France Presse reported that, “According to Ellul, she said she was with Curtis and was worried about the presence of several ‘threatening’ dogs. Christophe decided to go looking for her.”
Shortly after 1:00 p.m., Ellul later told Remi Havyarimana of the newspaper L’Union, “She called me at work. She said she was attacked by several dogs, she was bitten on the arm and leg, and she could not hold Curtis. I told her to let go of the dog,” Ellul said. “And my phone fell in the car. When I stopped to pick it up, there was no sound. I called back 35, 36, 37 times … She never answered.”
Was Ellul at work, or was he already speeding to the Retz Forest, about 45 minutes away?
Neither Pilarski nor Ellul called for help
Neither Pilarski nor Ellul called police, emergency medical services, animal control, or the Retz Forest game wardens, any of whom would have been much closer to the scene, with jurisdiction to assist.
Ellul arrived near the scene of the attack at about 2:00 p.m., he said.
“The time stamps on the photos of the hounds’ hunt at the Conservateur crossroads show that the dogs were released afterward,” Xavier Terquem Adoue said. “It’s very simple: when Elisa made her phone call to Christophe Ellul, the dogs could not have been there.”
“While respecting the presumption of innocence,” Xavier Terquem Adoue continued, “it is already necessary to qualify the [alleged] offense, manslaughter by dog.”
Five to seven years
“If the alleged offense is only manslaughter,” Xavier Terquem Adoue detailed, “the potential penalty is up to five years in prison,” plus a fine of up to 75,000 euros.
“If there are aggravating circumstances, it is seven years,” Xavier Terquem Adoue told Fabrice Alves Teixeira. “There must be two aggravating circumstances. I already have four: lack of muzzle,” although a muzzle was found about 130 feet from Pilarski’s body, “dog imported illegally, dog not declared to the authorities [licensed], and mistreatment of animals,” specifically how Curtis was trained.
Xavier Terquem Adoue also noted that “Ellul presents himself as a civil party,” i.e. a victim, “in the same way as my clients. It is not very healthy.”
Details “which were quite indecent”
Ellul, Xavier Terquem Adoue said, had “sent documents from the file to my clients with details they would have done well without, which were quite indecent.”
Ellul “has a personality that worries me,” Xavier Terquem Adoue added. “He continued to visit my clients at the grocery store” that Nathalie Pilarski manages in Rebenacq, Pyrénées-Atlantiques,” a day’s drive south of Ellul’s home near Soissons. He did not respond to a summons [to testify at the coroner’s inquest], and bragged about it to my clients. His intellectual process is clearly that of denial. When justice does not go in his direction, he attacks the judiciary.
“Let him play his part, play his last cards,” Xavier Terquem Adoue finished, “but the noose tightens.”
“Nathalie Pilarski must change lawyers”
Xavier Terquem Adoue, observed Benoit Blanc, a journalist and blogger who has closely followed the Pilarski case from the beginning, replaced an allegedly pro-hunting attorney, Caty Richard, whom Christophe Ellul and his police officer sister, Sandrine Ellul, had often claimed was biased against Christophe Ellul and Curtis.
“Nathalie Pilarski must change lawyers,” Sandrine Ellul had said in so many words.
When Nathalie Pilarski finally did replace Caty Richard, Benoit Blanc recounted, defenders of Christophe Ellul and Curtile took this as “proof that Elisa’s family continues to trust Christophe Ellul. For them, it had nothing to do with the communication of the prosecutor following expert reports and DNA results,” which clearly established the involvement of Curtis and the lack of involvement of the hunting hounds, and “nothing to do with a possible indictment of Christophe Ellul.”
Rottweilers killed deputy mayor
But “Contrary to what some may have thought, possibly uninformed,” Benoit Blanc wrote, “the family does not deny the involvement of Curtis, and does not believe in the involvement of the pack. Note that the ‘Support page for Elisa Pilarski,’” which was actually a support page for Christophe Ellul and Curtis, “and the ‘Curtis’ Rights Committee support page,’ have been deactivated for a few days.”
While the Pilarski case approaches a trial date, another fatal dog attack briefly gripped France. Sandra Vicente, 38, a wheelchair-bound local politician who had just been re-elected deputy mayor of Sénouillac, was on January 26, 2021 found mauled to death by her two Rottweilers.
Both Rottweilers were impounded and euthanized.