5 elements to understand the disappearance of Philippe de Dieuleveult
On the occasion of the broadcast of the documentary “Dieuleveult, The Disappeared from the River” Thursday May 18 at 9:10 p.m. on France 2, a look back at one of the most mysterious French cases that has never been solved
Philippe de Dieuleveult was a French adventurer best known for his show La Chasse aux Trésors, then broadcast on Antenne 2. The latter went in search of treasures to all countries of the world, with the help of participants who solved riddles handed keys. This energetic adventurer disappeared along with six other people under extremely strange circumstances during an expedition to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1985. Crew.
A risky expedition
After many years of doing this successful treasure hunt show, Philippe de Dieuleveult had a desire to do even more dangerous reporting. He is truly a “doer” with an insatiable thirst for adventure. In 1985 he therefore decided to embark on a dangerous expedition to Zaire (now Congo). Only, back then, internal wars were going on in the region and they didn’t have the necessary permits to go there. However, the adventurer had the support of President Mobutu, who saw this adventure as a way to promote tourism in Zaire. Anyway, without permission, they decide to cross the river from neighboring Burundi by rafting. They were eleven, including a Belgian anthropologist, Guy Colette, who was unlucky enough to join the expedition at the last minute.
The expedition was marked by difficulties from the start. On one occasion, while he returned to France to attend the birth of his wife, the latter expressed reluctance to return there as conditions were poor, as did the members of the expedition, who had no faith in the voyage. A bad mood circulated in the group. But the call of the sea grows stronger and the adventurer leaves Paris to complete his expedition. It is worth noting that Philippe de Dieuleveult almost died from the beginning of the adventure, especially while navigating these rapids of Inga, near Hippo Island. Here several crew members decided to abandon the adventure. That left them only 9 to set out again on this African river with a current that is as deadly as it is unpredictable.
A surprising disappearance
After the team split, the team members who called off the expedition found themselves in front of the Zahirian authorities on their way back. They then tried to contact the French embassy to inform them of the situation, but without much success. While the rest of the team should be making scheduled radio contact each day, there is no contact. Neither the first nor the second day. Eventually, a helicopter was sent to search for them after Philippe’s raft was found intact in the rapids a few days later. The intact raft’s antenna proves that it did not overturn. Even more amazing, many of his and the team’s belongings are found behind a rock. The surrounding villages were questioned, but no traces were found and no witnesses saw members of the team.
Many theories have been put forward to explain the disappearance of Philippe de Dieuleveult. It was long thought he had simply drowned in the rapids, until the day false evidence of his death was presented to the family. In particular, a headless body, without sex and without hands, and weighing 70 kg, according to Philippe the authorities. The family, a little upset and shocked to see the remains, request an autopsy. The result is final, it’s not his body. The theory that the services of the Zahirian state are trying to smoke out the deaths of Philippe and his allies is born. The most likely thesis is that of execution. It is possible that Philippe was killed by the Zairian army or a mercenary commando during an exercise at the time. The drowning evidence could have been fabricated to cover up a crime. Another theory is that of drowning, put forward by President Mobutu himself.
An unsolved case
The investigation was unsuccessful and the case was eventually dropped. Despite the father and brothers’ determination to try to solve this investigation, this family drama haunted the family, one of whom committed suicide out of grief. Also in 1994, a male former officer published I saw Philippe de Dieuleveult die: a former Zaire intelligence officer speaks written by Okito Benebene. His book opens up a new way of understanding this disappearance. In 2018, a journalist, Anna Miquel, falls in love with the case but is unable to fully solve the case. In any case, according to Jean de Dieuleveult, this French drama is “a Franco-French story. He believes his brother “was betrayed by one or more French ‘services'” who allegedly manipulated Mobutu’s intelligence services… Finally, in 2020, Philippe de Dieuleveult’s godson wrote a book, drown statewritten using all his father’s archives to shed light on what he describes as a vast conspiracy that would affect state responsibility.