In July 1883, the caretaker of a cemetery in Béziers was awakened by his dog barking furiously. He grabbed his gun and followed the dog to a dimly lit area of the cemetery, where he discovered a young man desecrating a grave. The young man had dug up the corpse of a young woman who had been buried the day before. The caretaker apprehended the criminal and took him to the police station.
The young man, a wealthy lawyer named Courbataille, was put on trial. During the trial, he explained that the woman whose grave he had violated was his mistress, whom he had loved deeply and passionately. He described how they had met and fallen in love, and how her sudden death from pneumonia had left him devastated and obsessed with the idea of never seeing her again.
I loved her, not with a sensual love, not simply from kindness of soul and heart, but with an absolute, perfect love, with mad passion.
Driven by his obsession, Courbataille had decided to dig up her grave and see her one last time. He described the horrifying sight of her decomposing body and the terrible smell that accompanied it. Despite the horror, he had reached out to touch her hair before being arrested.
She lived twenty years, no more, and she has disappeared forever, forever, forever!
After hearing his story, the jury deliberated and found Courbataille not guilty. The public applauded the verdict, seemingly moved by the young man's tragic tale of love and loss.