Chocolatier arrested after Oscar-winning Hollywood animator found dead in burnt-out car

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The burnt-out car where Daniel Langlois and Dominique Marchand were found dead
The bodies of the Oscar-winning animator Daniel Langlois and his girlfriend Dominique Marchand were found in a burnt out car in the Caribbean

Four people have been arrested after the bodies of an Oscar-winning animator and his girlfriend were found in a burnt-out car in the Caribbean.

Canadian couple Daniel Langlois, 66, and Dominique Marchand are believed to have been ambushed along a road on the island of Dominica before being shot. Their car plunged into a ravine and caught fire, according to police sources.

Daniel Langlois
Daniel Langlois won an Oscar for his contribution to animation

Among those arrested in connection with the suspected homicides is the couple’s American neighbour Jonathan Lehrer, 57, a chocolatier who had a protracted dispute with Mr Langlois over the use of a road.

Local police told The Telegraph Mr Lehrer was in custody on Tuesday evening. They said while the bodies, which were found on Friday in the south of the island, had not yet been formally identified, all “circumstantial evidence” suggested they belong to the couple.

Rayburn Blackmoore, Dominica’s minister for national security, said on Monday: “This type of terrible crime and the brutality in this crime is something we cannot ignore, and we cannot allow those responsible to go unpunished.”

A request has been made for “investigative support from the Canadian authorities”, he said.

The killings, he added, had “sent shockwaves through the island” and “left many devastated”.

Hollywood career

Mr Langlois founded the firm Softimage which produced 3D animation software that helped create four minutes of CGI used in Jurassic Park.

The software, which was used to figure out the joint placement on the dinosaurs, was also used in Titanic, The Matrix, and the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean films.

A shot of a dinosaur in Jurassic Park
Mr Langlois' firm Softimage helped create CGI used in Jurassic Park

Mr Langlois sold the company to Microsoft in 1994 for $200 million, and stayed on as president until 1998.

In 1997, Mr Langlois received a scientific and technical Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

That year he and Ms Marchand moved to Dominica and spent more than 20 years building Coulibri Ridge, an off-grid luxury hotel resort, that opened to great fanfare last year.

The 285-acre retreat uses solar energy and wind turbines, grows its own produce and funnels purified rainwater into its two chlorine-free infinity pools with views of Martinique and the Sulphur Spring Valley. Prices to stay in one of the 14 studios and duplex suites start at $679 (£540), with a four-night minimum. The government recently awarded them a prize for their contribution to the island’s development.

Aerial Overview of Langlois' hotel resort Coulibri Ridge
Mr Langlois and Ms Marchand moved to Dominica and spent more than 20 years building Coulibri Ridge, an off-grid luxury hotel resort

Dispute with Mr Lehrer

Years before, Mr Langlois took Mr Lehrer, who owns chocolate company Bois Collette Inc, to court for blocking the use of the Morne Rouge Public Road, which passes through Mr Lehrer’s estate.

Court documents from 2019 state the dispute had been ongoing for four or five years.

At one point, Mr Lehrer is said to have blocked the route “by placing boulders across the road, digging a trench across the said road, erecting metal pipes and placing equipment and supplies on the road denying the claimants and their employees access to their property”.

In 2018, local residents, many of whom worked at the eco-lodge, are understood to have staged a protest about being unable to pass safely to get to work.

The state’s highest court ruled in 2019 that the road was public and could be freely used by Mr Langlois’s guests.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police told The Telegraph in the statement it was “aware there is an investigation in Dominica in relation to the death of two Canadian citizens.

“We work closely with our international partners and maintain strong relationships with law enforcement agencies around the world. The RCMP does not comment on specific criminal investigations in foreign jurisdictions.”

‘Incalculable’ contributions to cinema

Mr Langlois and Ms Marchand also founded two charities – The Humane Society of Dominica and REZDM – in response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The National Film Board of Canada said on X, formerly known as Twitter: “It is with great sadness that we learned of the tragic death of Daniel Langlois. His contributions to the world of cinema are incalculable.”

Pascale St-Onge, the minister of Canadian Heritage, called Mr Langlois “a visionary in digital technologies and cinema. His legacy reflects his innovative spirit. My thoughts are with his loved ones.”

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