Valérie Bacot suffered years of abuse at the hands of her step-father-turned husband before killin him (Image: TFI)

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A mother-of-four who shot her abusive husband dead after he pimped her out to lorry drivers has been found guilty of murder – but walked free from court.

Valérie Bacot, 40, had faced life behind bars for killing Daniel Polette, her former step father who later married her and subjected her to years of abuse.

She had admitted killing him using a weapon he kept in the family people carrier, but said she only did it because he regularly beat and raped her, and forced her into prostitution.

"I wanted to save me and my children," Bacot told a court in Châlons-sur-Saône, France.

In dramatic scenes on Friday evening, the fifth day of the murder trial, a jury handed down a guilty verdict, but only after Advocate General Eric Jallet had said the defendant 'should not return to prison'.

Bacot (C) leaves court, flanked by relatives and lawyers after she was told she didn't have to serve any more time in prison
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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Judges sentenced Bacot to four years in prison, with three years suspended. She has already spent a year on remand, meaning she was free to go home on Friday night.

Mr Jallet had said: "Premeditated murder is by no means self-defence. It is a willingness to kill, premeditated, in a context of domestic violence. This court must apply the law.

"But there are different things to take into account. The fact that she is beaten for so long, that she wanted to survive."

On hearing the words from Mr Jallet, an overcome Bacot had collapsed in court, but she later returned to hear the verdict, and the judges agreeing to release her.

Daniel Polette abused his wife from an early age and forced her into prostitution, the court heard
(Image: TFI)

The case has fuelled a nationwide debate in France about conjugal violence, and whether victims should be allowed to take the law into their own hands.

Close to a million people had signed a petition demanding the charges against Bacot were dropped.

Polette, a lorry driver, was 61 at the time of his death on March 13 2016, when he died from a single bullet wound to the neck.

He was originally the lover of Bacot's mother, and first raped Bacot when she was just 12, the court heard.

Polette was jailed for sexually abusing Bacot when she was 14 but was released after less than three years in jail and moved back in with her and her mother, Joëlle.

The case attracted a lot of attention in France and prompted a debate about domestic abuse
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

The abusive monster then arranged for Bacot to start having sex with other men for money.

Bacot had admitted killing Polette, but in self-defence as he forced her to prostitute herself in the Peugeot People Carrier, close to their home in Saône-et-Loire.

The mum says she shot Polette in the heat of the moment after also being abused by a client.

Earlier in the trial her mother, Joelle Aubague, testified that the pair wanted to be together and she did not have to kill him to escape the marriage.

Asked whether Bacot could have escaped the relationship without killing her husband, she said: "There were other solutions".

The second day of the trial saw her three eldest children testify about their family life, saying their mother was 'not guilty' and had only killed Polette to 'protect us' after police refused to help.

Bacot (C) said she killed her husband to protect her family
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)

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Bacot says her children contacted police twice on her behalf but were brushed off, with officers telling them that their mother needed to come to the station herself.

Things came to a head in 2016 as Polette routinely questioned Bacot's 14-year-old daughter about her sexuality – leading her to fear that he would start prostituting the teenager out as well.

While he was sitting in the front seat, she drew the handgun and fired it once through the back of his neck, killing him instantly.

Bacot then buried the body in a forest with the help of her two eldest sons and her daughter's boyfriend, who she says offered to help so police wouldn't take her away.

But in 2017, police were alerted to the killing after the boyfriend confessed to his own mother – prompting her to call the police.

They arrested Bacot who subsequently confessed to the killing, but was released on bail one year later pending trial.

Bacot's sons and the daughter's boyfriend were subsequently jailed for six months each for concealment of a corpse for the part they played in the cover-up.

The case also became a huge talking point when Bacot started a book about her ordeal in October 2018 – while she was on bail and awaiting trial.

In it, she described the violence and humiliation she suffered during her 25 years with Polette.

The book, Everyone Knew ('Tout le monde savait') was published last month, and immediately became a bestseller.

Promotion included a television interview of Bacot watched by 4.5 million people.