The journalist’s friends and family fought for years to debunk the notion that Couraud, 37, had committed suicide. A committee created by his friends in 2004 to investigate the case believed the disappearance was the work of the Groupe d’intervention de Polynésie, or GIP, a militia created in the 1990s by President Gaston Flosse and later disbanded in 2006.
Couraud, who used “JPK” as his byline, worked as editor-in-chief of the French-language daily Les Nouvelles de Tahiti where, until his dismissal in 1988, he investigated the political and financial deals of the local government and published critical stories about Flosse. Later as an assistant to a member of the opposition, he continued his investigations, making many enemies among the local power elite. Prior to his disappearance, he was working as a press attaché.
In 2004, Vetea Guilloux, a member of the GIP, told an investigating judge that he had been ordered to spy on JPK on behalf of the Service d’études et de documentation, an intelligence unit under the authority of President Flosse. Guilloux alleged that two GIP colleagues had killed Courad. He soon retracted his claim, apparently fearing retaliation.
Courad’s family filed a subsequent complaint to keep the case alive. In 2013, amid the investigation, Guilloux restated his initial accusations to Jean-François Redonnet, a judge in the capital, and provided details on what happened on the night of the disappearance. Guilloux said GIP members seized the journalist, forced him on a small boat, interrogated him, and “accidentally” drowned him.
Couraud’s body was never found. According to a Le Monde article published in March 2013, Guilloux’s testimony has been backed up by other witnesses. On June 25, 2013, Redonnet indicted Tino Mara and Tutu Manate, two members of the GIP for “the abduction, sequestration, and murder” of the journalist.