The Russian researcher estimates that in 1934 it was not the only daughter of Jeanne Calment, Yvonne, who died of pleurisy, as the official version says, but Jeanne Calment herself. Yvonne would have borrowed the identity of the mother, which would have avoided paying the inheritance tax. Therefore, she is believed to have died in 1997 at the age of 99.
Among the 17 elements presented by the Russian researcher is a copy of the identity card of Jeanne Calment dating from the 1930s where the color of her eyes (black), her size (1.52 meters) and the shape of her forehead (low) do not correspond to those of the French age-matron during her last years of life.
"As a doctor, I have always had doubts about her age, the condition of her muscles was different from that of the other oldfolk, she was sitting without support, she had no signs of dementia," she says. Mr. Novoselov, who heads the Gerontological Section of the Moscow Society of Naturalists.
After the death of Jeanne Calment, scientists had already raised red flags that no autopsy was conducted to explain the exceptional longevity of the alleged centenarian, who moreover indulged in her inclinations for chocolate and port and smoked cigarettes before health deterioration. Feeding the doubts, Jeanne Calment ordered to burn some of her photo archives when she became famous.
Asked by AFP, the French demographer and gerontologist Jean-Marie Robine who had participated in the validation by the Guinness Book of the records of the age of Jeanne Calment, he ensures having "never had any doubt about the authenticity of the documents" of the latter.
"The idea of impersonation (of Jeanne Calment by her daughter) had already been considered by the validators and I regularly invited demographers to keep this hypothesis," tempered Nicolas Brouard, director of research at the National Institute demographic studies (INED) in France. "It's good that Nikolai Zak conducted an independent research and on the same ground of investigation.It is a very good work and an argument in favor of the exhumation of the bodies of Jeanne and Yvonne Calment", assures he to AFP.
According to him, only an analysis of DNA will put an end to this case. The Belgian demographer Michel Poulain, professor of the University of Louvain, agrees to him, a "such detailed investigation" which shows the necessity of "reinvesting scientifically to validate the exceptional age of these supercentenaries" (110 years and more) . "The probability of an erroneous age increases exponentially with presumed age," he explains.
Mr. Zak had the idea to investigate the life of Jeanne Calment during the creation of a "mathematical model" of the lifespan of supercentenaries: "The more I searched, the more I discovered contradictions". He finds a 1997 book, "Insurance and its secrets", with a small passage devoted to Jeanne Calment that raises the hypothesis of an exchange of identities between mother and daughter.
The author of the book, Jean-Pierre Daniel, says that a controller of insurance companies, looking into the life annuity signed by the centenary, had already found a fraud. "But at the time Jeanne Calment was already considered a national idol.This official questioned his administration, who replied that it was necessary to continue to pay the rent. There was no question of making a scandal with the age-championne of the French, "he told AFP.
The gerontologist Valeri Novosselov pleads, however, that a false record is bad for his discipline: "for the gerontologists, Jeanne Calment is a symbol. Her name is quoted in all the studies (...) To advance in the research, it is necessary show the real borders of the chessboard ".
Further, Russians have no skin in the game, as it would give the record to the "hated" USA people.
American Sarah Knauss will claim the world record of oldest person if Yvonne Calment proves to have assumed her mother’s identity. Knauss died at 119 years old.
Japanese woman Nabi Tajima, 117, died in March 2018. Tajima is reportedly the last known person born in the 19th century, The Associated Press reported. Jamaican citizen Violet Brown also died at 117 years-old in September 2017.