Lawyer guilty for murder of heiress after 36 years
Agence France-Presse in Rennes
A former Riviera lawyer was convicted yesterday of killing a glamorous casino heiress 36 years ago, after a legal battle that has gripped France.
Maurice Agnelet, 76, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in his third trial for the killing of his then mistress, Agnes Le Roux. She disappeared in October 1977, aged 29. Her body was never found.
Agnelet showed no emotion as the verdict was read in the Rennes court.
Agnelet was initially acquitted but convicted on appeal in 2007 to serve 20 years - a verdict that was later overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.
His retrial has seen a number of shocking new revelations, including testimony from Agnelet's own son who said he believes his father committed the crime.
Guillaume Agnelet, 45, told the court on Monday that his mother had confided to him that his father had killed Le Roux in her sleep during a camping trip in Italy and then dumped the body by the side of the road.
He said his father had also confessed in the 1980s to knowing the location of the corpse. Italian police launched their own probe after the claim.
Agnelet's ex-wife and the mother of Guillaume, Annie Litas, rejected the accusations during her own tearful testimony, saying her son had psychological problems.
Before the end of the trial yesterday, Agnelet apologised to Le Roux's family for his "attitude".
He said he was sorry for any hurt "I may have caused the family with my attitude and my statements since Agnes's unbelievable and tragic disappearance".
Prosecutor Philippe Petitprez said there was no other explanation for Le Roux's disappearance than her killing by Agnelet.
Defence lawyer Francois Saint-Pierre had urged the jury to acquit, saying there was no hard proof of Agnelet's involvement.
Agnelet has always denied klling Le Roux, heiress to the Palais de la Mediterranee casino in Nice. She disappeared months after becoming embroiled in a hostile takeover bid of her mother's casino. Agnelet seduced Le Roux and persuaded her to vote against her mother at a board meeting in June 1977 and to allow the casino to be sold to a rival.
Money from the transaction - three million francs, worth the equivalent of about €1.7 million (US$2.3 million) in today's money - first went into a joint account and later ended up solely in Agnelet's hands.