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Illegal cabbie gets life for Swedish student murder

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16:12 CEST+02:00
Bruno Cholet, a serial rapist who operated an illegal taxi in Paris, was sentenced to life on Friday for the brutal 2008 murder of Swedish student Susanna Zetterberg.

Cholet, 55, protested his innocence after the sentence was read out, telling a Paris court: "I want you to know you have sentenced an innocent man." His lawyers said he would appeal.

Cholet, whose antics in the court have included taking his clothes off and who recounted a miserable childhood in foster care and alleged rape as a teenager, has consistently denied killing the student.

Zetterberg, a 19-year-old from Stockholm who was studying French and working part-time in a cafe in the French capital, was last seen leaving a nightclub near the Louvre at around 4:45 am on Saturday April 19, 2008.

Her partly burnt body was discovered in the Chantilly forest, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Paris later the same day.

She had been shot at least four times in the head, and had her hands tied behind her back with a brand of handcuffs sold in sex shops. The state of her body made it impossible to establish if she had suffered a sexual assault.

Zetterberg also had a bruise on her forehead, which prosecutors allege was the result of a blow inflicted by Cholet to force her to give him the PIN codes for her bank cards.

Her mother Åsa Palmqvist said after the sentence was announced: "This does not take away the pain but it's very important for us."

A psychiatrist who testified earlier in the trial described Cholet as having a "psychopathic" personality that was unlikely to be reformed by specialist treatment.

Zetterberg's last contact with her friends was a mobile phone call to one of them in which she said she was on her way home in a "strange" taxi.

Investigators established that her bank cards had been used to make withdrawals of €100 and €200 from two different cash machines between 6 and 7 am.

One of the ATMs was surveyed by a security camera which recorded a stocky man of similar build to Cholet making the withdrawal. The man was wearing glasses and his face was partly covered by a scarf.

Cholet was arrested six days after the murder, police having been led to him after going through files on unlicensed taxi drivers.

As well as having been charged five times for operating an illegal cab, the accused had a string of serious convictions, including three for rape and one for armed robbery.

In 1978 he was sentenced to six years in prison for a rape committed two years earlier, when he was 19. In 1989, he was given an 18-year sentence for
two rapes – one of a 15-year-old – and the kidnapping of a minor.

According to the prosecution case, a pistol, bullets, rubber gloves and handcuffs were found in Cholet's car shortly after his arrest. DNA traces from both Zetterberg and Cholet were found on the pistol.

Cholet claimed the police fabricated the evidence to indict him.

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