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CRIME

Illegal cabbie gets life for Swedish student murder

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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POLITICS

French minister apologises for Champions League chaos

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday made a partial apology for chaos at last month's Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool in Paris, while insisting fake tickets and "delinquency" were mostly to blame.

French minister apologises for Champions League chaos

“Should things have been managed better at the Stade de France (stadium)? The answer is yes. Am I partly responsible? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told RTL radio.

“Of course, I readily apologise towards everyone who suffered from this bad management of the event,” he added.

After scenes of fans crowded into tight spaces and being tear-gassed by police caused outrage around Europe, Darmanin poured fuel on the fire by blaming supporters with fake tickets for the disruption.

UEFA events director Martin Kallen last week told French senators investigating the fiasco that the football body’s count of fake tickets was far short of the tens of thousands claimed by French authorities.

“We don’t believe it’s the number mentioned in France,” he said, adding that 2,600 fake tickets were identified at turnstiles — compared with the number of 30,000 to 40,000 people with fake tickets and without tickets suggested by Darmanin.

“It was a question of fake tickets… that created the difficulties we all know about” of large crowds of fans packed into underpasses or outside locked gates, Darmanin insisted Tuesday.

He added that “if there was something that went wrong at the Stade de France, it was the fight against delinquency”, saying he had already ordered a reorganisation of policing around the venue and that three major matches since had passed without incident.

While some supporters did report being victims of crime by gangs of youths before and after the match, there were also many complaints about police treatment of fans.

Disabled Liverpool fans last week told the Senate how officers sprayed tear gas at people in wheelchairs.

The English supporters have reacted with particular fury to Darmanin’s defence of the French police’s actions.

“People’s memories will forever be tarred by the lack of organisation and heavy-handed policing, and then of course the way authorities tried to deflect blame and scapegoat Liverpool fans for their incompetence,” Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram told AFP earlier this month.

CCTV footage from around the stadium has also been deleted despite the Senate probe.

A government report published earlier this month said a “chain of failures” by French authorities has inflicted “severe damage” on the image of the country as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2024.

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