Riviera murder probe over bones found in sea

French police have opened a murder inquiry after the macabre and mysterious discovery of a skull inscribed with "death to paedophiles" and other bones belonging to at least four people in the sea close to the Riviera resort of Antibes.

Riviera murder probe over bones found in sea
Stephane Hirson (L) whose bones were among those found in the ocean just off the rocky Cap d'Antibes promontory. Photo (L): Estelle Magarner/AFP. Photo (R): pmo/Flickr.

The relics were recovered by police in February after an amateur diver came across the skull while searching for sea urchins just off the rocky Cap d'Antibes promontory.

Nine months later, DNA testing has enabled investigators to establish that one of the bones, part of an arm, belonged to Stephane Hirson, a psychologically disturbed teenager who disappeared from his home near Paris in February 1994.

But they have been left scratching their heads over the origin of the other bones, which they have established came from another man, two women and possibly one other person.

The skull, which came from a man aged at least 50, has proved particularly intriguing as it had a target sign drawn on it, together with the words "death to pedophiles" written in indelible ink.

"We are faced with a series of mysteries," admitted Georges Gutierrez, the prosecutor in the town of Grasse who will lead the investigation.

The opening of a murder probe enables local authorities to allocate more resources to try and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Further forensic tests are to be carried out to try and establish how long the bones had been in the sea and divers are to undertake a full-scale search of the area where they were found to establish if more remains lie in the depths of the Mediterranean.

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French minister investigated after rape allegations

A junior minister in President Emmanuel Macron's government is under investigation after two allegations of rape were brought against her, French prosecutors have said.

French minister investigated after rape allegations

The allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou – who is now state secretary for development, Francophonie and international partnerships – worked as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.

One complaint was lodged on May 25th and the investigation opened two days later, the prosecutors said. The second complaint was filed on June 16th.

Greece-born Zacharopoulou, 46, joined the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in May, having been a member of the European Parliament for the previous three years. She reports to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

She gained prominence in 2015 by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married former French president Francois Hollande.

Zacharopoulou was strongly involved in the UN’s COVAX coronavirus vaccine rollout effort, and has spoken out in favour of women’s reproductive rights.

These are not the first rape allegations to overshadow Macron’s government and come at a time of political difficulty for the president after he failed to retain a majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in
January asked for the case to be dropped.

Rape allegations were also made against Solidarities minister Damien Abad last month but French prosecutors have said they were not currently opening an investigation.