Playboy murder saga grips France 36 years on

Playboy murder saga grips France 36 years on
A nearly four-decade old French murder case has captivated the country yet again. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP
A one-time French playboy is on trial, for the third time, in the murder of an heiress nearly four decades ago whose body has never been found. The latest case has included shocking turns, including revelations from the accused man's son.

Thirty-six years after she disappeared without a trace, France is again gripped by the mystery of the missing heiress and the playboy lover accused of killing her.

Maurice Agnelet, 76, is this week facing his third trial for the killing of Agnes Le Roux, a glamourous 29-year-old whose body was never found after she disappeared in October 1977.

Agnelet, a former lawyer, was initially acquitted of the murder but convicted on appeal in 2007 to serve 20 years — a verdict that was eventually overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

His retrial in Rennes has seen shocking twists in the case, including an accusation from his own son.

"Two or three times I heard what I consider confessions from my father or my mother," his son, Guillaume Agnelet, told the court on Tuesday, testifying by video-conference from Chambery in the Alps.

Guillaume Agnelet, 45, said his mother had confided in him that Agnelet had killed Le Roux in her sleep during a camping trip in Italy and dumped the body
by the side of the road.

He said his father had also confessed in the 1980s to knowing the location of Le Roux's corpse, telling his son: "They must never find the body."

"This testimony will seal the split with my family," he said, adding that he felt he had to testify to avoid "regrets to the end of my days".

In court, Agnelet said he was "flabbergasted" by his son's accusations and said Guillaume was suffering from schizophrenia.

"I think he is very miserable, his head is not right…. I am innocent," he said.

After the testimony Agnelet's bail was revoked and he is now being detained during the trial. A verdict is due in the case on Friday.

Torrid schemes, false alibis

Guillaume Agnelet's mother, 72-year-old Annie Litas, made no mention of the alleged confessions in previous court testimonies and is due to take the stand
on Wednesday.

Agnelet's lawyer, Francois Saint-Pierre, said the testimony of Litas, who is long-separated from Agnelet, would be crucial to the case.

"The result of the trial will depend on her statement," he said, adding that he expected she would "shed a lot of light" on her son's testimony.

Agnelet's other son Thomas is also due to testify on Wednesday for the defence. Agnelet has always denied murdering Le Roux, the heiress to the Palais de
la Mediterranee casino in Nice.

Le Roux disappeared several months after she was at the centre of a torrid scheme involving a hostile take-over bid of her mother's casino.

Agnelet had seduced Le Roux and persuaded her to vote against her mother at a board meeting in June 1977 and allow the casino to be sold to rival owner
Dominique Fratoni.

Money from the transaction — three million francs, worth the equivalent of about 1.7 million euros ($2.3 million) in today's money — first went into a joint account in the couple's name and later ended up solely in Agnelet's hands.

Agnelet was initially the prime suspect in the case but produced an alibi when another mistress claimed he was with her in Switzerland at the time. The woman, Francoise Lausseure, later admitted she had lied and the case was reopened.

Lausseure has requested to testify and the court is considering hearing her by video-conference from Mexico, where she now lives.

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