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CRIME

Briton ‘blacked out’ on night of Paris murder

British businessman Ian Griffin described on Tuesday the scene of devastation to which he awoke the morning after his girlfriend died, on the second day of his Paris trial for her murder.

Briton 'blacked out' on night of Paris murder
Briton Ian Griffin arrives in court. He is accused of murdering his girlfriend in the Bristol Hotel in Paris. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Griffin, 45, told the court he had blacked out after fighting with his wealthy Polish-born girlfriend in a swanky Paris restaurant after she pressured him for sex.

"I know it doesn't make sense, but that's what absolutely happened," said Griffin, speaking in a quiet and hesitant voice.

On the fateful night in May 2009, the couple went for dinner near the Champs Elysees, where Kinga Wolf denied him the anti-depression pills to which he had become addicted.

Then Wolf, 36, told him: "You owe me sex" but he was in no state and refused. "She was very upset," Griffin told the court.

He left the restaurant before her and went back to the five-star hotel they shared, intending, in his words to "get my car keys and leave."

He was then shocked to find she had got back before him. "When I walked into the room and heard her voice, I went in to a total blank, nothing."

During this black-out, Kinga Wolf died of massive internal bleeding, her skull, jaw and larynx smashed, with more than 100 marks on her body.

"I woke up the next day, the room was awful. I spent hours cleaning, I put everything in the bin, I tried to clean as much as possible," Griffin told the court, his eyes tightly shut.

"The TV was broken, everything was broken… I found her in the afternoon between the mattresses," he added.

This testimony sparked surprise from presiding judge Didier Safar, who asked why it took so long for him to think of his girlfriend, who owned an international company that supplied supermarkets with tomatoes.

"I didn't even think (of her). It had happened so many times before," said the accused, who claimed he had had to barricade himself in his house "30 or 40 times" because of his girlfriend's violence.

Maybe this time was different, said Safar, noting that witnesses had described a grisly scene with "blood everywhere", on the walls, on the carpet and on the bed.

"I didn't understand she was dead, dead. If I had thought for a second a doctor could help her, I would have called… I knew something terrible had happened," said the 45-year-old.

I've only ever told the truth. I know you don't accept polygraphs in France, but I've passed four… it's the absolute God's truth, I have absolutely no memory," he said.

Griffin, who ran tanning salons and gadget shops in northwest England before going bankrupt in 2006, faces 30 years behind bars if convicted of the murder when the verdict is delivered on Friday.

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WILDFIRES

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed along a forest track.

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region’s forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the
helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters.

Set up just last week they started patrolling on Thursday.

The idea is that the PVF will free up firefighters who have been stretched thin battling blazes that since Tuesday have burned up 7,400 hectares of pine forests at the southern end of Gironde.

“After the major fires in July, we observed a rise in the number of arson cases,” said Martin Guespereau, deputy prefect for defence and security in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which covers the Gironde.

“There are around twenty fires of unknown origin a day in Gironde.”

¬†According to France’s National Forests Office (ONF) nine out of 10 fires were started by people — and three out of 10 were started deliberately.

Forest off-limits

“The Forest Vigilance Platoon is a support division, whose aim is to prevent, detect and possible to arrest,” said Captain Christophe Roque, who was given the job of putting the team together.

Red-and-white signs at the edge of the Soulac-sur-Mer forest inform walkers that due to the “very severe” risk of fire, the forest is off-limits to the public until further notice — and has been since August 11.

A few cyclists were nevertheless out on the trails on Saturday, and were quickly intercepted by the gendarmes of the PVF.

“As soon as we come across someone, we get their identity,” said one member of the team, Bruno Kechtoff. “Because if we come across the same person several times, then that becomes suspicious.”

A message comes over the radio: two outbreaks of fire barely 500 metres (yards) apart, near Bazas, south of Bordeaux, the regional capital. A local has reported seeing someone on a moped wearing “yellow-trimmed” trousers”.

The LVF’s helicopter veers off towards Bazas, 130 kilometres away (80 miles) away.

Where they are sent next depends on where the next fires break out, says Constable Jeremy Hernandez. “We have been called here urgently but we can move if other areas are concerned.”

Then they are in their car and driving off, siren wailing, on the look-out for a quad reported in the woods.

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