French gardener goes on trial for murder of British expat

A French gardener faces trial on Monday for the brutal murder of a British woman in south western France.

French gardener goes on trial for murder of British expat
The caravan where gardener Jean-Louis Cayrou lived. Photo: AFP

A French gardener goes on trial on Monday accused of murdering his British former boss and lover who disappeared
four years ago and whose remains have never been found.

Patricia Wilson, then 58, was last seen on the evening of August 17, 2012, when she was dropped off at her home in the village of Vabre-Tizac in the Aveyron region, near the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Police believe Jean-Louis Cayrou, then 50, killed the Englishwoman after she decided to end a brief relationship with him, and that he then disposed of the body.

Alerted by neighbours five days after her disappearance, police found large quantities of Wilson's blood around the property and in Cayrou's car, leading them to conclude she must have been killed.

The power at the house was cut but there was no sign of a break-in or ransacking, and intensive searches of the heavily wooded terrain in the area failed to produce a body.

Wilson, a former advertising executive, moved to the area with her partner Donald Marcus, also British, in 2008.

Marcus returned to Britain in 2011 for health reasons, leading the couple to separate.

Cayrou, who faces life in prison if convicted, lives in a nearby town and has worked as a gardener for several clients in the region since 2005.

DNA evidence

A court heard in September 2014 that traces of Wilson's DNA had been detected on several blood-stained items found in Cayrou's car, where investigators also found an item of the victim's underwear in the glove box.

Prosecutors think Cayrou dragged her body from the house following a struggle.

Frequent trips by the gardener to the neighbouring Tarn region in the following days raised suspicions, along with changes to Cayrou's story during questioning.

He initially denied being at Wilson's house on August 17, then said he had been there and touched various objects, while denying any knowledge of the murder.

The prosecutor also said Wilson had been bombarded with phone calls from Cayrou ahead of her disappearance, the last coming at 8:57 pm on the evening she disappeared.

The prosecution has gathered testimony from friends of Wilson who say she had reported Cayrou acting violently towards her and attempting to suffocate her.

Cayrou has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence but turned himself in to police on August 23, and was charged two days later.

He was jailed then released on bail with and electronic tag in August 2013, but then sent back to jail the following month on appeal by the prosecution.

His lawyer Jacques Levy said Cayrou “like all innocent people” had defended himself badly, asserting that his client is being treated as guilty before proven innocent instead of the reverse.

“There is no other suspect, but have they looked for one?” he asked.

But Maryse Pechevis, who represents Wilson's mother and her former partner Marcus as civil plaintiffs, said: “There is really a lot of objective, corroborated evidence” against Cayrou.

“The trial will not necessarily allow mourning to begin, but it will move things forward,” she said.

It is set to last until Friday.

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Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Frenchman Sebastien Raoult pleaded not guilty to cybercrimes Friday in Seattle federal court, two days after he was extradited from Morocco.

Frenchman extradited to US on hacking charges pleads not guilty

Federal Judge Michelle Peterson told the 21-year-old Raoult that he was charged with nine counts, including conspiracy, computer intrusion, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Raoult listened through an interpreter.

After Raoult’s plea of not guilty, the judge ordered him to be detained as a flight risk until a hearing April 3.

Moroccan authorities arrested Raoult at Rabat airport May 31 at the request of the US Department of Justice. Along with Raoult, two other French nationals were also arrested, Gabriel Bildstein, 23, and Abdel-Hakim El-Ahmadi, 22.

According to Raoult’s indictment, he and the other two men are alleged to have formed a hacking team, dubbed “ShinyHunters,” to steal confidential data from 60 companies to sell on the dark web where criminals routinely operate.

Some of the companies are located in the Seattle area.

According to experts, beginning in 2020, the hackers stole customer data from the Indonesian e-commerce site Tokopedia, the US clothing brand Bonobos, the US telecom AT&T and many other companies, putting the personal data for sale on the dark web.

The criminal charges carry a possible jail term of up to 27 years in prison.