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CRIME

France charges widow 27 years after husband found beheaded

French authorities on Thursday charged a woman with involvement in the murder of her husband almost 27 years after he was found beheaded in a crime that has remained unsolved ever since.

France charges widow 27 years after husband found beheaded
Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

Christophe Doire, 28, was found beheaded on Christmas Day, 1995 around the town of Busset in the Auvergne region of central France.

Regional prosecutor Eric Neveu said the widow, 56, who has not been named, had been detained on Tuesday and then charged Thursday by a magistrate and remanded in custody.

“Serious and concurring evidence points to her involvement in the murder of Christophe Doire,” he told reporters, adding she had been charged with murder and risked 30 years in prison if convicted.

“The investigations must continue to identify and arrest other protagonists,” he said, noting that elements suggested that the woman was “not alone during this process”.

He made clear it was not possible to make other information public at this stage but said she had failed to give “credible explanations”.

The move comes after Doire’s body was exhumed in April in order to carry out new tests. Neveu made clear that during interrogation the widow had denied any involvement in the killing.

Doire had disappeared on December 16th, 1985 after spending the evening at his brother’s. He left shortly before midnight, saying he was going hunting the next day.

His car was found but there was no sign of him until his body was found in a ditch by hunters. He was identified due to his papers and clothes he had on him.

Cases were twice opened against suspects, in 2000 and 2002, but they were dropped on both occasions and the crime has for years remained one of France’s most notorious cold cases.

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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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