Montand dug up for DNA

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The body of the actor Yves Montand was exhumed yesterday to settle a paternity dispute seven years after his death. Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris was cleared of visitors and sensation-seekers while his body was removed from the grave he shares with Simone Signoret.

Last November a court ordered DNA tests on his remains as the only method of settling a legal battle over his estate. This is believed to be the first incident of its kind in France, and may be the last. A French MP, outraged by the case, has presented a draft law outlawing posthumous DNA tests.

Aurore Drossart, 22, daughter of an actress who had a relationship with Montand, has been seeking to prove his paternity since 1989. Montand, best-known in later years for his portrayal of the dastardly farmer in Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, refused to take a DNA test before his death in 1991. Three years later a court decided Ms Drossart WAS his daughter, based on anecdotal evidence and resemblance between the two. This was challenged by Montand's two acknowledged children. In November last year another court said it was impossible to say for sure unless DNA tests were carried out. Montand's family, anxious to have the affair settled, did not object.

Michel Hunault, author of the proposed law banning posthumous DNA tests, yesterday said it was important that an individual's body and his wishes be respected after his death. Also, it would be unfair to penalise legacy- seekers whose alleged fathers had been cremated. The extent of Montand's estate has not been made public but he owned properties in Paris and the provinces.