Murder suspect may have fled by boat

Polish millionairess's boyfriend was at a boatyard buying navigation equipment

The fugitive boyfriend of a Polish millionairess who was found murdered may have tried to escape by boat. It emerged yesterday that he had recently bought a satellite navigation system and charts of European waters.

Ian Griffin, 39, has been the focus of an international manhunt since Tuesday, when the body of his Polish girlfriend Kinga Legg was found in the room they had shared in a Paris hotel. He drove off in his black Porsche 911, just hours before staff found Ms Legg's battered corpse.

The next day he turned up at the Surrey boatyard where the couple kept a high-powered speedboat. An "agitated" Mr Griffin asked if work on the £25,000 boat had been completed. When he was told it had not, he bought the navigation equipment and left.

Surrey officers believe Mr Griffin may also have returned to the luxury rented home he shared with Ms Legg in Oxshott, Surrey, as it appeared to have been "turned over".

Last night French police said the matter had been handed to an investigating prosecutor. The hunt for Mr Griffin is now firmly fixed on Britain.

Ms Legg, 36, whose three-year relationship with the Englishman was said to have been turbulent, checked into the £1,000-a-night Le Bristol hotel on Monday and was joined hours later by Mr Griffin, with whom she shared several bottles of champagne. The following day he left without checking out. Cleaners, wary that a "do not disturb" sign had been in place for hours and no response was coming from the room, entered to find a scene of devastation and smashed furniture. Ms Legg's naked body was slumped in the bath and blood was smeared across the walls.

French police said they believed Mr Griffin was living off his wealthy girlfriend, who ran her family company Vegex, which is based in Surrey and the village of Opatowek, Poland. Ms Legg grew up there, and worked for the family's tomato-growing cooperative.

In 1995, she met Peter Legg, a civil servant working at Preston Town Hall, on a town twinning committee visit. Six months later she came to Britain and they were married. Ms Legg took an MA in marketing and built trade links in Britain for Vegex. After two years, the couple separated and she moved to Cheshire where she lived with a local millionaire, building up her business empire.

By the time she met Mr Griffin in 2005, she had taken over the business and set up international export links, supplying major outlets across Europe including supermarkets and chain restaurants in the UK.

Mr Griffin, known for his love of fast cars, ran a string of companies across north-west England, including tanning salons and gadget shops, but he was declared bankrupt in 2006.

Yesterday a picture emerged of Mr Griffin as a "ladies' man" who once worked as a male model and enjoyed a flamboyant lifestyle of champagne and celebrity events. On the Friends Reunited social networking site he had described his "incredible successes" and berated former school friends for what he perceived as a lack of achievements. However, many of his businesses collapsed and at one point he was arrested in Malaga accused of fraud before being released without charge.

But friends and family told reporters that he was a "lovely bloke", who had been prone to bouts of depression and could be a suicide risk such times.

Cheshire Police would not say where his Porsche was found on Saturday but some reports suggested that it was near his parents' home in Houghton Green, near Warrington.