Family challenges 'biased' verdict: Murdered teacher's mother calls on John Major to intervene over 'lenient' sentence

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The Independent Online
THE MOTHER of murdered British teacher Fiona Jones said yesterday that she would return to France in an effort to overturn the 'ridiculously lenient' prison sentence given to her daughter's killer.

Pat Cottrill had vowed 'never to set foot on French soil' after Frederic Blancke, 26, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for strangling and stabbing Mrs Jones. But yesterday she wrote to the French president, Francois Mitterrand, expressing disgust at the sentence and asking to discuss the case. Mrs Cottrill said: 'I know I said I would never go back but, if I felt it would help, I would go immediately.'

Blancke, a hospital radiographer, was convicted of unpremeditated murder by a court in Beauvais, north of Paris, on Saturday. Because he has already served nearly four years since his arrest, he could be free again by 2000.

The court heard that he tried to strangle Mrs Jones, 26, from Kingsbury, Warwickshire, as she cycled alone through countryside near Compiegne, 45 miles north-east of Paris, in August 1989. Finding her alive when he returned to the scene later, he slit her throat. Blancke was said to have committed the crime to 'punish' women after his girlfriend rejected him.

Mrs Cottrill, 53, speaking from her home in Colwyn Bay, Clwyd, said the court was 'biased' because her daughter was English. 'In the end, the jury looked after their own. How can they say it was not premeditated when he returned to the scene and stabbed her?'

Mrs Cottrill has also written to John Major to ask him to intervene in the case. 'We want to see representations made at the highest level. In the past, the Government assured us that the French would handle the matter. Now that an injustice has been done, I expect the Government to get involved.'

Mrs Jones's former husband, Mark, 30, from Grandborough, Warwickshire, is expected to consult the family's lawyer today about increasing the sentence. Under French law, the prosecution can lodge an appeal against a sentence within a week.

A Downing Street spokesman said the matter would be referred to the Foreign Office. But a Foreign Office spokesman said that Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, who is in Paris today, would not raise the matter with the French government, adding: 'We can't interfere in the judicial process of another country.'

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