Husband's fury at 'joke' trial

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The Independent Online
THE FORMER husband of murdered schoolteacher Fiona Jones yesterday dismissd as 'a pantomime' and 'a joke' the French court proceedings that sentenced her killer to 15 years imprisonment.

Frederic Blancke, 26, was found guilty of murder with attenuating circumstances and attempted murder, but was not convicted of the more serious charge of premeditated murder. The decision means that Blancke, who has already served nearly four years in jail awaiting trial, may be out of prison by the turn of the century.

Speaking outside the court of assizes at Beauvais, northern France, Mark Jones said: 'We have sat in court for the last three days in a French pantomime. Life is the only sentence that I would consider appropriate.' He added that he was expecting a minimum sentence of 20 years.

As the verdict was announced Mrs Jones's parents, Bruce and Pat Cottrill, and brothers Jonathan and Simon, wept and hugged each other. Their lawyer, Phillipe Ginistet, said he found the result 'shocking'.

Mrs Jones's mother described Blancke as an 'evil man if he is a man'. She was convinced his remorseful performance in court was merely play-acting. Her husband condemned the verdicts and sentence as a 'total charade'.

Earlier, before the jury retired, Blancke had asked for forgiveness. 'I want to tell the family I am aware of the gravity of my acts. I will always regret them sincerely and I will never forget them,' he said. Breaking down in tears, he added: 'Forgive me, forgive me.'

The court had heard from Blancke how he encountered and attacked Mrs Jones, 26, from Kingsbury, Warwickshire, who was on holiday in France with her husband celebrating their first wedding anniversary in 1989.

He jumped on her as she was cycling along a country road near Compiegne, where she was staying with her husband, and tried to strangle her, but believing her dead left her to return home in his car.

After realising he had lost a shoe in the struggle he returned to look for it. When he found Mrs Jones still alive and sitting by the side of the road, he stabbed her in the neck. Blancke, a radiographer, later returned to bury the body in nearby woodland and to dispose of the bicycle.

Mr Jones, 30, now of Grandborough, near Rugby, Warwickshire, stayed for three months in France helping with the investigation. Mrs Jones's father, Bruce Cottrill, of Colwyn Bay, Clywd, also stayed in France.

Blancke was arrested in November 1989, three months after Mrs Jones's disappearance, when police traced him through his missing shoe. He said he had been angry because he had been searching frantically for his girlfriend who was living with another man. He encountered Mrs Jones and attacked her, but he denied there was any sexual motivation for the crime.

Defence lawyer Pier Jacquet told the jury there was probably no 'key' to explain what Blancke did.