Brother and sister held over death of yachtsman

Portuguese police are investigating the death of a retired French civil servant, found tied hand and foot in the wreck of his giant trimaran, which sank off the Algarve.

A French brother and sister are suspected by Portuguese authorities of killing the owner of the yacht, André Le Floc'h, 61, before it sank in a storm, but many details of the incident remain unclear.

French investigators say that there may have been an attempt to steal the trimaran or that the suspects might have been attempting to smuggle arms or drugs. The couple, named only as "Thierry B", 51, and "Corinne C", 48, insist that they are innocent. They told Portuguese police that they tied up the yacht's skipper after he tried to rape Corinne. A storm then struck the vessel and they were forced to abandon ship.

According to Le Figaro, French police have been informed by their Portuguese colleagues that the couple have admitted to killing M. Le Floc'h, in self-defence, before the 20m yacht capsized. The results of an autopsy are expected today.

The mystery - somewhat reminiscent of events in the 1989 movie Dead Calm, starring Nicole Kidman - is deepened by the fact that the couple appear to have no experience of sailing. They made no attempt to alter the sails or otherwise save the boat - the Belgian-registered Intermezzo - when the storm struck last Thursday.

After abandoning ship in a rubber dinghy equipped with a radio, they sent no distress call. They were picked up by a Spanish freighter and at first said nothing about the presence of M. Le Floc'h on board the capsized boat. Finally, they told Portuguese authorities that the owner had been aboard but said nothing about the alleged assault on Corinne or the fact that they had been forced to restrain him.

The body of the owner, tied hand and foot and, according to one account, weighted, was found aboard the floating wreck by Portuguese coastguard divers the next day.

The French couple, who had been recovering from hypothermia in hospital, were then taken into custody.

Corinne shouted to the press after a remand hearing in Lagos in the Algarve: "We are innocent. He attacked us on the boat. There was a storm and the boat capsized. Now, they are accusing us. They are not letting us talk to the [French] consulate or our families. Help us."

French police say that there is some doubt about whether the couple are half-brother and sister, as they claim. Thierry is said to be a known "marginal" or drifter, with a criminal record.

M. Le Floc'h was a retired senior civil servant from Sorinières near Nantes in western France. He was an experienced sailor who had bought and refitted the trimaran.

He often sailed along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, sometimes taking paying passengers, according to French police. His family has refused to speak to the press.

According to the couple's witness statements, leaked to the Portuguese press, the boat's owner tried to rape Corinne as she slept in a cabin, but her brother heard her cries, fought with M. Le Floc'h, knocked him out and bound him. Police have told the French press that they are baffled by the events aboard the trimaran before it sank. Since the couple had no sailing ability, it seems unlikely they tried to steal the boat.

"If the post-mortem finds a wound on the body, everything changes," one French police officer said. "The same if they find drugs or arms aboard. If the couple genuinely have no knowledge of sailing, why would they tie up or kill the skipper? That they were found in a life-raft perhaps backs up their version of events."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas