'Dr Death' jailed for mutilating women

A French plastic surgeon accused of mutilating 96 women with his scalpel over 15 years has been jailed in Madrid, pending extradition to France where he faces a prison term and a hefty fine.

A magistrate in Madrid's National Court sent Michel Maure, the self-styled "greatest plastic surgeon in the world", into preventive detention following his arrest by Catalan police near Gerona yesterday.

Mr Maure, 59, fled France in June with his family, following his trial in Marseilles on charges of repeated deception and endangering lives, but before the sentence was announced. French prosecutors had called for four years in jail and a 75,000 euro fine for offences between 1990 and 2004.

The surgeon, who has been dubbed 'Dr Death' back home, told the Madrid court that he was holidaying in a family villa in the Costa Brava resort of Empuriabrava and declined to return voluntarily to France. He will remain in a Spanish jail while France's extradition demand is processed.

Hundreds of women subjected themselves to Mr Maure's treatment, attracted by his competitive prices and promises he would make them look more beautiful. But then many complained that their silicone implants slipped, their scars became infected and their plumped-up lips looked deformed. Investigators found that he had treated his patients with expired drugs and illegal animal-based sutures. His surgical installations were "dirty and badly maintained", the court found.

He was accused of leaving his victims physically and psychologically scarred with botched breast implants, liposuction, facelifts and nose remodelling. He failed to administer enough local anaesthetic, inflicting severe agony on his patients, prosecutors said. The remodelled breast of one woman slid to her armpit overnight, the court was told, while another found her shoes filling with blood as she drove home after a terrifying midriff liposuction.

Mr Maure conducted his operations in a clinic in Marseilles and Avignon. He was struck off in 1996, but the prohibition was lifted after two years.

The prosecutor accused him of putting his clients' lives at risk, and the court found him guilty of "false publicity, aggravated fraud, endangering lives and inflicting involuntary wounds." While awaiting sentence, the doctor was supposed to present himself regularly to a French court but within weeks he had disappeared.

Mr Maure was last seen in public with his female companion and three children on board his yacht off Roses on the Costa Brava in July. He apparently hunkered down in a luxury villa in the region seeking, in the words of his defence lawyer, "holiday tranquillity". Catalan police tracked him down earlier this month, but French police didn’t issue the international arrest warrant until Monday, and early Tuesday Catalan police made their move.

The surgeon has never admitted doing anything wrong. During his trial, he watched impassively from the dock as patient after patient described how he had disfigured them, and accusing them of lying "to avoid paying for their operations". He shouted to one victim whom he had stitched up without anaesthesia, "you are lying, you are an actress," and advised her to have her left breast removed "on medical grounds."

When he was arrested in 2004, Mr Maure boasted to police that he carried out 300 operations a year and was "one of the great aesthetic surgeons of the world". He later claimed he was the victim of a plot by jealous rivals. "There was no suffering,” he said.