The body of Francois de Grossouvre was found just after 8pm on Thursday by his police bodyguard and his chauffeur. De Grossouvre was 76 and said by associates to have been depressed over the past few weeks. A .357 magnum was in his hand and there was a bullet wound to the head. Police said he appeared to have left no suicide note.
It was the second time in less than a year that a member of the Mitterrand entourage had committed suicide. Last May, just a few weeks after the left had been massively defeated in parliamentary elections, Pierre Beregovoy, who had been the Socialist prime minister for under a year until the elections, shot himself in his constituency of Nevers.
As with Beregovoy, there are noises that de Grossouvre was hurt by Mr Mitterrand's recent coolness after years of friendship. Friends also said de Grossouvre, originally a key member of the Elysee staff, with access to security and espionage matters, had been in poor physical health.
Le Monde carried a detailed report under a headline including the phrase 'the hurt friend'. It said de Grossouvre confided that he had tried to warn Mr Mitterrand 'against courtiers who were not disinterested and were greedy for profits and privileges'.
The newspaper said de Grossouvre had been a particular opponent of Roger-Patrice Pelat, another close friend of the President who died in 1989 as investigations were proceeding into alleged insider trading by Pelat. Pelat gave Beregovoy an interest-free loan to buy a flat and this became public about three months before Beregovoy committed suicide.
Le Monde said de Grossouvre had even invited Thierry Jean-Pierre, the investigating magistrate in charge of the Pelat dossier, to his home and said he was writing memoirs about the Mitterrand years on the basis of files he said 'he had put in a safe place'. The daily said Mr Mitterrand had asked de Grossouvre to return these files last August but had met a refusal.
After Mr Mitterrand's first election to the presidency in 1981, de Grossouvre was put in charge of matters that involved liaison with the security services, particularly involving French policy in Lebanon and Africa. Pierre Marion, the head of French espionage services at the time, wrote in his memoirs that de Grossouvre had favoured setting up a parallel security force for the Elysee.
De Grossouvre was removed from this post in 1985 and was made head of the presidential committee which organises informal meetings between the French head of state and foreign counterparts. It was in this capacity that he had an office in the presidential palace.
De Grossouvre was a Resistance double agent in the Second World War and joined the precursor of the collaborationist militia to inform on its activities early in the German occupation. At the end of 1942 he became a member of the Maquis fighting in the area around Grenoble.