France agog at mother-in-law's murder trial: Flamboyant divorcee in tale of intrigue which features two killings and a staged death

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The Independent Online
A LAWYER barred from practising, Marie-Elisabeth Cons-Boutboul, went on trial in Paris yesterday for complicity in the murder of her son-in-law, a friend of Laurent Fabius, the former Socialist prime minister. She is suspected of hiring the gunman who killed him.

Mrs Cons-Boutboul, 69, who has been in jail for nearly 4 1/2 years, seemed at ease as photographers and television cameras were allowed into the Paris courtroom just before her four-week trial opened.

'The accusation against you is terrible, of complicity in the murder of the father of Adrien (her grandson),' the presiding judge, Yves Corneloup, said. 'I am not guilty,' the accused said. 'It never occurred to me to eliminate Monsieur Jacques Perrot.'

A flamboyant divorcee who invented the death of her ex-husband, Robert Boutboul, to cover up their separation, Mrs Cons-Boutboul has fascinated the French since Jacques Perrot was shot dead on a landing of his block of flats in Paris on 27 December 1985.

Mr Fabius, the best man at Perrot's marriage to Darie Boutboul, then France's best woman jockey, was prime minister at the time and rushed to the scene of the killing, where his distress was caught by television cameras and broadcast nationwide.

A few weeks later, Darie Boutboul was reunited with a father she believed dead in an episode stage-managed by a television racing journalist and carefully recorded on camera.

According to friends, Perrot, who was separated from his wife and was seeking custody of their small son after his wife had refused him access, had planned to have dinner with Mrs Cons-Boutboul on the night of his death to negotiate with his family-in-law, but she phoned just before to cancel. Mrs Cons-Boutboul has consistently denied there was ever any such an appointment.

Mrs Cons-Boutboul was arrested in October 1989. This followed the discovery of the body of Bruno Dassac, a known crook, in the Channel off Le Havre, killed by a bullet to the head. Isauro Figuier, a taxi-driver, said he had introduced Dassac to Mrs Cons-Boutboul when she had asked him to find someone 'to give him (Perrot) a good beating'. Although investigators suspect Dassac was the murderer, there is no material proof and no gun was ever found.

Friends of Perrot speculate that he had conducted his own investigations into Mrs Cons- Boutboul's past and had discovered that she had been barred from practising law after being found guilty of embezzling a Catholic charity which she had represented.

Her lawyer, Bernard Prevost, yesterday denounced the investigation for emphasising her unusual past. 'There is a series of intuitions rather than evidence, based essentially on the character of my client. People will again accuse her of being a mythomaniac, a deceiver,' he said.

'I have looked very closely at the penal code. Mythomania is not a crime in France.'