Hélène Pastor murder: Was the shooting of the Monaco billionairess an inside job?

The murder shocked the principality – but not as much as the identity of the man who appears  to have ordered it

Wojciech Janowski, 64, is a “deliciously charming” man; a man of “exquisite politeness”; a man of great taste.

He shared the life of the daughter of the wealthiest woman in Monaco. He was honorary consul of his native Poland. He was honoured by President Nicolas Sarkozy for his charitable works.

He is also, according to French investigators, a calculating but blundering murderer. Today he was formally accused of hiring two small-time hoodlums from a Marseille slum to murder an elderly multibillionaire who was the mother of his unmarried partner.

Seven people – Mr Janowski, his personal trainer, the alleged gunman and his accomplice and three other people – were placed under formal investigation for assassinat, or premeditated murder.

Hélène Pastor, 77, the heir to an immense real estate fortune, an elegant, shy woman known as the “deputy princess” of Monaco, was ambushed in her car outside a Nice hospital on 6 May. 

Brice Robin, the state prosecutor in Marseille, said that, after four days in custody, Mr Janowski had admitted to paying €200,000 to have the billionaire murdered. He claimed that he did so because she had “refused to accept him as part of the family” and because she had “imposed constant suffering” on her daughter.

The prosecutor said that the real motive was “probably to lay hands on” Ms Pastor’s €20bn fortune.

Mr Robin said that the investigation had “completely cleared” the dead woman’s daughter, of all involvement in the plot. Sylvia Pastor, 53, is said to be in a “state of abject shock” after being released from police custody in Nice on Thursday.

The mysterious killing of Hélène Pastor deeply perturbed the heavily protected and wealth-cushioned world of Monaco. The murder of the shy billionaire and her chauffeur-butler, Mohamed Darwich, 64, was seen by some as the start of a drive by the Russian or Italian mafia to invade Monaco’s lucrative real estate market. It now appears that it was a straightforward question of family jealousy and greed.

Wojciech Janowski pictured with his wife Sylvia Pastor. He has been placed under formal investigation for premeditated murder Wojciech Janowski pictured with his wife Sylvia Pastor. He has been placed under formal investigation for premeditated murder (Getty)

Mysteries remain, however. Why should such an apparently respectable and much-admired man stoop to murder? How did he hope to get away with such an amateurish attack on one of the wealthiest people in Europe?

On 6 May, a gunman stepped out of the shadows of a hospital car park near Nice. He fired two shots from a sawn-off hunting rifle through the windscreen of Hélène Pastor’s car just after she had visited her son.

The chauffeur Mr Darwich died four days later. Ms Pastor, struck in the jaw, chest and neck by more than 50 lead pellets, died eight days after the attack. A few days before she died, she told police she had no enemies.

The Grimaldi dynasty, started by an Italian adventurer in the 14th century, constructed Monaco politically. The Pastor dynasty, started by a poor Italian stonemason in the 20th century, built 80 per cent of the tiny principality’s brutal skyline and still owns a large chunk of it.

Despite W Somerset Maugham’s definition of Monaco as a “sunny place for shady people”, there has never been any hint of illegal activity by the Monégasque “second family”. Hélène Pastor liked to walk her dog without a bodyguard on the manicured, and heavily policed, streets of the principality. She rarely attended society functions.

For three days after his arrest on Monday night, Mr Janowski, 64, denied all allegations.  Investigators say that on Thursday evening he began to confess. He said that he had commissioned his personal sports trainer, Pascal Doriac, to find someone who would kill his de facto mother-in-law. 

There followed an extraordinary tangle of blunders. Mr Doriac, who trains some of the wealthiest families in Monaco, told police that he had contacted “middle men” in the Marseille area. They put him in touch with an ex-gendarme. After taking money to commit the crime, the former gendarme dropped out but supplied ammunition and the names of the men who eventually attacked Ms Pastor.

From the beginning, French investigators were puzzled – not by the professionalism of the attack but by its clumsiness. The gunman and his apparent accomplice wore no masks or hoods, just baseball caps. The gun used was not the weapon of choice of a hired assassin. Neither victim died instantly.

Examination of footage from security cameras and the mobile phones of bystanders rapidly established the movements of the two attackers that day. They had arrived in Nice by train from Marseille. They had checked into a cheap hotel, showered and changed. They took separate buses to the hospital. They escaped on foot and then by bus. They then bargained with a taxi driver and paid him €500 to drive them 158km back to Marseille.

None of this suggested that the hit men were seasoned professionals. DNA evidence from a tube of shower gel in their Nice hotel and the CCTV images led investigators to two small-time criminals from the northern suburbs of Marseille. The pair, formally accused of murder today, were named  as Alhair Hamadi, 31, and Samine Said Ahmed, 24, the latter born in the Comoros in the Indian Ocean. 

The prosecutor Mr Robin said that the killing of Mr Darwich, the chauffeur, was also premeditated – intended in some way to confuse investigators and make them think that he was the target.

Mr Janowski has been a familiar figure in the upper reaches of Monégasque society for decades. He worked at one time as a senior manager of the state-owned hotels and casinos that provide a large part of the tax-free principality’s income. His unmarried relationship with Sylvia Pastor goes back only four years.

Elizabeth-Ann Croesi-Notari, another member of Monaco high society and honorary consul for the Dominican Republic, said: “He is a deliciously charming man, a man of great taste, always well turned out. And to think that we used to kiss each other on the cheek.”

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam