Pathologists wait for chef's corpse to defrost for autopsy

France is gripped by the macabre case of the acclaimed cook, his wife, and her freezer

As one of the most admired chefs in a gastronomically obsessed city, Jean-François Poinard was known for the freshness and originality of his food. He, of all people, would not have expected to end his days in a freezer.

Mr Poinard's common-law wife has admitted to police in Lyon that she killed the retired chef, 71, during a violent quarrel 18 months ago. Police who raided her jumbled apartment last week found a freezer in the bed-sitting room containing his perfectly preserved, and still clothed, body. Guylène Collober, 51, a former waitress, denied responsibility at first. Then she admitted to punching Mr Poinard in the stomach during one of their many quarrels. She said that he fell awkwardly, struck his head, and died.

After leaving the body in the bathroom for three days, she said she had the idea of buying a freezer. She placed it next to their bed and stowed Mr Poinard's body inside. For 18 months, no one noticed that the retired chef had vanished. He had quarrelled with the rest of his family after starting the relationship with Ms Collober, who was described by investigators as a "loud and exuberant" woman.

Finally, it was Ms Collober who revealed her secret to her daughter from a previous marriage during a drunken conversation earlier this month. After agonising for several days, the daughter approached the police.

When they arrived at Ms Collober's flat last Tuesday she refused to let them in. A locksmith was called. She opened the door but shouted to the officers: "Don't come any nearer!" When they entered the flat, they found what they described as "terrible disorder" and a freezer hidden behind a large pile of washing. Ms Collober said: "You are going to find something." They did.

Investigators initially accepted Ms Collober's story and intended to accuse her formally of "violent behaviour causing a death by accident". Finally, however, she has been placed under formal investigation for "aggravated manslaughter". Under French law, the manslaughter of a husband, or common-law husband, is regarded as more serious than the manslaughter of a third party.

Investigators say that they have ruled out the possibility of a premeditated crime for financial gain. Mr Poinard, who once owned two restaurants, one in Lyon and one north of the city, was a wealthy man. Police found that Ms Collober had continued to claim his €1,100 (£900) a month pension but had not touched his bank and savings accounts.

Neighbours have told police that they often heard violent quarrels between the couple. Mr Poinard had been seen on several occasions with scratches and signs of bruising on his face. "There seems to have been some kind of pathological relationship between them," said Marc Désert, the Lyon public prosecutor. "She is certainly responsible for her actions. She has a narcissistic, possessive, violent character."

Mr Poinard's family, including a son who is a chef in Florida, complained to investigators that Ms Collober had deliberately created a rift with his closest relatives. They had, therefore, not been surprised at his long silence. Before continuing with the investigation, detectives are waiting for Mr Poinard's body to defrost to allow a full autopsy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...