Playboy jailed for murder of casino heiress 30 years on

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The Independent Online

Almost 30 years after she disappeared without trace, the murder – or presumed murder – of the French casino heiress Agnès Le Roux has been avenged.

Although her body has not been found, a French appeal court jury decided yesterday that Mme Le Roux was murdered in October 1977 by her lover, Jean-Maurice Agnelet, a Nice lawyer. The verdict completed a 30-year struggle by the missing woman's mother, Renée Le Roux, 85, to prove that her daughter was murdered and that Agnelet, 69, who was jailed for 20 years, was the killer.

However, the long saga of the "Affaire Le Roux" – a story of casinos, corruption and organised crime on the Côte d'Azur – may still not be over. Lawyers representing Agnelet said the verdict was a "judicial scandal" and vowed to fight the decision all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Two previous trials have ended in Agnelet's acquittal. His lawyers had argued that it was impossible to convict a defendant of murder without proving "when, where or how" it had occurred.

The appeal court jury had heard that the missing woman had fallen under Agnelet's influence soon after inheriting part of her family's casino, Le Palais de la Méditérranee, in Nice. She had broken with her mother and voted for another casino company – allegedly connected with the local mafia – to take over Le Palais.

In return for this vote, she had received £300,000 from the rival casino bosses. The money had been paid into an account held jointly by Mme Le Roux and Agnelet. Soon after her disappearance, he moved the money to his own account.

At the appeal hearing, the prosecution said Agnelet had seduced a "vulnerable and idealistic" young woman to serve his own ends. She had wanted to marry him. By murdering her, he was able to take the money and reclaim his "liberty".

After the verdict, Mme le Roux's mother said: "It's the end of an enigma but that won't bring back my daughter. Alas, I will never see her again."

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