Rich hermit 'cut widow from will': New chapter in drama of the Alpine shepherd and the Parisian

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The Independent Online

The villagers of Puy-Saint-Pierre in the French Alps are delighted. Marcel Amphoux has spoken from beyond the grave.

Almost two years ago, Marcel, a toothless but wealthy old hermit, married Sandrine Devillard, a glamorous, blonde Parisian estate agent 25 years his junior. The villagers, suspecting that he was being duped, turned up at the wedding to boo and shout insults.

Seven months ago, Marcel, 68, died in a road accident – apparently leaving his five potentially valuable shepherd's huts close to an expanding ski resort to Sandrine.

The Alpine village turned out en masse once again in December for Marcel's funeral. The parish priest gave a sermon in which he spoke of "manipulation" and said that Marcel had been treated like a "balance sheet, not a person". There was angry muttering when the 43-year-old widow, elegantly dressed in black, tried to hurl herself into Marcel's grave.

The third act in the Alpine drama has now been played out. The hermit's will has come to light, scribbled on the back of an envelope, according to a local lawyer.

The five shepherd's huts – potentially worth hundreds of thousands of euros each if rebuilt as ski chalets – have been left to their local tenants. The rest of Marcel's property has been bequeathed to a so far unnamed beneficiary. The will states that Sandrine should receive nothing. The document was written "in the weeks just before Marcel's death", said the lawyer, Jean-Michel Colmant. "Everyone who has seen it confirms that it is in Marcel's writing. He has clearly stated that he wishes to leave nothing to his wife."

Under French law, there is a strong presumption that property should be left to a spouse or next of kin. Sandrine Amphoux has made no public comment but is expected to contest the makeshift will.

"I don't see why she would give up now after all she has done," said Mr Colmant, who is acting for one of Marcel's tenants.

The short marriage between Marcel and Sandrine made headlines around the world. At their wedding, Sandrine wore a magnificent raspberry-colourd silk dress and carried a jewelled handbag. Marcel wore a grey suit, silk tie and his trademark battered, floppy hat.

Sandrine spent most of her time in Paris, looking after her four businesses, including an estate agency. Marcel continued to live in one of his mountain huts, without electricity or running water.

In reply to villagers who suggested that her interest in Marcel might not be entirely romantic, Sandrine made a pop video shown briefly on YouTube. She skipped through Alpine meadows like Julie Andrews, singing her own composition, "L'Appel du Soleil" (The Call of the Sun). Marcel appeared from time to time with his face covered by a hood.

"Marcel is a man from the Middle Ages, even prehistoric times," Sandrine said at the time. ""I am a true Parisian. I still live there. But I visit my husband as often as I can. To see him and to make him smile."

Marcel Amphoux died in a road accident in late November last year. A car driven by a friend of Sandrine's tumbled from a mountain road in heavy mist. Marcel was killed instantly. The friend was badly hurt.

Foul play was ruled out by the gendarmerie but the driver, now recovered, was tried in Gap last week for manslaughter. The verdict is expected on 27 June.