Suspended sentence for woman who robbed bank 25 years ago

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The Independent Online

Helene Castel, 46, was given a two-year suspended sentence for her part in the May 1980 hold-up at a BNP branch near the Opera Garnier in Paris.

Castel gave a repentant testimony to the three-judge panel at the court in Paris yesterday. "I will never forget," she said. "I will always have a thought for those people who crossed my path and lived pain and suffering. I too can learn."

Her former accomplices testified that she had a minor role, and her lawyer argued that her long-term exile from France, mainly in Mexico, was punishment enough. Castel cried as the verdict was given after the three-day trial.

In the 1980 robbery, Castel, 21 at the time, and her six accomplices, who were all from bourgeois backgrounds, wore wigs and sunglasses and had mopeds for getaway vehicles. The gang, one with a sawn-off shotgun, took hostages but police arrived as they were making their getaway. One of the men, Lionel Lemare, was shot and died and the kidnapped bank manager was badly wounded.

Castel fled to Mexico in 1983 and built a new life as a psychotherapist before authorities hunted her down in May 2004.