The mystery of the heiress, the chauffeur and the hitman has Monaco in its grip

There has never been the faintest scandal around the principality's 'second' family, yet someone gunned down its matriarch

Paris

The imperturbable world of Monaco, cushioned by wealth, sunshine and secrecy, and this weekend echoing to the sound of Formula One engines, is reeling from a double assault on its two royal families.

Prince Albert has angrily denounced the alleged inaccuracies in Princess Grace, a new Hollywood film, starring Nicole Kidman as his late mother. Meanwhile, Monaco's unofficial "second royal family" is struggling to come to terms with the brutal murder of its matriarch, Hélène Pastor, 77, long known as the "deputy princess" of the tiny principality on the French Mediterranean coast.

Pastor, one of the three heirs to a €20bn (£16bn) property fortune, died last week after being shot in the face and chest while visiting her son in hospital in Nice on 6 May. Last weekend, a few days before she died, Ms Pastor was briefly able to answer questions from French detectives.

The billionairess said that she had no enemies. She had received no threats. She had no idea who might have wanted to kill her.

Rumours are circulating that Pastor might have been the victim of an Italian or Russian mafia "hit", possibly intended as a warning to Monégasque authorities who have been trying to clean up the principality's reputation as a "sunny place for shady people". Pastor's ex-husband, Claude Pallanca, is the Russian consul in Monaco.

Police sources refuse to comment on these rumours but point out that the attack – clumsily conducted in broad daylight with a sawn-off hunting rifle – does not fit the usual pattern of professional killings. The investigation, like all Monaco's affairs, is shrouded in secrecy. There is no suggestion – not even the shred of a hint – that Hélène Pastor, or the wider Pastor clan, has been involved in any kind of illegal dealing.

"When you are rich as they are, and for such a long time, dodgy affairs don't interest you," said Frédéric Laurent, an investigative author and expert on Monaco. "The Pastor family has an excellent reputation. I have never heard of any scandals attached to them."

Hélène Pastor, an elegant woman who looked much younger than her age, was the oldest surviving member of a local family of Italian origin which built, and still owns, 4,000 luxury apartments within the single square mile of Monaco. She liked to walk her dog without a bodyguard on the manicured, and heavily policed, streets of the principality. She rarely attended society dinners or functions.

Almost three weeks ago, Pastor and her chauffeur and butler, Mohamed Darwich, drove the 12 miles from Monaco to Nice to visit her son in hospital. Gildo Pallanco Pastor had suffered a mini-stroke two weeks earlier. As her black Lancia Voyager left the hospital car park just after 7pm, a man stepped forward and fired through the windscreen with what appeared to be sawn-off hunting rifle. Darwich, 64, died four days later.

Pastor, hit in the jaw, neck and chest by more than 50 shotgun pellets, appeared to be recovering before she relapsed and died last Wednesday. Police have investigated the possibility that Darwich might have been the target. This line of inquiry was dismissed when it was discovered that the chauffeur had remained in the car throughout his employer's hospital visit. It would have been easier for the killer to attack him while Pastor was inside the hospital.

The possibility of an unanswered blackmail demand or other grudge has also been investigated. Pastor insisted under questioning last weekend that she had no reason to fear an attack. Twelve passers-by saw the shooting. Closed-circuit security cameras also filmed the scene. Police believe that the attacker escaped in a car driven by a second man.

Several factors suggest that the crime was not the work of professional hitmen. A sawn-off shotgun is the weapon of choice of small-time criminals rather than hired assassins. The attack happened in a very public place. Neither victim died instantly.

What is not in doubt, however, is the interest the case has attracted in the tiny principality which was last confronted with such a murder mystery in 1999 when banking billionaire Edmond Safra was murdered in his Monaco apartment. Lebanese-born Safra, reportedly one of the world's 200 richest men, was killed by a fire – along with one of his nurses, Vivian Torrente – as they sought refuge in a bathroom in the 20-room penthouse.

Another of his nurses, Ted Maher, was jailed for 10 years for starting the blaze.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
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

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past