Wealthy French sailor was victim of a 'honey trap'

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André Le Floc'h was, by all accounts, a quiet adventurer, a wealthy, retired French civil servant, who loved the sea and women.

Earlier this month, the body of M Le Floc'h was found in the upturned wreck of his trimaran, the Intermezzo, bound hand and foot and weighted, as if ready to be thrown into the Atlantic.

Much else of what happened aboard the 20m yacht after it left the small port of Olhao in southern Portugal on 16 August remains a mystery. But Portuguese and French police now believe that M Le Floc'h, 67, was the victim of murder.

A French couple, Thierry Beille, 51, and Corinne Caspar, 48, who claim to be brother and sister, were formally accused last week of killing M Le Floc'h. They were found floating in a dinghy off Cape Saint Vincent in the Algarve two days after the trimaran put out to sea. Initially, they said that they were victims of a storm and a shipwreck.

When coast-guard divers found the boat's owner tied up in the floating wreckage of the Intermezzo the next day, the couple changed their story. They said that M Le Floc'h had invited them for a trip on his boat. He tried to rape Corinne and they had been forced to tie him up to restrain him. The yacht capsized in a sudden storm and they were unable to rescue him.

That story was also pulled apart. An autopsy on M Le Floc'h found signs that he had been struck on the head and neck. There was no water in his lungs. In other words, he died before the boat sank.

Portuguese police say they believe the couple's motive was to steal the €100,000 yacht. The problem is that neither Corinne Caspar nor Thierry Beille is a skilled sailor. The trimaran capsized in a relatively innocuous storm because they had omitted to drop the centre-board - the retractable keel - when they left coastal waters and sailed out into the Atlantic.

Since M Le Floc'h was an experienced sailor he was unlikely to have made such a mistake. This suggests that he was killed, or at least tied up, before the boat left the Portuguese coast.

But what did a pair of unskilled sailors want with a yacht in the potentailly dangerouswaters off the Algarve? French police speculated at first that there might have been some intention to smuggle drugs or arms, but nothing of the kind has been found aboard the Intermezzo.