National Post (Latest Edition)
‘Clueless’ gang’s kidnap trial starts
PARIS • A hard- up British former soldier, a private detective and an aggrieved ex- manager of a leading restaurant were among 13 people who went on trial in France on Monday over the botched kidnapping of a millionaire hotel heiress.
The “clueless” characters are accused of snatching Jacqueline Veyrac off the street in October 2016 and keeping her captive in a van for two days before she escaped without paying them the 5 million euros ($ 7.8 million) ransom they were demanding, the Nice court heard.
Their alleged crime started to unravel when their getaway driver had to have his leg amputated so he could not take part. Also, GPS trackers used to follow Veyrac, owner of the five-star Grand Hotel in Cannes, led police to a prime suspect.
Veyrac, 80, who was held bound and gagged in a vehicle on the outskirts of Nice, is due to testify in court on Thursday. After refusing to swallow a sedative, she was finally freed by a passerby who heard her muffled cries.
The suspected ringleader of the plot is Giuseppe Serena, the former manager of Michelin-starred La Reserve restaurant in Nice, who was fired by Veyrac in 2009. The 76-year-old, who denies complicity in the kidnapping and attempted organized extortion, ordered the abduction to obtain cash to open a new restaurant, the court heard.
He was also accused of an earlier botched kidnap attempt on Veyrac in 2013 which also allegedly involved ex-soldier Philip Dutton, whose English accent was picked up during a call to Veyrac’s son. The 52-yearold from Liverpool presented himself as a “builder” in court.
After he was charged, Dutton’s lawyer, Benjamin Charlier, told regional newspaper Nice- Matin that his client had confessed to helping organize the kidnap but had not taken part in it. He said he was doing odd jobs around Nice until he was hired to be part of the gang and promised a payout at the end of the operation.
Serena ’s lawyer questioned claims by Dutton that his client was the mastermind and said he had been turned into the “ideal scapegoat” while being held on remand for four years.
Luc Goursolas a former paparazzo- turned- private detective, who goes by the nickname Tintin, is accused of fitting the tracking devices to Veyrac’s car. Three other suspected gang members from Nice stand accused of carrying out the kidnapping.