Jacqueline Veyrac, 80-year-old owner of the hotel in Cannes, was found tied up and gagged in the car in 2016
A former British soldier was tried with 12 others in France on charges of kidnapping a wealthy hotel heiress.
Jacqueline Veyrac, 80, the owner of the five-star Grand Hotel in Cannes, was torn from the street near her home in October 2016.
She was found two days later after being handcuffed and gagged on the back of a Renault Kangoo for 48 hours, where she was forced to sleep on a dirty mattress.
Veyrac, who also owns the La Reserve restaurant in Nice, had been the victim of another kidnapping attempt three years earlier.
The main suspect is Giuseppe Serena, the former manager of La Reserve. Prosecutors claim he had a bitter grudge against Veyrac after they terminated his contract in 2009. He is accused of organizing and ordering her kidnapping in order to obtain a ransom that he would use to open a new restaurant.
Serena, 67, is also charged with carrying out a failed kidnapping attempt in 2013. He is charged with « complicity in kidnappings and extortion attempts as part of a gang » but denies involvement in both attacks aimed at kidnapping the wealthy hotel owner.
Former British soldier Philip Dutton, 52, is also in the dock and is accused of being involved in the 2013 kidnapping and conspiracy. He allegedly intended to demand a € 5 million ransom to keep 10 percent, according to investigators, but was reportedly unable to contact the Veyrac family.
All 13 defendants were present in the courtroom when the trial opened. Veyrac should be present on Thursday when she is supposed to testify.
On Monday the 24th. October 2016, two masked men ambushed Veyrac when she was about to get into her SUV and put her into a stolen van. One of the kidnappers allegedly threatened to kill her if she made any noise and she told police that she was forced to drink a sedative.
While the van was parked and the kidnappers were absent, Veyrac repeatedly kicked the inside of the vehicle and alerted a passer-by who rescued them and alerted the police.
Detectives later said Veyrac behaved heroically by trying several times to escape her abductors and refusing the food that was offered.
Among the other defendants is former paparazzo private investigator Luc Goursolas (50), known as Tintin, who is accused of installing a tracking device on Veyrac’s car. He admitted to having set up a device but said he was unaware of the kidnapping plan.
Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Prêtre said in 2016 that the kidnapping was « particularly violent » and that Veyrac was held with plastic cuffs on his ankles and wrists and blindfolded and gagged at one point.
When Veyrac tried to flee, « she was threatened with further violence and her bonds tightened, » he added. “When she was found, she had injuries that made her handcuffed for trying to break free … she suffered a very real ordeal. ”
Dutton, from Liverpool, told his lawyer that he had served in the British military’s special forces and that he was badly burned in a mine explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. He said he was homeless in Nice and slept on the beach where he met one of the other suspects.
Located on Cannes’ famous Croisette, the Grand Hotel is popular with celebrities attending the annual film festival and other VIP visitors to the French Riviera.
Kidnapping, France, United Kingdom
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