Prosecution calls for life sentence in Monaco heiress murder trial

A police officer investigates a car at the site where Helene Pastor and her driver were shot dead (AFP pic)

AIX-EN-PROVENCE: French prosecutors Monday called for the maximum life sentence for Poland’s former consul in Monaco who is on trial for ordering the murder of a billionaire heiress over an inheritance dispute.

Helene Pastor, 77, and her driver, were gunned down in her car by two hitmen in the southern French city of Nice on May 6, 2014 in a crime that shocked the wealthy community on the French Riviera.

Wojciech Janowski, the main defendant suspected of ordering the death, is a former partner of Pastor’s daughter, Sylvia. He was Poland’s honorary consul at the time of the hit.

Janowski is accused of paying the hitmen with money he siphoned from the allowance that Pastor gave her daughter.

Investigators believe he was driven to act because he feared that Sylvia, ill with cancer at the time, might die before she inherited her mother’s fortune, cutting off his cashflow.

Prosecutor Pierre Cortes also called for life sentences for the two hitmen in a trial that has gripped the French Riviera and made headlines throughout the country.

The killing shocked the tiny principality of Monaco, where Pastor’s family had built up a huge real estate portfolio of around 4,000 apartments.

Helene Pastor and her 64-year-old driver Mohammed Darwich were gunned down as the heiress left a hospital where she was visiting her sick son.

Janowski, dressed impeccably as he stood in the dock, allegedly promised the killers 140,000 euros ($160,000) for killing the heiress and an extra 20,000 euros for the chauffeur.

The Marseille connection

A total of 10 people are currently on trial in the southern French town.

The prosecution described the ten as part of “a network” extending from the “splendours of Monaco to the slums of Marseille” where the hitmen were allegedly recruited.

Janowski initially admitted under police questioning to ordering the hit to get his hands on part of Pastor’s estate, estimated at 12 billion euros (US$14 billion).

The Pole, who speaks fluent French, later retracted his confession, saying he had misunderstood the questions.

Also on trial are Pascal Dauriac, Janowski’s personal trainer, who is charged with helping him set up the hit, and who has confessed to his part in the plot.

Prosecutors called for him to be given a 30-year sentence.

Janowski allegedly won over Dauriac to the plot with gifts, while suggesting he would be doing Sylvia a good turn by delivering her from a “tyrannical mother”.

Janowski is accused of having squirrelled away a large chunk of money given by Pastor to her daughter over the years.

“Sylvia’s illness has deteriorated, we have to get rid of the old woman. Can you help me?” Dauriac quoted Janowski as asking him.

Dauriac asked his brother-in-law Abdelkader Belkhatir in nearby Marseille to help him find someone for a “big job”.

He said his brother-in-law found two men — Al Hair Hamadi, who allegedly acted as lookout, and suspected gunman Samine Said Ahmed.

Janowski has dismissed that version of events, alleging that the person behind the murder was in fact Dauriac, who had threatened his family and who demanded money for protection.

The trial is expected to run until October 19.