Mon, Feb 13, 2006 - Page 6 News List

France's showbiz lesbian murder mystery rumbles on

THE OBSERVER , PARIS

After more than a year of inquiries, French investigators believe a lesbian crime of passion is at the center of the unsolved murder of the daughter of a famous actor and her female lover.

The double poisoning suggests undertones of love, greed and jealousy.

Geraldine Giraud, 36, and Katia Lherbier, 32, were both killed and dumped in a storm drain near the home of forester Jean-Pierre Treiber on Dec. 9, 2004.

Geraldine, who had acted in two mainstream films, lived in the shadow of her showbiz parents. Roland Giraud, 63, is a veteran of French film and mother, Maaike Jansen, is an actress.

Katia, openly lesbian, fronted a pop group.

Geraldine and Katia vanished on Nov. 1, 2004, after a weekend at the Giraud country cottage at La Postolle in Burgundy.

They had met on Oct. 14 at the Sens home of Katia's singing teacher, Marie-Christine Van Kempen. Katia lodged with Van Kempen, who is Maaike Jansen's sister, and police are working on the theory that they may have had a relationship.

On Nov. 23, 2004, while police were still looking for Giraud and Lherbier, they arrested Treiber. He had made purchases on the women's credit cards and withdrawn more than 2,000 euros (US$2,380).

He said he knew nothing about their whereabouts and claimed they gave him their cards and pin numbers, telling him to use them. Three weeks later their bodies were found in the drain in front of his house at Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.

A set of Geraldine's keys were found in his garden, as well as a partly melted portable phone.

Treiber had financial problems and had given a small-time crook his savings for a `business venture' that went wrong.

If not for DNA testing, Treiber might have been found guilty alone. Electrical tape used to tie up the victims carried his DNA and traces from two others.

At Van Kempen's flat in Sens police allegedly found the poison chloropicrin -- used to make chloroform, the gas that killed Lherbier and Giraud.

After being questioned and released in March last year, Van Kempen, 51, was taken into custody in November under investigation for complicity to murder.

This week Van Kempen, Treiber and his girlfriend will be confronted with three witnesses in the Sens office of investigating magistrate Mickael Ghir. The witnesses claim they saw the trio plotting the murder at a cafe in Fontainebleau in mid-October 2004.

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