French detectives try to unravel bizarre links in Veyrac kidnapping

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Michelin-starred restaurant manager, one-time paparazzo and ex-British special forces man in cast ‘worthy of a best-selling thriller’. When the owner of one of the Côte d’Azur’s most exclusive hotels was snatched off a French Riviera street by three hooded men and bundled into a van, police assumed a ransom note would soon follow.

Forty-eight hours later, after the kidnappers had contacted the family of Jacqueline Veyrac to demand a considerable sum of money for her safe return, a passerby discovered the wealthy widow trussed up in the back of a van fitted with fake licence plates.

Now French detectives are trying to unravel the allegedly “complex” links between a bizarre group after arresting nine people, including an Italian-born former manager of a Michelin-starred restaurant, a one-time paparazzo nicknamed Tintin and a former British secret serviceman who, until his arrest, was reportedly sleeping rough in Nice.

On Sunday, seven members of the eclectic cast were brought before a judge in Nice where, by late afternoon six had been officially put under investigation on various charges, including organising a kidnap, imprisonment and attempted extortion as part of an organised group.

Le Parisien said the criminal group was “worthy of a best-selling thriller”.

The former photographer – reportedly fined in 2005 for a series of snatched photographs of Princess Caroline of Monaco taken in 1996 – reportedly placed tracking devices under Veyrac’s car so he could trace her movement using his mobile phone, according to the local newspaper Nice Matin.

Veyrac, 76, who owns the five-star Grand Hotel on the Croisette at Cannes, was kidnapped as she left a pharmacy and was walking to her 4×4 car parked in Nice seven days ago.

Within hours, the kidnappers had contacted her family to demand a ransom, according to police.

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