By: CECÍLIA PIRES
THE TRIAL of two French citizens accused of murdering André Le Floch, who was also French, while aboard his trimaran, Intermezzo in August 2006 started Wednesday, October 24, at Lagos Court.
The start of the trial was delayed by almost two hours due to the absence of an official translator.
After the judges ordered the beginning of the trial, the arguidos were informed of the charges pending on them but refused to make any statements.
Corinne Gaspar and Thierry Beilly said they did not feel comfortable about making statements in the absence of their French lawyer, who could not attend the opening after being affected by the TAP airline pilots strike.
This action was seen as a public showing that they did not trust their Portuguese lawyer, António Vilar and as a strategy to delay the hearing. After informing the arguidos they were represented by the only lawyer they indicated to the court, the judges ordered the trial to go on.
The session eventually proceeded and lasted for three-and-a-half hours, with Thierry constantly passing notes to his Portuguese lawyer.
At the end of the day, António Vilar told waiting journalists that he was looking at the possibility of renouncing the defence of the two siblings as his “professional ethics were questioned by them” several times during the session.
He said he was going to talk with the arguidos and their French lawyer over the next couple of days and then announce his decision.
António Vilar has been representing the couple since August, when he replaced the court appointed lawyer, Francisco Pagarete, who is now the attorney representing Robert Murat in the Madeleine McCann case.
He said he was “surprised when they refused to speak at the trial because the defence strategy was already decided”.
The lawyer considered this move showed that the defendants were looking for a high profile trial, which is something he was not willing to do.
The accusation against the couple was read by the judge presiding the court session, who explained the arguidos that they were being accused of first degree murder and body profanation as well as robbery.
When asked if they wanted to make any statement, Corinne replied she was not comfortable to do so due to the absence of her French representative, a comment that her brother repeated.
The judge then informed the arguidos that the trial was going to carry on, with the testimonies of the 18 witnesses identified and that if they wish they could talk to the court at any moment of the trial.
At the first session, four witnesses were questioned by the court, three of them inspectors from the Polícia Judiciária and a fourth, Jean Claude Charles, 69, a Swiss friend of André Le Floch, the owner of the Intermezzo.
The PJ agents’ testimonies were about their intervention in the case after the rescue procedures of the boat and during the victim autopsy. They answered the questions from the Public Prosecutor and also from the arguidos’ lawyer, only to confirm their previous forensic reports.
The lawyers representing the relatives of the victim, Carlos Ferreira da Silva, legal representative of the two suns of Le Floch, and António Lopes da Costa, who represents his partner Madamme Durinieux, also reviewed some aspects of their reports.
Jean Claude Charles confirmed to the court that he met Corinne Gaspar on his brother’s boat, which was berthed in Olhão port as well as the Intermezzo. According to his testimony, he was having a meal with his brother and the victim, when a jet-ski approached the boat with a message to Le Floch saying that Corinne was waiting for him on the beach. Jean Claude said that Le Floch left his brother’s boat to pick her up at the beach and returned. That was the moment when he first saw the French woman.
The Swiss witness was then asked to say if he saw the group leaving Olhão port aboard the Intermezzo, on the day that Le Floch was allegedly murdered, and if there was a third person on the boat.
To those questions Jean Claude Charles answered that he was surprised when he saw someone raising anchor on the Intermezzo, although he knew that his friend was planning a trip with Corinne along the Algarve coast to Portimão.
However, confirmed that a third person never was mentioned during that previous lunch, two days earlier.
According to the prosecution, the siblings premeditated the robbery and the killing of the lonely sailor two days before they left Olhão, having seen the Intermezo and decided to get it for themselves against its owner’s will.
The trial is scheduled to continue on November 19 at the Lagos Court House.