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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 19:51 GMT 20:51 UK
France fixated on 'orgy' scandal

By Caroline Wyatt
BBC, Paris

This has been the scandal to end all scandals in France - a potent brew of sex and politics served daily by the country's media.

It has slavery, sado-masochism, rape, drugs and murder.

Dominique Baudis
Mr Baudis has asked to be put under official investigation
Even a French Government spokesman has admitted that the country is transfixed by "l'affaire Alegre".

The French public has been treated to almost daily updates from Toulouse, where the allegations are that senior city officials not only covered up for a serial killer, Patrice Alegre, who says he organised sado-masochistic orgies for them, but that they even ordered some of his killings to protect themselves from blackmail.

Alegre's allegations are backed up by two prostitutes, known as Patricia and Fanny, who have named one of the investigating chief prosecutors on the case, Jean Volff, as being among those involved in the affair. He denies any wrong-doing, but has stood down from his job.

Unexplained disappearance

But the politician who has suffered the most damaging accusations is the veteran French politician Dominique Baudis, head of the independent broadcasting watchdog, the Conseil superieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), and a former mayor of Toulouse.

He has led a vocal anti-pornography campaign over the past year, and says the accusations are a political vendetta intended to smear his name.

He is also a member of the ruling centre-right UMP.

Unusually, Mr Baudis has asked to be put under official investigation so that he can clear his name and allow his lawyer to gain access to any evidence in the case.

The whole affair began in 1997, when a special homicide squad began to investigate the unexplained disappearance of 115 women and girls in the Toulouse region dating back to 1992.

As a result of the investigation, Patrice Alegre was jailed for life in February 2002, on six charges of rape and five murders.

Official cover-up?

The convicted serial killer is now awaiting trial for five other killings and one alleged rape, and - while admitting to two of the murders, that of prostitute Line Galbardi and transvestite prostitute Claude Martinez - has begun making his own accusations against public figures.

Patrice Alegre
Alegre worked in a police canteen
He now claims that Dominique Baudis was one of several people - including a judge and a senior policeman - involved in ordering the murder of the transvestite in 1992, because of a blackmail threat linked to sado-masochistic orgies allegedly attended by those same officials.

No-one in France is quite sure what to believe.

There has been so much publicity that some mud is bound to stick. Some French officials have even admitted there may have been an element of official cover-up when Alegre's crimes were first investigated.

Alegre, the son of a policeman, certainly had friends among the law enforcement authorities. He even worked for a while in the police canteen in Toulouse before becoming known as a pimp running much of the city's prostitution.

Male prostitute

He claims to have provided under-age girls for sadomasochistic orgies which allegedly took place at a courthouse and at a chateau owned by the Toulouse town council.

In a letter he sent secretly from his prison cell to a French TV presenter, Alegre said that Patricia and Fanny had told the truth when they testified to police that he had murdered two other prostitutes, but went on to name several figures he said had ordered the killings.

In the letter, he wrote that during a meeting in a mansion in Toulouse he had been ordered to "shut Martinez up" by officials who had taken part in group sex at the orgies. Martinez was a male prostitute who had filmed the guests with a hidden camera, and was planning to blackmail officials with the evidence.

Alegre said that during the orgies, "everyone had sniffed coke as hard as they could". But, he said, he "imagined this affair would be covered-up, because all the people implicated in it are people with power".

However, that may not be so. Other magistrates, politicians and businessmen are due to be questioned as part of the inquiry, and the fallout could be massive.

Even the government has admitted that the affair is an "important" one. In the meantime, members of the French public are waiting with bated breath for the next instalment of "l'affaire Alegre", to see if the serial killer manages to back up his allegations.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Chris Bockman
"The man at the centre of it all, Patrice Alegre has started to tell his story"



SEE ALSO:
French 'orgy' storm grows
02 Jun 03  |  Europe



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