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Last Updated: Friday, 10 November 2006, 20:14 GMT
French sportsman guilty of murder
Former French captain Marc Cecillon. File photo
Marc Cecillon won 46 caps for France
Former French rugby captain Marc Cecillon has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for murdering his wife.

Cecillon, 47, had admitted shooting his wife, Chantal, with a revolver at a party in 2004 but had denied murder.

Cecillon, who won 46 caps for France between 1988 and 1995, said he was depressed and drunk at the time and did not intend to kill her.

But the court in Isere found him guilty of murder, rather than the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

His 20-year sentence was five years longer than that requested by the prosecution.

The case has received huge media coverage in France.

'Crime of passion'

Summing up on Friday, prosecutor Francoise Pavan-Dubois said Cecillon had not acted on the spur of the moment but had planned to kill his wife.

Why did I shoot? It is a question I shall ask myself all my life
Marc Cecillon in court

Cecillon shot his wife five times at point-blank range during a garden party in the town of Saint-Savin on 7 August 2004.

He was reported to have arrived at the party drunk and slapped the hostess for no apparent reason before being asked to leave.

Mrs Cecillon refused to leave with him, the court heard. He went home and returned shortly afterwards, when he pulled out a Magnum handgun and shot her in the presence of about 60 witnesses.

"I wanted my wife to come back with me. I wanted the two of us to leave together," he said in court.

"Why did I shoot? It is a question I shall ask myself all my life. I didn't plan anything. I wish I could understand."

A dozen people struggled to overpower the 1.92m-tall (6ft 4in) sportsman before police arrived.

Clemency plea

His lawyers said it was a crime of passion, committed under the influence of alcohol.

They argued that the incident happened while the former captain - described as "the calm man of rugby" - was in the grip of depression sparked by his retirement as a top sportsman.

During an emotional intervention in court, Cecillon's 26-year-old daughter Angelique, who had not spoken to her father since the murder, began sobbing.

"I don't think my father intended to kill my mother," she said.

She then begged the jury to show clemency, telling them that she missed both her parents and that her father had already been punished enough.


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