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France

Court reopens investigation of minister's death, 36 years later

Robert Boulin at the Elysee palace in Paris on 26 September 1979, just weeks before his death
Robert Boulin at the Elysee palace in Paris on 26 September 1979, just weeks before his death AFP

French prosecutors have reopened a case in the 1979 death of French cabinet minister Robert Boulin.

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Boulin, who was labour minister under former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, was found dead in a shallow pond in the forest of Rambouillet south of Paris. At the time an inquest ruled that he committed suicide.

But his family’s lawyer says the court now has new evidence that the minister may have been kidnapped on the night of his death.

His daughter, Fabienne Boulin-Burgeat, has for years dismissed the suicide theory, and has campaigned for the investigation into his death to be reopened.

She believes he was murdered because he had information about corrupt political financing practices.

Boulin’s family had turned to the European Court of Human Rights after prosecutors in Paris refused in 2010 to reopen the case.

That was after a similar dismissal made in 1991, and two previous refusals to reopen the investigation.

Boulin, who was 59 when he died, had been tipped to become a future prime minister, before he was implicated in a property scandal in the weeks leading up to his death.

The initial investigation found that he had killed himself after writing numerous suicide letters referring to the scandal. The letters were never made public, and his family has denied that they were written by Boulin.

The official verdict at the time was that he had drowned after taking barbiturates.

But a witness has now come forward reportedly willing to testify that Boulin was a passenger in a car with two men shortly before his death.

The revelations come after a former police officer told French media in 2011 that he was the first officer on the scene and that it was obvious Boulin had not drowned.

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