orkmen have discovered a corpse left to decompose for 30 years in the cellar of an abandoned £27m mansion in one of the most elegant areas of Paris.
Restoration of the crumbling property, backing on to the former home of Yves Saint Laurent, has been suspended. Police have opened a murder investigation after finding traces of knife cuts and broken bones.
The former home of poet and playwright François Coppée, which is a short walk from the official residence of the French prime minister, had been left empty for some three decades.
It was sold at auction in January to Jean-Bernard Lafonta, head of an industrial holding group, for €35.1m, nearly six times the reserve price.
Mr Lafonta, 58, started renovating the listed hôtel particulier in the sought-after 7th arrondissement in February. Then workmen stumbled across the body while removing planks and rubble from one of the cellars.
Sabine Lebreton, vice-president of a local group dedicated to preserving the mansion, said: “Everyone was devastated to learn it had been there so long without any of us knowing.”
Papers found on the body indicated that the presumed murder victim was Jean-Pierre Renaud, killed about 30 years ago. “He was someone of no fixed abode with a drink problem,” a police source told Le Monde newspaper. “We could imagine a fight with someone else living on the margin… It’s unclear if he died in the mansion or was brought there, and we may never find out who was responsible. It’s quite possible the murderer is now dead.”
Renaud’s children have been notified and restoration work is expected to start again after the summer. The new owner, who is legally obliged to restore the property exactly as it once was, declined to comment.
Once restored, it is expected to be one of the grandest private homes in the area.