British ex-soldier and 12 others on trial for French millionaire kidnapping

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In 2016, Jacqueline Veyrac, an 80-year-old owner of the Cannes hotel, found her car tied and gagged

A former British soldier is on trial in France on Monday with 12 others for the suspected abduction of a wealthy hotel heiress. In October 2016, 80-year-old Jacqueline Veyrac, the owner of the Cannes five-star Grand Hotel, was snatched from the street near her home. After being held bound and gagged for 48 hours in the back of a Renault Kangoo, she was discovered two days later, where she was forced to sleep on a filthy mattress. Three years earlier, Veyrac, who also owns the La Reserve restaurant in Nice, had been the victim of another kidnapping attempt. Giuseppe Serena, the former manager of La Reserve, is the key suspect. Prosecutors allege that after she terminated his contract in 2009, he held a bitter grudge against Veyrac. In order to extort a ransom with which he hoped to open a new restaurant, he is accused of arranging and ordering her abduction. 67 Serena is also accused of organizing a failed attempted kidnapping in 2013. He is suspected of “aiding and abetting kidnapping and attempted extortion as part of a gang,” but denies involvement in any scheme to abduct the wealthy owner of the hotel. Former British soldier Philip Dutton, 52, is also in the dock, accused of engaging in the kidnapping and plot of 2013. According to investigators, he allegedly intended to demand a ransom of EUR 5 million, retaining 10 percent, but was apparently unable to reach the Veyrac family. On Monday, October 24, 2016, two masked men ambushed Veyrac as she was about to get into her SUV and bundled her into a stolen van. One of the kidnappers reportedly threatened to kill her if she made a sound, and she told police she was forced to drink a sedative. Veyrac repeatedly kicked the interior of the vehicle when the van was stopped and the kidnappers were away, alerting a passerby who rescued her and alerted the police. Investigators later said that Veyrac had acted heroically, attempting to escape her captors several times and rejecting the food they provided. Among the other defendants is former paparazzo turned private investigator Luc Goursolas, 50, identified as Tintin, who is accused of putting a tracking device on the car of Veyrac. In 2016, Nice prosecutor Jean-Michel Prêtre said that the abduction was “particularly violent” and that Veyrac was bound to her ankles and wrists with plastic cuffs and blindfolded and gagged at one point. When Veyrac attempted to flee, “she was threatened with further violence and her bonds were tightened,” he added. “When she was found, she had injuries in the places where she had been bound because she had tried to break free … she suffered a very real ordeal. “Dutton, from Liverpool, told his lawyer that he had served in the special forces of the British military and suffered serious burns in a 2011 mine explosion in Afghanistan. He said he was homeless in Nice and slept on the beach, where he encountered one of the other suspects. The Grand Hotel on the famous Croisette of Cannes is popular with celebrities attending the annual film festival and other French Riviera VIP tourists.

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