Restoration of a €35m mansion in Paris has been halted after a 30-year-old corpse was discovered rotting in the basement.
Nestled in the affluent Faubourg Saint-Germain neighbourhood, home to French nobility for centuries, the abandoned complex has been empty since the 1980s.
It was sold in January after a bidding war which lasted just 15 minutes.
The buyer, investment banker Jean-Bernard Lafonta, paid €35.1m (£29.9m) – almost six times the reserve.
On February 26, technicians who were sent in to secure the crumbling 17,000-square-foot building, discovered a cadaver beneath planks and rubble, Le Monde reported.
‘Everyone was devastated to learn it had been there so long, without any of us knowing,’ Sabine Lebreton, head of a local group dedicated to preserving the house, told Le Parisien.
‘In February, just before lockdown, the works were going well. Trucks of rubble left the site every day,’ Ms Lebreton told the paper. ‘Then suddenly, everything stopped.’
A murder probe was launched after broken bones and evidence of knife wounds were discovered on the body.
Identity papers allowed police to reveal the victim was a drunken vagrant, Jean-Pierre Renaud, and forensics teams were able to date his demise to around 30 years ago.
‘He was someone of no fixed abode, with a drink problem,’ a police source told Le Monde.
‘We could imagine a fight with someone else living on the margin … But it’s unclear whether 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 himself now dead.’
Renaud’s next of kin were informed of his death, police confirmed.
Lafonta, formerly of the Lazard Bank, BNP Paribas and Wendel Investissement, has declined to comment since the gruesome discovery at his new property was recently made public.
Restoration of the mansion, just a few minutes from the prime minister’s official residence, is expected to resume after the summer.
The property is being developed into offices for an international company, according to Le Parisien.