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Paris cabbie gets life for Swede's 'heinous' killing

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09:00 CEST+02:00
A French taxi driver was found guilty on appeal this week for the brutal kidnapping and murder of a Swedish student after picking her up outside a Paris nightclub. His claims that police had fabricated the evidence were dismissed by the court.

The 2008 murder of Susanna Zetterberg, a 19-year-old from Stockholm studying French and working part-time in a cafe in the French capital, caused widespread shock and disgust in France and Sweden after her partially burnt body was discovered near Paris.

Bruno Cholet, 57, was convicted of the kidnap and murder after a trial in September 2012, but he consistently claimed police had fabricated the evidence against him.

Those accusations were rejected this week as Cholet was once again convicted of Zetterberg’s murder and sentenced to life after his re-trial this week. He will spend at least 22 years behind bars.

Cholet, who had already been convicted of numerous rapes during the 70s and 80s, greeted the verdict in silence, according to a report in Le Parisien.

“The proof of Bruno Cholet’s guilt is overwhelming,” said the prosecution attorney Jean-Paul Content. “The criminal danger posed by the accused is no longer in doubt. The justice must play its role in protecting society, said Content, referring to the killing of the young student as a “heinous crime”.

Zetterberg was last seen leaving a nightclub and entering a taxi in central Paris at around 4:45 am on Saturday April 19th, 2008.

Later the same day her partially burnt body was discovered in the Chantilly forest, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Paris. She had been shot at least four times in the head and had her hands tied behind her back with a brand of handcuffs sold in sex shops.

The state of her body made it impossible to establish if she had suffered a sexual assault.

Traced though files on unlicensed cab drivers and images of a man seen using Zetterberg's bank cards following the murder, Cholet was arrested six days after her killing.

Shortly after his arrest, a pistol, bullets, rubber gloves and handcuffs were found in Cholet's car, some of the material containing traces of Zetterberg's DNA, according to the prosecution case.

Police also reported the discovery in the car of a plastic bag with the victim's name written incorrectly as "Susana 377" on it in felt pen.

As well as having been charged five times for operating an illegal cab, the accused has a string of serious convictions, including three for rape and one for armed robbery.

At the original trial Zetterberg's mother, father and brother were seated in the front row, surrounded by their lawyers and a Swedish interpreter.

"We hope that maybe, finally, the truth will be told," the family's lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne told journalists outside the court at the time.

Zetterberg's mother Åsa Palmqvist told French media on the eve of the 2012 trial that she was convinced Cholet was guilty.

"The important thing is to convict him, to prove that it was him. I will never be able to forgive him," she said, adding: "We are not expecting him to confess."

Cholet's lawyers however had said the accused continued to deny any involvement in the killing and claimed police had set him up by planting evidence.

"The investigation was based from the outset on his guilt," said defence lawyer, Luc Ravaz at the time of the original trial.

Those allegations were rejected this week.

This story was originally published in The Local France

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