French taxi driver on trial for Swede’s murder

Bruno Cholet, a serial rapist who operated an illegal taxi in central Paris, goes on trial in Paris on Tuesday for the 2008 kidnapping and murder of Swedish student Susanna Zetterberg.

Cholet, 55, denies the charges in what was one of the most shocking murder cases in France in recent years. He faces spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted in a trial scheduled to run until September 14th.

Zetterberg, a 19-year-old from Stockholm who was studying French and working part-time in a cafe in the French capital, was last seen leaving a nightclub at around 4:45 am on Saturday April 19, 2008.

Her partly burnt body was discovered in the Chantilly forest, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Paris later the same day.

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.

Zetterberg also had a bruise on her forehead, which prosecutors allege was the result of a blow inflicted by Cholet to force her to give him the PIN codes for her bank cards.

The blonde student had spent the latter part of the night at La Scala nightclub near the Louvre museum in central Paris.

She decided to leave before her friends and her last contact with them was a mobile phone call to one of them in which she said she was on her way home in a “strange” taxi.

Investigators established that her bank cards had been used to make withdrawals of 100 and 200 euros from two different cash machines between 6 and 7am.

One of the ATMs was surveyed by a security camera which recorded a stocky man of similar build to Cholet making the withdrawal. The man was wearing glasses and his face was partly covered by a scarf.

Cholet was arrested six days after the murder, police having been led to him after going through files on unlicensed taxi drivers.

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

In 1978 he was sentenced to six years in prison for a rape committed two years earlier, when he was 19. In 1989, he was given an 18-year sentence for two rapes — one of a 15-year-old — and the kidnapping of a minor.

According to the prosecution case, a pistol, bullets, rubber gloves and handcuffs were found in Cholet’s car shortly after his arrest. DNA traces from both Zetterberg and Cholet were found on the pistol.

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.

The prosecution will also present evidence from another young woman who had been picked up by the unlicensed taxi driver a week before the murder and believes she narrowly escaped abduction by jumping out of the car.

Cholet maintains he had nothing to do with Zetterberg’s murder and has accused the police of fabricating the evidence against him.

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Slain Swede’s accused killer sentenced to life

An illegal Paris taxi driver was sentenced by a French court on Friday to life in prison for the brutal murder of a Swedish student four years ago.

Slain Swede's accused killer sentenced to life

Bruno Cholet was convicted of killing 19-year-old Susanna Zetterberg after he picked her up outside a Paris nightclub in the early hours of April 19, 2008.

Cholet had maintained to the victim’s parents and brother that he was innocent as the judge retired earlier on Friday afternoon.

“I am innocent… I never met your daughter and I did not kill her. I want you to leave this courtroom, to leave France, with that certitude,” Bruno Cholet told the family members who had sat through the two-week trial.

A prosecutor on Thursday demanded that Cholet be sentenced to life in prison with a stipulation that he serves a minimum of 22 years behind bars for the 2008 murder of 19-year-old Susanna Zetterberg.

Cholet has repeatedly denied having murdered the language student after picking her up in his illegal taxi outside a Paris nightclub in the early hours of April 19, 2008.

Her body was recovered later the same day in Chantilly forest north of the capital.

She had been shot four times in the head, had her hands tied behind her back with handcuffs and her corpse was so badly burnt police were unable to establish whether she had been sexually assaulted.

The prosecution case rests on evidence that the DNA of both Cholet and the victim were found on a gun recovered from his car.

Cholet claims the police fabricated the evidence in a bid to frame him after he refused to become an informer.

A psychiatrist who testified earlier in the trial described the 55-year-old as having a “psychopathic” personality that was unlikely to be reformed by specialist treatment.

AFP/The Local

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