Mistress 'meant to kill' S&M billionaire during sex game

By John Lichfield

The macabre killing of one of France's wealthiest men was an intentional murder and not a "crime of passion", a Swiss jury decided yesterday.

Cecile Brossard, 40, was found guilty of murdering her lover, the financier Edouard Stern, while he was bound helplessly to a chair and dressed in a latex body-suit at his flat in Geneva in February 2005.

The 12 jurors rejected the defence argument that Brossard, a call-girl turned artist, had been overcome by blind passion after her long-term lover M. Stern had called her a "whore".

However, the jury accepted that the French woman had acted in a state of "diminished responsibility". She may therefore be given a relatively short jail term when sentence is passed today.

M. Stern, 50, was one of France's most influential men and a personal friend of the future President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Stern and Brossard had a tempestuous, four-year sado-masochistic affair before they quarrelled over her demands for a payment of $1m as a "token of his love".

After M. Stern first paid, and then blocked, the money, Brossard admitted shooting him during an elaborate sexual game. Her lawyers argued that the killing was a "crime of passion", provoked when the tied-up banker said: "A million dollars is a lot of money to pay for a whore."

Under Swiss law, a lighter sentence can be passed if a murderer is found guilty of a crime of passion. This is defined as an act committed "in a state of violent emotion, or profound disarray, and excused by the circumstances".

After retiring for eight hours, the seven men and five women in the jury agreed that M. Stern had sorely provoked his lover and that she had not murdered him for financial gain. However, they rejected the defence argument that she had been overcome by uncontrollable and "excusable" emotion.

"The jury accepts that Cecile Brossard was in a state of profound disarray," the female president of the jury told the court. "We accept that Edouard Stern behaved in a humiliating, cruel and harassing manner, alternating between statements of love and gestures of contempt."

However, the jurors found that she was herself partly responsible for her own "disarray" because she had been a willing party to a "destructive" relationship. Brossard's murderous act - shooting M. Stern twice in the head and twice in the body - was not emotionally "excusable", the jury decided. She could have "run away, cried or collapsed rather than commit murder".

The jurors also pointed to her "calculating, cynical and manipulative" acts after the banker's death. Brossard attempted to create an alibi by flying to Sydney and then straight back to Europe. This was not the behaviour of a woman still in "profound disarray", the jury said.

Sentence will be passed today after statements by prosecution and defence lawyers. There were suggestions last night that Brossard might be given a jail sentence of only around five years, four of which she has already served awaiting trial.

- THE INDEPENDENT

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