Bolivian charged with murdering French couple

11th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors have charged a Bolivian man with kidnapping and murdering a French couple who went missing in late August in the South American country's Amazon region.

"In the past week there has been a formalization of the charges against Jaime Martinez for the disappearance and murder of the two French citizens," Carlos Aponte, the prosecutor in charge of the case, told AFP Monday.

Martinez has been summoned to give testimony Tuesday about the disappearance of Jeremie Bellanger, 25, and Fannie Blancho, 23, who were last seen August 29.

But sources at the French embassy told AFP they believed Martinez had also disappeared before he could be arrested by local police.

"Martinez has gone missing. The police searched his farm on Saturday and found only a plane ticket for an international flight and since Saturday nothing more has been heard of him," said Frederic Laurent, the French consul in La Paz.

Martinez is believed to have befriended the French couple after they met at a discotheque in Guayaramerin, a city of some 47,000 people on the border between Bolivia and Brazil.

The region is known as a lawless area with drug trafficking and high crime rates.

Investigators say Martinez invited the pair back to his dairy farm, which is where he is alleged to have killed them.

Last month, Special Anti-Crime Fighting Force chief Oscar Munoz told ABI news agency he suspected the couple had been killed, adding that Blancho may have been raped before her murder.

Investigators have said they have collected evidence including human hair caught in barbed wire from Martinez's farm.

© 2010 AFP

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