Missing English lord feared kidnapped on Riviera

22nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

GRASSE, France, Nov 22 (AFP) - Judicial authorities in southern France opened an official investigation Monday following the mysterious disappearance of an English lord who led a colourful life on the Riviera.

GRASSE, France, Nov 22 (AFP) - Judicial authorities in southern France opened an official investigation Monday following the mysterious disappearance of an English lord who led a colourful life on the Riviera.

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, aged 66, has been missing since the afternoon of November 6 when he was seen checking out of the Noga Hilton hotel in the seaside resort of Cannes.

Police launched a preliminary enquiry and an appeal for witnesses last week, but Lord Shaftesbury's lawyer said the case was now seen as sufficiently serious to be consigned to an examining magistrate.

"All hypotheses are open - everything," Thierry Bensaude told AFP when asked whether murder or kidnapping were being considered. "From what I know of him it would not be in his character to disappear like this without letting family and friends know," he said.

Lord Shaftesbury divided his time between Britain and the French Riviera where he was known to frequent hostess bars and other night spots. On the day before he vanished he visited his estranged third wife, a nightclub hostess, in a flat in Cannes.

"He is an aristocrat who threw himself into a world, whose rules he may not have understood," Bensaude said.

"Given his way of life and the type of nightclub that he liked to frequent, it is right to be worried," said an official close to the investigation on condition of anonymity.

According to newspaper reports, police have been looking into a possible link with a criminal inquiry launched earlier this year when Lord Shaftesbury claimed to have been assaulted and robbed by a gang.

The case has generated much interest in Britain, where his family have told newspapers that they are extremely worried about his fate. He had been expected to return to Britain on November 10.

In France the earl's latest girlfriend contacted Nice-Matin newspaper to express her concern about his disappearance.

"I have the feeling something has happened to him," the unnamed mother of two said. "Despite our age differences something was growing between us. ... I don't know any woman on her own who would not be drawn to such an attentive, generous man."

Lord Shaftesbury, who was educated a Eton and Oxford and speaks fluent French, inherited his title from his grandfather when he was 22 years old, along with the family seat at Wimborne, south west England, and its 9,000-acre (3,600-hectare) estate.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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