Verdict on Briton due in France's 'Lady in the Lake' trial

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A verdict was due Friday in the trial of a Briton accused of killing his wife and dumping her body in a lake in France in what has been dubbed the "Lady in the Lake" case.

Robert Lund, 59, is on trial in southern France for the third time, having appealed against his 2007 conviction for involuntary manslaughter.

Lund reported his 52-year-old wife Evelyn missing on New Year's Day 2000, telling investigators he believed she had an accident after drinking heavily and setting off to visit friends in the picturesque rural Tarn region.

Her body was found in her car in nearby Lake Bancalie two years later when a drought lowered the water level. Lund was arrested and later sentenced to 12 years in jail. He lost his first appeal but is now trying again.

The Lunds moved to the Tarn region, home to a large British expatriate community, in 1997, and rebuilt a farmhouse in the village of Rayssac.

As testimony in the case wrapped up on Friday, Evelyn's family painted a picture of Lund as an abusive husband who coveted his wife's money, inherited from a first husband who died of cancer.

The family has accused Lund of being after Evelyn's life insurance, the policy for which was changed in 1996 to make him the sole beneficiary, cutting out her three daughters.

"Robert was very physical with my mum but he was also torturing her mentally," said Evelyn's daughter Elizabeth Taylor, who along with her twin Patricia, both 42, testified on Friday.

Elizabeth said that often when the family called Lund could be heard "shouting and screaming in the background".

She said her mother had been considering divorce but that Lund warned her that "he would get half the house and try to get most of her pensions".

Asked about evidence presented earlier that he had discussed financial matters shortly after his wife's death, Lund told the court he was distressed and not thinking clearly.

"If one of your loved ones disappeared, would you follow a procedure A B C D?" he said. "Nothing was normal at that time".

Evelyn's brother, Gerard Wilkinson, told the court the family had suffered a "huge burden and distress" following her disappearance and the subsequent trials.

"Evelyn's disappearance, the discovery of her body, the long investigation, three trials, have placed an unbearable stress on the family," he said.

Lund's lawyer, Apollinaire Legros-Gimbert, had argued earlier in the week that there were enough uncertainties in the case, including over the cause of Evelyn's death, to raise hopes of an acquittal.

Legros-Gimbert admitted that his client was taking a risk with the new trial as he could be found guilty on the more serious charge of murder and face longer in prison.

He said the fact Lund was willing to take that risk was evidence of his innocence.

The verdict was due late Friday.

© 2011 AFP

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