Father of missing beauty queen found hanged in France

5th August 2013, Comments 0 comments

The father of a beauty queen who disappeared without trace along with her mother was found hanged Monday in his French Foreign Legion barracks, judicial sources said.

Francisco Benitez, chief warrant officer in charge of recruitment in the Foreign Legion, was discovered in the barracks where he worked in the southwestern city of Perpignan, a source close to the case said.

His daughter Allison, 19, and his wife Marie-Josee Benitez, 53, disappeared on July 14 and have not been seen since, local assistant prosecutor Luc-Andre Lenormand told AFP.

Benitez, a Spaniard who was granted French nationality, left a letter and video behind, and also sent emails to his parents, bosses and friends to tell them he could not stand the suspicions weighing on him.

He said he was innocent and declared his love for his daughter, sources close to the case said.

The two women's disappearance was initially treated as a simple missing persons case -- one of the tens of thousands such incidents that take place every year in France -- especially as husband and wife were separating.

But on Friday, authorities opened a judicial probe into their disappearance, admitting it had become a source of concern. "We can imagine the worst," Lenormand said.

According to Benitez's previous statements to the police, the two women left their home on July 14 with suitcases, without any explanation.

They said they were going to the nearby city of Toulouse. But from then on, their mobile phones were turned off and they took no money out of their accounts.

Allison had been due to take part in the Miss Roussillon contest, due to take place on August 11, which elects a representative for a region of the southwest who will then go on to compete to become Miss France.

According to the contest's committee, the tall brunette was "the most motivated" candidate.

The French Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 to enable foreigners to sign up and fight for France.

© 2013 AFP

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