A $41 million mansion in Paris came with something its new owner didn’t want — a corpse hidden in the basement.
The house at 12 rue Oudinot isn’t just in any old neighborhood. It isn’t far from Les Invalides and the official residence of France’s prime minister, and it’s backed up to the former home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
The mansion’s glory days are long past. It had been empty for about 30 years before it was sold in January to Jean-Bernard Lafonta, a financier. The selling price was 35.1 million euros, which comes to $41.2 million.
But it isn’t the interior courtyard or private gardens that are making news — it’s the corpse that workmen found on Feb. 26. That discovery was kept secret until last month.
“Everyone was devastated to learn it had been there so long, without any of us knowing,” said Sabine Lebreton, vice president of a local neighborhood association.
“In February, just before lockdown, the works were going well. Trucks of rubble left the site every day,” Lebreton told Le Parisien, according to a translation published by the Daily Mail. “Then suddenly, everything stopped.”
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“Historically, it is an important building. Many people lived there, including poet François Coppée,” Lebreton said, according to CNN.
“It’s also about what the place says,” she said. “In the back, there is a huge garden; you can imagine the receptions and social functions. … It’s of another century.”
The corpse was found under a pile of debris and was identified by papers found on the body as Jean-Pierre Renaud.
According to the Guardian’s translation of Le Monde’s report, French police told Le Monde, “He was someone of no fixed abode, with a drink problem.”
The corpse had knife cuts and broken bones, which turned the discovery from grisly to a criminal investigation.
“We could imagine a fight with someone else living on the margin … But it’s unclear whether he died in the mansion or was brought there, and we may never find out who was responsible. It’s quite possible the murderer is himself now dead,” Le Monde reported its police source saying, according to the Guardian’s translation.
“They found him in a place that had not been visited either by the bailiff who had made the report or by anyone else. No one had visited the cellar. I have received an email from a police officer, I sent him to my website, where I disclosed everything I know. They found a dead man,” Bruno Picard, a lawyer who oversaw the house’s auction, said, according to CNN.
“Apparently he had been there for 30 years. It won’t have much impact on the rest of this case. Given the time frame. … I think the owner is about to start work,” Picard said.
Renaud’s children have been told about their father’s death, and Lafonta, the new owner, has declined comment, according to The Guardian.
Renovations, currently paused, are expected to resume.
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