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Polish ex-consul sentenced to life in prison for murder of Monaco heiress

Wojciech Janowski, son-in-law of Monaco heiress Helene Pastor, leaves a police station to the courthouse, Marseille, 27 June 2014. Reuters/Patrice Masante

A French court on Wednesday sentenced Poland's former honorary consul in Monaco to life imprisonment for ordering the murder of his ex-partner's mother, billionaire heiress Helene Pastor.

Pastor, 77, and her driver, were gunned down in her car in the French city of Nice on 6 May 2014.

As well as the lead defendant Wojciech Janowski, the gunman and an accomplice who acted as lookout were also given life sentences.

At first Janowski admitted to orchestrating her death but he later retracted, saying his difficulties with French had made him misunderstand investigators' questions.

Yet after two weeks on trial with nine others suspected of playing a role in Pastor's death, Janowski's lawyer shocked the court on Tuesday by saying his client "is guilty of ordering Helene Pastor's murder".

"These words which you wanted to hear from him come from my mouth. He tried to say these words, he wanted to say them but he couldn't," Eric Dupond-Moretti said as tears flowed down Janowski's face as he sat in the dock.

He argued that Janowski was trying to protect his partner Sylvia Ratkowski from her mother, who had made her life a misery, and that he had not ordered the two hitmen to kill her driver as well.

But that claim has been contested by Janowski's former personal trainer Pascal Dauriac, who is also on trial.

Dauriac says he was ordered to find the two killers and have them murder the driver and steal Pastor's purse to make it look like a robbery.

(with AFP)