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Son-in-law retracts confession in Monaco heiress killing

The son-in-law of a Monaco heiress gunned down in a Mafia-style contract killing has retracted his confession to ordering the shooting, saying he did not fully understand police.

MARSEILLE: The son-in-law of a Monaco heiress gunned down in a Mafia-style contract killing has retracted his confession to ordering the shooting, saying he did not fully understand police.

In an appearance before a bail judge, Wojciech Janowski "retracted his statements made while in custody" and "denies having ordered" the killing in May of 77-year-old Helene Pastor, his lawyer Erick Campana said.

Prosecutors said last week that Janowski, a 64-year-old who had served as Poland's honorary consul in Monaco, confessed to masterminding the killing of his partner Sylvia's billionaire mother.

But Campana said Janowski had "misunderstood the meanings of the terms used by police and was speaking in French while he does not understand all the nuances of our language".

Campana said he would demand an appeal court nullify Janowski's detention -- and statements made while in custody -- because he did not have access to a lawyer or interpreter during his 96 hours in custody.

The judge nonetheless confirmed that Janowski must remain in custody pending trial.

Janowski was arrested early last week by police investigating the shooting of Pastor multiple times with a sawn-off shotgun as she was leaving a hospital in the French Riviera city of Nice.

Her driver, Mohammed Darwich, 64, also died from injuries sustained in the May 6 attack.

Janowski was charged after prosecutors said he confessed to the contract killing, for which he allegedly spent some 250,000 euros ($340,000) to hire two alleged contract killers.

The two men -- a 31-year-old and a 24-year-old originally from the Comoros islands and living in Marseille's rough northern districts -- were also apprehended last week and charged.

Janowski's personal trainer was also charged with allegedly organising the murder and acting as a go-between with the killers.

Prosecutors had alleged Janowski ordered the killing "to lay his hands on the inheritance" due to Sylvia, Pastor's eldest daughter.

Sylvia was initially detained in the case but later released without charge. The two have been in a relationship for 28 years and have a teenage daughter.

Helene Pastor had inherited a huge real estate and construction business set up by her Italian grandfather Jean-Baptiste Pastor, a stone mason who moved to Monaco in 1880.

As the sleepy principality on the French Riviera slowly grew into a playground for the world's rich and famous, the family's fortune skyrocketed.

The real jackpot came in 1966 when Prince Rainier, whose fairytale wedding to Hollywood actress Grace Kelly helped catapult Monaco to international fame, gave permission to Helene Pastor's father Gildo to build high-rise buildings along the seafront.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Janowski heads a Monaco nanotechnology firm and an oil business, and is involved in numerous charities in the principality.

After he was charged, Poland announced it was stripping Janowski of his title of honorary consul "because of the loss of the irreproachable reputation that is essential for this role".

It noted that as an honorary official Janowski did not enjoy diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution.

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