Bettencourt butler bites back: 'I saw L'Oréal family destroyed'

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'She called for her chauffeur Jean, who had died five years earlier'

L. Bettencourt © DR L. Bettencourt © DR

 

Bonnefoy insisted he acted alone in making the recordings: "As I have already told other police officers1, I acted upon my own initiative. I alone decided to make these recordings, without anybody knowing about it. And it is therefore in full conscience that I decided to pass them on to Madame Meyers. And I then had no idea what she would do with them and she said nothing to me about this subject."

Bonnefoy was then questioned at length about Liliane Bettencourt's health, a subject that is central to her daughter's complaint against François-Marie Banier for 'Abuse of weakness'.

"I saw that her state of health deteriorated very clearly since the death of Monsieur Bettencourt2," Bonnefoy said in his statement. "Very plainly, she had let go of lots of things."

He recalled an incident on Christmas Eve 2006, during a holiday on the Seychelles island d'Arros, when Liliane Bettencourt collapsed in the chapel she and her husband had built on the island. "She got up off the bench and suffered an important faintness in which she lost consciousness."

Bonnefoy said there had been "a large number of incidents involving Madame's memory loss, such as not recognising her staff members or her guests". The former butler revealed more dramatic moments. "She asked me to call the chauffeur, Jean, to take home the countess of Gramont, and I had to delicately explain to her that Jean had died more than five years earlier. On several occasions at the end of the evening in Formentor3 she asked to be taken home to Neuilly, although we were in the Balearic Islands."

He spoke of "extravagant scenes" he had witnessed. "She systematically asked for fish dishes for dinner, [and] took a piece of fish that she would cut up in the bowl of her dog Thomas, who ate at her feet, always using her own cutlery to cut the bits in the bowl, and continued afterwards to use the [same] cutlery for herself. That did not in any way correspond with the discipline and rigour of the Bettencourt household and it would never have happened during Monsieur Bettencourt's time."

"I even personally made sure that this scene never happened before lunch guests, like for example Monsieur de Carolis, who was at the time president of France Télévisions4. I discreetly prevented the dogs from being present in the dining room."

Bonnefoyspoke of other incidents illustrative of Liliane Bettencourt's "disorientation", including one when she wanted "to take the car back whereas she was already home".

He added to his statement: "Taking into account everything I have just told you, I add that I am sad to see Madame's state of health decline and am sickened that anyone could abuse her frailty."

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1: Pascal Bonnefoy was first questioned in June by police investigating the circumstances in which the tapes were secretly recorded, and whether any criminal behaviour was involved.

2: André Bettencourt, a former minister, MP and businessman, died on November 19th, 2007.

 

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The Bettencourt affair is not simply a family feud that pitches France's richest woman against her daughter. Ever since Mediapart's initial revelations of the scandal, it became an affair that engulfed labour minister, and ex-budget minister, Eric Woerth. It carries serious questions about the role of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and has thus become an affair of state.

Mediapart has now compiled its extensive reports about the affair into one explanatory and detailed book, L'Affaire Bettencourt, un scandale d'Etat, ('The Bettencourt affair, a scandal of state'), currently available only in French, and published on October 7th, 2010 by Don Quichotte.