Woman found buried in shallow grave ‘due to meet man night before going missing’
A woman found buried in a shallow grave had been due to meet a man for coffee the night before she was reported missing, according to a friend.
Scotland Yard launched a murder inquiry after the body of Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34, was discovered in her back garden in Richmond upon Thames, south-west London, on Wednesday evening.
Ms Garcia-Bertaux had been reported missing after she did not turn up for work at public relations company Golin on Monday.
Her friend Daniel Hughes, 27, told the Press Association he had not seen her for about a month, but had spoken to her best friend, who reported her missing.
“I think the last point the CCTV caught her was outside a Sainsbury’s on Saturday evening in Richmond,” he said.
“She was meant to go shopping in Oxford Street on Sunday, daytime. She was meant to meet a man for coffee on the Sunday evening.
“We’re not sure when the murder took place, whether it was Saturday night or Sunday night.
“She was meant to move out of that house on Monday morning.”
Mr Hughes said he found the proposed meeting before his friend’s murder “a bit suspicious” and said he had been told the man was a “charismatic” vet.
“She met him in a shop or something like that and then he must have chatted to her then and they arranged a coffee on Sunday evening,” he said.
“We don’t know if she went out to meet him or not because we don’t know what the point was when that happened.”
Mr Hughes, who said he previously worked with Ms Garcia-Bertaux at the Discovery Channel, said she was single and lived alone with her two dogs.
“She’s tall, got a lot of presence. Always very friendly, very talkative, would never have hurt anyone.
“Got a lot of confidence and passion, a lovely lady. She had a lot of friends as well, including me,” he said.
“I’m pretty harrowed about it. I’ve been in that house, I’ve been in that garden. It’s creepy, it’s upset me quite a lot.”
Members of Ms Garcia-Bertaux’s family, who are believed to have flown into the UK from France, have been informed of developments and are being supported by specially trained officers, police said.
No-one has been arrested and a post-mortem examination is to be carried out.
A large police cordon has been put in place around the scene in Darell Road which extends to cover the garden and passageway area at the back of the terraced property.
With the noise of playing children echoing from a nearby school, forensics officers in blue suits could be seen erecting a large tent, with evidence markers visible down the narrow alley between a number of homes.
Neighbour Bob Bassett, 75, told the Press Association that he knew of Ms Garcia-Bertaux, and would speak to her about her two large dogs.
“She was quiet. I never saw a boyfriend,” he said, adding that as far as he knows she lived in the ground-floor flat alone, and was originally from France.
Another neighbour who did not want to be named said he had previously seen her with a Leonberger – a large breed of dog.
He said others on the street have told him they had seen a man visiting the property “now and again”, and added: “I did not see her very much.”