Top KZN French chef brutally murdered, burnt

2008-01-08 00:00

The charred body of a celebrated chef and restaurateur has been found outside her home at Ramsgate, where she is presumed to have been overpowered while asleep, and brutally murdered.

News of the death of 69-year-old Yvonne Cosson of La Petite Normandie has deeply shocked residents of this holiday town.

Cosson, a French citizen who ran a restaurant in Paris many years ago, was a well-known feature in this area of the south coast for the past two decades. La Petite Normandie was voted the Best Country Restaurant in South Africa in 2005.

A fellow restaurateur yesterday described Cosson, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and recently had to deal with the death of her son, as a gentle soul with a passion for food, who would never cause harm to anybody.

After receiving a tip-off, the police found her remains outside her house at 1 am on Monday morning.

Superintendent Zandra Hechter said police investigated an odour and a mound of soil next to a wall.

They discovered Cosson’s naked and largely burnt body under plastic bags and soil from a flower bed.

Hechter said Cosson was last seen alive on Sunday.

Her restaurant, which adjoins the house, was usually closed on Sundays and Mondays.

It was assumed that the attacker struck on Sunday night while Cosson was asleep, Hechter said.

There were signs that she was dragged down the stairs to the lounge, where there was a desperate struggle.

Judging from the way blood was splashed everywhere in the lounge and on the TV and chairs, her murder was brutal.

The attacker then appeared to have carried her body outside and set it alight.

Detectives combed the scene for leads, trying to determine what was taken from the ransacked house.

A police dog trained to sniff out body fluids such as blood and semen was brought in from Pietermaritzburg.

“The police have identified a possible suspect and hope to trace him soon,” she said. Cosson’s vehicle is missing.

Ian Beattie, owner of Flavours Restaurant, said yesterday: “Shock does not describe what I feel”.

He and his wife Ingrid worked for Cosson for a few weeks in 2006 after moving to the area from Taiwan to start a restaurant.

“She was a petite little woman. They could have taken anything they wanted: she wouldn’t have been able to resist,” Beattie said.

Beattie said Cosson used to prepare classic, simple French cuisine as the mood took her.

One food critic described the experience of dining at La Petite Normandie as “the cheapest possible way of visiting Normandy”.

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