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By JAMES TOZER and NICK MCDERMOTT and EMILY ANDREWS
UPDATED: 10:05, 3 June 2009
The playboy tycoon wanted over the murder of his millionaire girlfriend in Paris is facing extradition back to France.
Ian Griffin, who turns 40 today, will be transferred from the British authorities to their French counterparts for questioning over the killing of Polish businesswoman Kinga Legg.
He was arrested on Monday afternoon in woodland where he had been sleeping rough near the Cheshire village of Chelford.
Griffin enjoyed a glamorous lifestyle with Miss Legg, who ran a successful tomato export business.
But friends said their relationship was tempestuous and fuelled by cocaine, alcohol and antidepressants.
The former male model was arrested at 3.30pm in woods near Chelford, Macclesfield, less than 15 minutes from his parents’ Cheshire home, close to which his Porsche was found abandoned last week.
The spot is also within walking distance of the £3.9million estate in Ollerton where Griffin was living when he met Miss Legg three years ago.
Cheshire police have not revealed how Griffin was traced, but there have been a number of reported sightings of him in the county, and he has also been trailed using credit card transactions.
He was being held at Middlewich police station.
Earlier Griffin had claimed that Miss Legg attacked him with a stun-gun disguised as lipstick. He has told friends he acted in self-defence on the night she died. He also admitted the couple had a ‘massive fight’.
Griffin called ex-girlfriend Tracy Baker to tell his version of what had happened and on Monday Miss Baker released a photograph showing his face gashed after a previous bust-up – when he claimed Miss Legg had punched him, catching him with a ring.
Griffin gave an emotional account of his fight with Miss Legg in a telephone call to Miss Baker, 28.
‘He sounded really upset and said she had attacked him with a stungun disguised as a lipstick which she’d bought earlier in the day in Paris,’ she said. ‘He said he had cuts all over his arms and bruises all over his legs.
‘He was the target of a lot of violence from her,‘ added Miss Baker. ‘She was very possessive – she tried to control him. I think, because I was still in the background, she was jealous.
‘I don’t know what happened in Paris but I know he is not a violent or an aggressive man.’
Around three years ago he began a relationship with Miss Legg, a fixture on the Cheshire social scene after she made a fortune with her tomato-importing business, Vegex.
They rented a £3million mansion in Oxshott, Surrey, and had been planning to buy a £1.2million Mediterranean yacht called Overdraft.
But, while she wanted to marry him, his playboy ways led to tensions, and at one point she reportedly came at him with a knife after learning he had cheated on her with Miss Baker, according to friends.
On the trail of a fugitive: Gadget-loving Griffin on a personal hovercraft and above, enjoying the high seas
‘Every time he argued with Kinga he would run straight back into her arms,’ said one. ‘Ian was not known for his fidelity.’
Griffin sent her to The Priory to tackle her drug and alcohol problems, but the couple were both said to be dependent on anti-depressants.
‘Kinga was a tough cookie,’ said the friend. ‘She also had a fierce temper after she a few drinks. She could be violent, and she was known to lash out at him.’
Last Monday Miss Legg checked in alone to a £1,000-a-night suite at the Hotel Bristol in Paris, joined the next day by Griffin.
By then she had apparently bought the lipstick stun-gun, and after drinking large amounts of champagne, they clashed again.
Griffin left soon afterwards in his Porsche. It was only hours later that a maid discovered her body.
He was already back in Britain, and after apparently picking up cash or jewellery from their Surrey home he tried to collect his speedboat, Madog, from nearby Shepperton Marina, only to find it wasn’t seaworthy.
He later dumped his Porsche near his parents’ Warrington home.
Born Kinga Wolf, the murdered businesswoman came to Britain in 1996 after meeting Lancashire council worker Peter Legg during a town-twinning exchange, later marrying him.
After they split up, Miss Legg dated two Cheshire millionaires before meeting Griffin.
By PETER ALLEN and TOM HENDRY
PUBLISHED: 22:50, 9 March 2013 | UPDATED: 22:50, 9 March 2013
Freed after four years: The British tycoon accused of beating lover to death in £1,000-a-night Paris hotel unexpectedly granted bail
- Ian Griffin was arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend Kinga Legg
- Ms Legg’s battered body was found in the bathroom of a Hotel Bristol suite
- Four years on, Griffin has been granted bail and released from a Paris prison
- He maintains his innocence and says he will stay in France to clear his name
As Ian Griffin relaxes, champagne in hand, in his £2,000-a-night suite at Paris’s palatial George V hotel, he seems like a man with a glittering future ahead of him.
But the British millionaire, who proposed to his fiancee Tracy Baker a week ago, has a dark past which threatens to destroy their hopes of a settled life together.
Griffin, 43, remains under investigation for the murder of his former girlfriend, Kinga Legg, a successful businesswoman, in a remarkably similar hotel suite a short walk away.
Less than four years ago, her lifeless, battered body was found in the bathroom of Suite 503 in the five-star Hotel Bristol.
Yet – in a move that stunned Miss Legg’s grieving family as much as it did him – Griffin was unexpectedly released from a high-security prison in the French capital on March 1. He is on bail but has had his passport returned and there are apparently no restrictions on his movements.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, the businessman spoke for the first time about the killing. He fervently denies murder but knows he could still be locked up.
‘I’m as astonished as anybody by what has happened now,’ said Griffin, close to tears. ‘Just a few days ago I was sharing a tiny cell with an alleged murderer who killed with a shotgun. I’ve been in a coma and close to death in prison hospitals. Yet here I am with my beautiful partner in a comfortable hotel.
‘As soon as I got out, Tracy and I opened a half-bottle of champagne. We want to relax and enjoy ourselves and then I’ll clear my name for good.’
On Saturday, May 23, 2009, Griffin, originally from Warrington in Cheshire, was also toasting the future – but with Kinga Legg.
Freed: Ian Griffin was granted bail on March 1 and has since proposed to his fiancee Tracey Barker, pictured
The couple had checked into the Hotel Bristol, close to the British Embassy in central Paris. At just over £1,000 a night, it may have been cheaper than the George V, but it was no less luxurious. The Bristol has long been a favourite of the super-rich, and footballer David Beckham – who plays for Paris Saint-Germain – is currently staying there.
‘I was in love with Kinga and, yes, we were talking about marriage,’ said Griffin. ‘It was a hotel I knew well and I’d always felt happy there. Kinga liked it, too – we used it as a base to enjoy the bars and restaurants nearby. We were on our way down to the South of France to pick up a motor cruiser. We were aiming to enjoy ourselves on the Mediterranean as we’d both been working extremely hard.’
Miss Legg, a 39-year-old Polish divorcee, ran a successful firm exporting more than 300 million tomatoes a year from Poland to major companies such as McDonald’s, Tesco and Carrefour. Her company, Vegex, had a UK base in Oxshott, Surrey, where she and Griffin rented a £3 million executive mansion.
‘The weekend went very well to begin with,’ said Griffin, who ran a variety of businesses, including tanning salons and gadget shops across the North West of England and now owns 25 rental houses in Britain and in California. ‘We were both in a good mood.’
But on the Monday night, May 25, the couple had a furious row in a smart restaurant on the Avenue George V – just yards from where Griffin and Miss Baker, 32, are currently staying.
It is clear his relationship with Miss Legg was volatile. Both, he claims, were addicted to benzodiazepine, the tranquilliser linked with shocking side effects including extreme violence and attempts by users to take their own lives. They also drank heavily. ‘It filled us with anxiety and depression, causing extreme changes in personality,’ said Griffin. ‘Kinga became possessive and would frequently attack me, causing physical injuries.’
Surrey Police have confirmed that both Miss Legg and Griffin were briefly arrested in October 2008 after she tried to stab him with a knife.
‘On the night she died, I made my way back to the Bristol alone but, unfortunately, Kinga got there just before me,’ said Griffin. ‘She was on a lot of medication because she had a borderline personality disorder.
‘She fired a stun gun disguised as a stick of lipstick at me and then punched me in the face, catching me with a ring. I tried to defend myself and she fell over and banged her head on a coffee table. After she calmed down, she went to bed. Toxicology tests later showed she had taken 30 medications, including a Polish blood-thinning drug that would have prevented her blood from clotting and caused internal bleeding.’
It is clear Griffin – who has received no payment from The Mail on Sunday – can hardly be considered an impartial witness. But it’s also known he has no previous criminal record nor history of violence. He recalls waking up the following morning to discover Miss Legg was dead. In a blind panic and still in shock from the stun gun – which he says sent 350,000 volts through his system – he fled.
The bare facts do not help his case. Before fleeing, Griffin put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door and phoned down to reception asking cleaners to stay away because Miss Legg wanted ‘some quiet’. He also asked for his Porsche 911 to be brought to the hotel’s main entrance, from where he was seen driving away.
When Miss Legg’s family in Poland could not contact her, they asked the hotel to check her suite. A staff member opened the door at about 8pm to a horror scene. Police said shattered glass and furniture lay everywhere and Miss Legg was found naked in the bath. She had suffered multiple injuries and detectives said she had been bludgeoned to death. Griffin was the only suspect.
‘I loved Kinga very much and was devastated by her death,’ he insisted. ‘I ran from the restaurant to get my belongings and return to England. It was obvious Kinga could not control her temper.
‘If she hadn’t got back to the hotel before me none of this would have happened. I would have got out of there so that we could cool down. Instead it got worse. All I could think of was escaping. I just wanted everything to end. I couldn’t deal with the situation. I wanted to die. I think about Kinga all the time but I know I am innocent of any crime.’
In the days after Kinga’s death, police on both sides of the Channel followed a trail of credit card transactions to Cheshire, where the search for Griffin ended a week later in woodland outside Macclesfield. He was hiding in a flimsy tent.
‘When the police arrived I had a noose around a tree and was ready to commit suicide,’ he said.
He was arrested and, after nearly two years of legal argument and health concerns, extradited to France in May 2011.
Gadget businessman: Ian Griffin, pictured on a personal hovercraft, fled the scene and was arrested in Cheshire
Griffin was sent to Fresnes, one of the toughest high- security prisons in Paris. In France, it is not uncommon for a suspect in a violent crime to be held in custody, sometimes for years, while the investigating magistrate prepares the case, decides on charges and whether it should come to court.
‘Nothing prepared me for Fresnes,’ Griffin said. ‘It has a high suicide rate and almost everybody inside lives in constant fear. I was always terrified to leave my cell – I just stayed in my bunk. Sirens went off non-stop and the wardens wore body armour. When fights broke out prisoners were herded into cages together like animals.
‘Razor blades were easily available and it was common for prisoners to commit suicide with them. I had to place clothes across the cell door at night to stop rats getting in.’
Griffin claims he was incorrectly prescribed anti-psychotic drugs in the hospital wing. He says the medication – prescribed by a prison doctor whom he now plans to sue – seriously affected his health, causing nerve damage to his legs and at one stage sending him into a coma.
Indeed, the formerly sporty and athletic Griffin can now take only a few steps without crutches.
But a week ago, without warning, he was abruptly told to vacate his cramped cell, given his passport and belongings and ushered out of the door of Fresnes. While he was in custody in Britain, he had rekindled his relationship with Miss Baker, a former girlfriend who sympathised with his plight and often visited him.
His parents, Bernard, an architect, and Janet, an interior designer, who live near Warrington, also made regular trips to see him.
‘Tracy never stopped believing in me and nor did my family,’ said Griffin. ‘I kept pictures of Tracy on my cell wall. We are very much in love now and just want to spend our life together.’
Griffin was released because the judge in his case ruled he is no longer considered at risk of absconding or a risk to other people. Technically, he could still stand trial for murder – but his lawyers believe that a lesser charge of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility is more likely.
As he has already spent almost four years on remand, he could avoid any further prison time even if found guilty.
‘It’s certainly not all over,’ he said. ‘I fully understand that Kinga’s death had to be investigated properly. All I know is that I had nothing to do with causing it. I just want to be able to look her parents in the eye and tell them that.’ He is currently not permitted to contact Miss Legg’s family nor to even know where she is buried in Poland.
‘I just want to put flowers on her grave and remember her for the good times,’ he said.
In the meantime, he and Miss Baker intend to remain at the George V for a few days before moving to a rented home in the French countryside. They will be in constant touch with lawyers, and the French authorities.
Miss Baker said: ‘It is all incredibly sad. I am certain both Ian and Kinga were very ill at the time. But the medication destroys lives.
‘All we want now is the chance to move on and to warn others about what these terrible drugs can do.’
Meanwhile, Miss Legg’s family in Poland said in a statement they are ‘deeply concerned’ that Griffin appears to have been released unconditionally before trial.
‘The family is further concerned that there is currently not even a legal bar to Griffin leaving France,’ the statement added.
‘He is a man who has already escaped from France to go to England immediately after the murder.
‘The family demands to know why Griffin is being allowed his liberty instead of being brought back into custody immediately.’