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Chanal had only weeks to live.. but he DIDN'T know it; REVEALED: TREVOR O'KEEFE MURDER SUSPECT HAD TERMINAL CANCER.

Byline: TIM FINAN in Rheims, France

RAPIST Pierre Chanal was dying of cancer and had just weeks to live when he committed suicide.

The former soldier, who was about to stand trial for the murder of Irish backpacker Trevor O'Keefe, slashed his thighs with a razor blade and bled to death.

But a post mortem discovered the suspected serial killer, 57, was suffering from terminal cancer of the kidneys and may not have lived until the end of a trial.

The prosecutor in Rheims, Yves Charpenel, revealed no-one including Chanal was aware of his sickness as the convicted rapist never consulted a doctor.

He said yesterday: "An autopsy carried out in Paris following his suicide on Wednesday morning revealed signs of disease which left him a very short time to live."

Monsieur Charpenel also said the blade used by Chanal to sever his femoral artery was almost certainly from a disposable razor issued to prisoners at Fresnes prison.

He added: "When he left Fresnes prison he was scrupulously searched by Gendarmes transferring him.

"The six razors which had been issued to him were said by the Gendarmes to be in their packet and were not given back to him.

"It is almost certain that he killed himself with one of two of these blades which he hid in a set of false teeth he wore.

"The blades were not given to him by a visitor either at Fresnes or at Rheims hospital."

News of Chanal's illness comes as Trevor O'Keefe's mother Eroline slammed the French police investigation of her son's murder.

The family issued a dossier listing details of "police and judicial negligence" including poor forensics, burying Trevor, 18, before his mother could see him and missing evidence crucial to the case. Eroline and her family travelled from their home in Naas, Co Kildare, to eastern France for the trial of Chanal last week.

But his suicide is a blow to her hopes of finding justice for Trevor.

At the court in Rheimes, the only known surviving victim of rapist Chanal, embraced Eroline and whispered "He's guilty. I know."

Palazs Falvay, 35, comforted Eroline last week after the pair heard Chanal had killed himself in jail.

Eroline had hoped and prayed that he would survive until she had seen him stand trial.

But at the courthouse on Wednesday, she was told that Chanal had finally succeeded in committing suicide by slashing an artery of his left thigh.

"He had made two previous attempts this year.

The words "He is guilty" would have meant a thousand times more to Eroline if they had come from a judge.

But Palazs Falvay knew more than anyone alive that he was telling Eroline the truth about Chanal.

During his horrific ordeal Palazs had been repeatedly told by Chanal that he was going to kill him.

He knew that he had fallen prey to a ruthless, sadistic sex beast.

Only a chance road check by Gendarmes had saved him from death by strangulation.

He was found naked and bound in Chanal's van at Macon in 1988 after being repeatedly raped. Eroline's son Trevor had been murdered a year earlier. His body was discovered in a shallow grave in a wood .

He had been strangled with a specially-knotted garrote used by French commandos.

Chanal was charged with killing Trevor in 1994 but remained free until he was to be tried in May.

However, the day before that trial he was found slumped unconscious over the wheel of his car.

Early reports suggested he had taken a large dose of barbiturates and was in a coma.

On Tuesday this week, 16 years after Trevor's murder, the trial of Chanal finally began and Eroline believed she was on the final stage of an agonisingly long journey towards justice. Palazs, now working as a goldsmith had travelled from his home town of Nagymavos close to Budapest to be at the trial.

On Wednesday he was to give evidence as a prosecution witness against Chanal.

He was to tell how Chanal, trained to kill swiftly and silently, had fashioned a length of cord into a makeshift garrote.

He picked up the Hungarian hitchhiker and drove him to a wood where he overpowered him, stripped him naked and bound his ankles and wrists.

He then attached a cord between his ankles wrists and neck so that if his victim struggled he would strangle himself.

For hours he raped and sexually assaulted the Hungarian repeatedly showing him the garrote and a spade saying that he was going to kill him and bury his body in the woods.

By the time Gendarmes stopped the van Palazs thought he was going to be killed.

Chanal was jailed in 1990 for 10 years and released in 1995 for good behaviour after serving only half his sentence.

But whilst he was in jail new DNA technology established genetic links between hairs found in the van and on Trevor and two young soldiers who disappeared.

And earth found on a spade was discovered to be of the same type as that in which Trevor was buried.

CAPTION(S):

MOTHER; Eroline O'Keefe travelled to France to see Pierre Chanal stand trial; RAPIST; Chanal was to stand trial accused of three murders, including Trevor's; VICTIM; Backpacker Trevor, 18, was found buried in woods near Mourmelon; ORDEAL: Palazs, 35, survived Chanal attack
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 19, 2003
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