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Prosecutor Jean-Michael Pretre said Jacqueline Veyrac was getting into her SUV outside a pharmacy she had just visited when the abductors grabbed her, covered her head and forced her into a waiting van that sped off.
Pharmacy owner Jacques Valerno told reporters that a postwoman had witnessed the scene and rushed into his shop to report it.
“From what she said, she was grabbed by two men wearing ski masks,” he said. ”We called the police immediately.”
Veyrac, whose husband died five years ago, co-owns the five-star Grand Hotel in nearby Cannes with one of her sons and the pair also run a gourmet restaurant in Nice called La Reserve.
She was the victim of a kidnapping attempt three years ago, the motive for which was never discovered.
Investigators are examining Veyrac’s black sports utility vehicle for possible fingerprints or other evidence. But a source close to the probe told AFP there was “no information at this stage”.
French daily 20 Minutes and BFMTV quoted the family’s lawyer Sophie Jonquet as saying the kidnappers contacted one of Veyrac’s sons on Monday afternoon.
“The family is very upset and won’t make any statements at this stage. Too much has already been said and I don’t want to put my client in danger,” she told 20 minutes.
The seafront Grand Hotel, bought by the Veyrac family in 1963 and refurbished, is close to the Palais des Festivals where the Cannes Film Festival is held each May.