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Mayor of Europe’s swinging capital ‘spent council funds on ventriloquist mystic’

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It is claimed that when the mayor, 55, asked her to put him in touch with his deceased father, she was able to mimic the dead man’s voice with uncanny accuracy.

Mr Ettore also received regular anonymous calls from someone claiming to be Archangel Michael, the patron saint of Agde, who spoke in a “raucous voice from beyond the grave” and told him to “protect Sophia and her loved ones”.

The mayor was so infatuated with Ms Martinez that he considered her to be his daughter. He even walked her down the aisle last year at her lavish third wedding – said to have cost €80,000 – a bill footed by Mr Ettore.

To pay her, Mr Ettore allegedly enlisted the help of municipal employees and companies with links to the town hall, via a system of false invoices. 

Nothing was too good for Ms Martinez: she was treated to a new kitchen and veranda, trips to Polynesia and Thailand, and school fees for two of her six children, who were regularly driven there by the mayor’s chauffeur, according to the claims. It is also alleged that he gave council jobs to her husband and five family members.

After a complaint from Mr Ettore’s ex-wife, who claimed he had been “bewitched” into embezzling council funds, police set up wiretaps and were amazed by her ventriloquist skills. At their request, she agreed to demonstrate these during her interrogation, which was filmed.

From beyond the grave

Prosecutor Raphaël Balland said: “Her strategy consisted of modifying her voice, including with members of her family and close friends.

“By using this male-sounding, hoarse voice, she succeeded in making them think they were talking with a supernatural being from the beyond.”

An officer told Midi Libre, the local newspaper: “When you watched this woman and heard that man’s voice resounding, you couldn’t imagine that it was coming out of her body. It’s astonishing.” 

When the footage was shown to Mr Ettore, “he couldn’t believe it,” said Jean-Marc Darrigade, his lawyer. “We had to show him this video for him to realise that he had been duped”, he told Le Parisien.

“He found himself involved with a perfectly malevolent character. This is the first case of misappropriation of funds that does not result in enrichment, but in personal impoverishment.”

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