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French police test DNA of dogs belonging to mauling victim, hunting club

Elisa Pilarski, 29, was found dead in Retz forest in France on Saturday, November 16, 2019.
Elisa Pilarski, 29, was found dead in Retz forest in France on Saturday, November 16, 2019. Facebook screen grab

French police investigating the death of a pregnant woman mauled to death by dogs while walking in the woods have carried out DNA tests on 67 dogs to try to identify those that attacked her, investigators said Thursday.

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Elisa Pilarski, 29, was found dead on Saturday in Retz forest about 90 kilometres (55 miles) northeast of Paris.

A hunt with hounds was underway at the time in the forest where she was walking her own dog.

An autopsy showed that she died of bleeding after several dog bites to the upper and lower limbs and the head.

Frederic Trinh, the public prosecutor leading the investigation into her death, said Thursday that DNA tests had been carried out on 67 dogs - 62 from the hunting club and five belonging to Pilarski and her partner.

An investigation has been launched against persons unknown - a common procedure in France at the start of a probe - for manslaughter due to carelessness or negligence.

Trinh said that police still had no main line of inquiry.

Victim reported seeing 'threatening dogs'

The prosecutor confirmed that Pilarski had phoned her partner, who was at work, before the attack to tell him that she had come across “threatening dogs”.

In a Facebook message she also wrote that a German shepherd was on the prowl but police had yet to identify that dog, Trinh said.

Pilarski’s partner Christophe told BFM TV channel that when he arrived on the scene around 45 minutes later he first came across hunting hounds and a rider.

He then saw a pack of “around 30” dogs near a ravine where he found his partner's body as well as the couple’s own dog Curtis, whom he said had been bitten on the head.

Sobbing during the interview, he told BFM that what he initially mistook for a log turned out to be Pilarski’s bare stomach.

She was “entirely undressed” and had been “bitten all over”, he said.

“It can only be the hunt,” he said.

According to local newspaper Le Courrier Picard, the hounds were hunting deer.

Hunting associations have however denied that they could be to blame.

The Paris-based French hunting association said in a statement that “nothing shows the involvement of hunting hounds in the death of this woman”.

France has more than 30,000 hunts with hounds in total and the association stated that “these dogs are trained to hunt a particular animal and obey man in all circumstances”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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