Mystery as French supermodel's body is found in the Seine

Last updated at 18:16 29 February 2008

The body of former supermodel Katoucha Niane has been recovered from the Seine near Paris.

Detectives are investigating whether the muse of fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent - nicknamed the Black

Princess - was the victim of a murder plot.

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The model once earned once commanded hundreds of thousands of pounds for catwalk appearances

A forerunner of Naomi Campbell, Katoucha, 47, once commanded hundreds of thousands of pounds for her

appearances on the catwalk.

In the Eighties she modelled for Christian Lacroix, Paco Rabanne and Thierry Mugler.

Her body, thought to have been in the water for nearly a month, was pulled out of the Seine just west of Paris still clothed in a designer dress.

Until yesterday, she had not been seen since disappearing from her houseboat on a central stretch of the river by the Alexander III Bridge on 1 February. The mother-of-three had been dropped off from a party.

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Katoucha Niane had been missing since February 1st

Police believe she has been drinking heavily and may have fallen in by accident. Her handbag was later recovered near her houseboat.

A police spokesman said: "We cannot rule out any foul play at this stage, up to and including murder."

French national Katoucha was born in Guinea. She was proud of her African background and her father was

playwright and historian Djibril Tamsir Niane.

She left the catwalk full-time in 1994 and in recent years launched a foundation campaigning against female circumcision.

Excised at the age of nine in Guinea, she recounted the ordeal in a book, In My Flesh.

She said she saw her career as a form of "revenge" for the horror of the mutilation.

"I embodied the most arrogant and admired kind of femininity, I who was supposed to be diminished," she wrote.

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