Aussie woman charged with abducting young lover
Exclusive: An Australian woman has been arrested in France for allegedly abducting her boyfriend - 30 years her junior - who disappeared three years ago.
Samba Widhyastuti, 59, was arrested when she returned to France last month and detained in the city of Nantes, the hometown of the missing man Florent Grégoire.
No body has ever been found but police have charged the former Sydney woman with kidnap and false imprisonment.
Sources have told News Corp Australia police were convinced something was amiss because the woman had remained in contact with her former lover's family, emailing them to say he was fine, and even occasionally allegedly faking emails from Grégoire himself.
In the late summer of 2016, Grégoire, then 25, travelled to Andorra with his new Australian friend, who denies any wrongdoing.
The pair had spent a month together hiking and enjoying the mountain air in the tiny country between France and Spain.
Hotel staff said they looked like any happy, loving couple and the significant age gap was masked because the 59-year-old Australian, of Indonesian origin, didn't look her age.
But when their holiday was over, in September 2016, Gregoire left the hotel and was never seen again and family now fear he is dead.
He had given up his job as a computer technician to try WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which consists of working on a farm in exchange for room and board.
The farm he worked on was in France, and it was in France that he met Widhyastuti.
They spent a few months together, travelling to Spain and finally ending up in Andorra, a principality of 80,000 people that has grown rich on skiing, financial services, and duty-free shopping, sources said.
There they checked into the Roser hotel.
"They looked like a very normal couple. I never heard them argue," the hotel manager, who asked not be named, told News Corp.
"They went out most days dressed in hiking gear.
"The woman would talk to me using a translation app on her phone. But it was usually just to say hello or something like that. She spoke in English to the man."
It was in late September 2016 that Grégoire's parents began to get worried about their son after he stopped contacting them.
He had also not turned up at a wedding in France which he had said he would attend.
His parents contacted police in Andorra. Officers went to the hotel and ascertained that he had left on September 12 with his luggage and had supposedly taken a bus to France.
They then checked with bus companies and discovered that he had bought a ticket for a bus to the French city of Toulouse. It is unclear when or whether the Australian had gone.
The parents were convinced that something was amiss because Widhyastuti remained in contact with the family, emailing them to say he was fine, sources said.
Police in Andorra were satisfied that the young man was alive when he supposedly left Andorra, apparently on his own, and no formal police inquiry was begun there.
In early October Grégoire's worried parents travelled to the mountain state and met their son's much older friend, whom they initially did not suspect of having anything to do with his disappearance.
"She told them she had returned to her hotel room one day and he was gone. And that she had found traces of blood on the bathroom sink," a source close to the inquiry said. Hotel staff did not confirm that blood was found on the sink.
His increasingly fraught parents took the matter up with French police. The case was never made public in the media because, it is believed, French police hoped that the Australian would one day return to France and they would be able to detain and question her.
The affair finally made it into the French newspapers this month, when it was revealed that the Australian had been detained when she got off a plane in Paris on November 28 after a flight from Lisbon.
Widhyastuti faced court last week in a closed-door hearing where she covered her face. The court rejected her request to be released on bail.
She is under investigation for Gregoire's abduction and imprisonment, which can lead to up to 30 years in jail or to life imprisonment if the person abducted later died. Widhyastuti, who is believed to have an address in Sydney, denies any wrongdoing in the case, her lawyer said.
The Australian's lawyer, Simon Despierre, noted that his client has no criminal record and refused to speculate on why she is being charged only with abduction and not with murder.
"Those are the big questions. The only thing we know is that he is still missing," he said.