French probe death of mother in Saudi custody battle

French police in Paris
Image caption Police refused to comment on speculation about foul play

French police are investigating the death of a Jewish mother who fought to get her daughter back from a Saudi prince, amid speculation by some media over the circumstances.

Candice Cohen Ahnine, 35, fell from her fourth-floor Paris balcony last week.

French newspapers say she appeared to have been fleeing from danger, though police have refused to comment until they have spoken to all witnesses.

She had accused her Saudi ex-partner of imprisoning her and their daughter.

The Frenchwoman escaped from Saudi Arabia, leaving her daughter, Haya, behind, and wrote a book about her ordeal, called Give Me Back My Daughter.

Ms Cohen Ahnine had won a custody battle in the French courts, and diplomatic arrangements were being made for her to visit 11-year-old Haya, who is still in Saudi Arabia.

Her lawyer, Laurence Tarquiny-Charpentier, ruled out that her death could be suicide, saying she was very excited about the prospect of seeing her child again.

Various media reported the death as an accident.

But several newspapers raised the question of foul play, quoting an unnamed relative, who said: "A few days ago, Candice had told me she felt threatened."


France's Figaro newspaper said Ms Cohen Ahnine met Prince Sattam bin Nasser bin Khaled al-Saud in the 1990s, and they had their baby in 2001.

They lived in Paris but reportedly broke up in 2006, when the prince announced plans to take a second wife.

Ms Cohen Ahnine took her daughter to see the prince in Riyadh in September 2008.

She said her passport was confiscated and she was detained in a palace in the city.

Ms Cohen Ahnine said she was able to escape after months of captivity when a maid left her door open.

She reached the French embassy and was helped back to France, where she began a long battle to see her daughter again.