Feb 28, 2008
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Paris police find body in search for missing model

Feb 28, 2008

PARIS, Feb 28, 2008 (AFP) - Paris police found a body in the River Seine on Thursday thought to be that of a missing Guinean former model, one time muse of fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent, who vanished from her houseboat a month ago.

Katoucha - Photo : Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

Nicknamed the "black princess", the 47-year-old Katoucha Niane went missing from her home on a central stretch of the river on the night of February 1.

The mother-of-three disappeared after being dropped off from a party and her handbag was later recovered near her houseboat.

A woman's body fitting Katoucha's description was pulled Thursday from the Seine, in Boulogne just west of the capital, according to a police official, who said investigators were at the scene gathering evidence.

Police said the body, which was spotted under a bridge by a passer-by and was thought to have been in the water for close to a month, appeared to be wearing the former model's clothes.

The death appeared to be accidental, officials said, but an autopsy was needed to determine its exact cause.

Police said they had no evidence so far to suggest the model may have been murdered.

Born in Conakry, Katoucha worked with the greatest haute couture stars at the height of her career in the 1980s including Saint Laurent.

Katoucha left the catwalk for good in 1994, but in recent years she made headlines as an outspoken campaigner against female circumcision, launching a foundation against the practice.

Excised at the age of nine, in her home country Guinea, Katoucha recounted the ordeal in a recent book entitled "In My Flesh".

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

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

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