A FASHION mogul hired a Russian mafia hitman to murder a blonde BBC journalist weeks before Jill Dando was gunned down on her doorstep, bombshell court documents claim.
Papers submitted to a Paris court allege Elite model agency boss Gerald Marie – who is accused of raping several women – wanted Lisa Brinkworth “dealt with” in revenge for her exposing his firm.
Ms Brinkworth had gone undercover to reveal the sordid workings of his agency, reports the Daily Mail.
Now extraordinary documents claim the French fashion tycoon hired an assassin who went on to kill the wrong target.
Crimewatch presenter Ms Dando was shot dead on the doorstep of her home in Fulham in 1999 in a shocking murder that remains unsolved.
It’s claimed the hitman may have confused the two women given their physical similarities, job titles and nearby addresses in London.
Ms Brinkworth was also a patient of Ms Dando’s doctor fiance Alan Farthing, potentially adding to the confusion, court papers suggest.
Gerald Marie, former boss of Elite modelling agency, is being investigated in France over allegations he raped and sexually abused at least 11 women in the 1980s and 90s – claims he strenuously denies.
Ms Brinkworth is one of the women who has levelled accusations against the mogul – claiming he assaulted her in 1998 while she was working undercover for the BBC to expose sex crimes in the fashion industry.
The former journalist was kept in safe houses following the scoop and it’s claimed she was urged not to take legal action against Marie.
Under French laws, sexual abuse claims must be reported within 20 years – but papers reveal the lawyers argue the statute should be overlooked in the case as she spent years fearing for her safety.
The court documents also claim former Elite executive Omar Harfouch overheard Marie ordering a member of the Russian mafia to “deal with a problem”.
Papers from French law firm Bourdon Associes add: “Shortly thereafter a BBC journalist, Jill Dando, was shot dead in April 1999.
“Indeed, these two journalists were in their thirties, were blonde with the same facial features, of the same height and of similar stature.
“They lived close to each other and had people in common, including the husband of Jill Dando.”
The documents also claim that investigative journalist Philippe Berry was told that Marie boasted that year about paying gangsters to intimidate a BBC worker.
It comes after model Carré Otis claimed she was raped and forced-fed cocaine by the mogul.
Aged just 16, she was signed to Elite Model Management – since credited with inventing the supermodel and helping to launch the careers of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen.
FASHION’S DARKEST SECRET
For homeless, teenage runaway Carré she believed modelling was her ticket out of a lifetime of hardship, and she quickly became a recognisable face in the industry during the late 1980s and 90s.
The young American graced the cover of top fashion magazines, even sharing the cover of Vogue alongside Linda Evangelista.
But behind the glitz and glamour of the modelling industry lay a dark underbelly.
Just a few months into her career Carré was shipped off to Paris, where she claims she was repeatedly raped by modelling agency boss Marie, who at the time was dating Linda.
Carré claims she was prescribed a vial of cocaine a day by bosses to keep her weight down – and that Marie repeatedly raped her in the apartment he shared with Canadian supermodel Linda.
She said: “I was in a particularly vulnerable situation… he held all the power and I was not in the position to fight back metaphorically and realistically.
“I was dependent on him for food, money, shelter, he held my passport… I was 17.”