London - The body of a missing film producer has been found in a shallow grave at the back of her home on an upmarket suburban street.
Laureline Garcia-Bertaux, 34 – who was single and lived alone – is said to have arranged to meet a man for coffee on Sunday evening.
But friends revealed last night that they found the liaison ‘a bit suspicious’.
Miss Garcia-Bertaux was last seen alive at a Sainsbury’s near her home in Kew, south-west London, on Saturday.
She was reported missing after she failed to turn up for work at a PR agency on Monday morning.
Her body was found by police late on Wednesday in the back garden of her £400 000 ground-floor flat on a tree-lined road. It is unclear whether her planned meeting with the man, believed to be a vet, ever took place.
Originally from Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, Miss Garcia-Bertaux moved to London in 2009 and graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.
She helped produce films starring Dame Joan Collins and Sheridan Smith and hoped to become a director and screenwriter. She ran a lifestyle blog and had set up her own video production agency called Black Balloons Studios.
Her friend and former colleague Daniel Hughes, 27, last night described her as someone with a ‘lot of presence’.
He said: ‘She was always very friendly, very talkative, she would never have hurt anyone. She had a lot of friends.
‘I’m pretty harrowed about it. I’ve been in that house, I’ve been in that garden. It’s creepy, it’s upset me quite a lot.’
Miss Garcia-Bertaux had lived at the house with two dogs, a Rottweiler called Jazz and a husky.
Mr Hughes, who worked with her at the Discovery Channel, said of the meeting with the unknown man: ‘She was meant to go shopping in Oxford Street on Sunday in the daytime. Then she was meant to meet a man for coffee on the Sunday evening.
‘She met him in a shop or something and then he must have chatted to her then and they arranged a coffee on Sunday evening. We don’t know if she went out to meet him or not because we don’t know what the point was when that [murder] happened.’
Mr Hughes said he found the proposed meeting before his friend’s death ‘a bit suspicious’ and said he had been told the man was a ‘charismatic’ vet.
He said he last saw Miss Garcia-Bertaux a month ago, but had spoken to her best friend, who reported her missing.
She was due to move out of her rented flat on the day she was reported missing. Yesterday a huge cordon surrounded the road as police probed the murder. A forensic tent was set up in the garden and another was on a public footpath at the back of the terraced houses.
Evidence markers were visible yesterday down the narrow alley between a number of homes. No arrests have been made and a post-mortem is due to take place. There has been no formal identification but Miss Garcia-Bertaux’s family are believed to have flown to the UK and are being supported by specially trained officers.
Police were also last night speaking to the owners of her rented property at their seaside home in Eastbourne, East Sussex.
Producer Hester Ruoff, who worked with Miss Garcia-Bertaux on projects including last year’s short film Gerry with Dame Joan Collins, said: ‘She was the most trustworthy woman with so much charisma, so much spirit.
‘I am absolutely devastated. It’s very, very rare in our industry that you find someone you trust in a way that I trusted her.’
Miss Ruoff said she is dedicating her next film, Spanish Pigeon, to her because they had been working on it together. She said: ‘She became a very close friend.’
The PR agency Golin, where she had worked as an executive assistant since January, said that they had been ‘supporting the police in their inquiries’.
Writing on film website IMDB, Miss Garcia-Bertaux said working on the 2012 British thriller Tower Block with Sheridan Smith had solidified her ambition to become a film director and screenwriter.Daily Mail