Woman who died in French forest ‘was killed by partner’s dog’

A pregnant woman who died while walking in woods in northern France during a deer hunt was killed by her partner’s dog and not the hunting hounds, a source close to the investigation and a hunting club said after DNA testing.

Elisa Pilarski, 29, died while out walking her partner’s American Staffordshire terrier in Retz forest, north-east of Paris, in November 2019.

She was six months pregnant at the time. The case sparked huge interest in France and became a cause latched on to by pro- and anti-hunting advocates.

A postmortem showed Pilarski died of bleeding after several dog bites to the upper and lower limbs and the head.

Suspicion initially fell on the hunting hounds but DNA tests on 67 dogs incriminated her partner’s dog, Curtis, instead, the local hunting club announced.

“The results of the DNA tests definitively confirm the innocence of the dogs,” the Rallye la Passion club said, adding that they showed Curtis to be the killer.

Another source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, said the terrier’s DNA had been found on Pilarski’s dog bites and added that her DNA had also been found on his leash.

Just before the attack Pilarski had phoned her partner, Christophe Ellul, to tell him that she had come across threatening dogs and had difficulty keeping Curtis on his leash.

Ellul arrived at the scene about 45 minutes later to find her body in a ravine, next to Curtis and a pack of hounds. Her clothes had been torn off.

Ellul blamed the hounds for her death, allegations the hunting club vigorously denied. DNA tests were carried out on 62 hounds, and five dogs belonging to Pilarski and Ellul, including Curtis.

Pilarski’s mother said her daughter had never been alone with Curtis before.

After her death, the terrier went on to bite a person at a dog pound.