French police test dozens of dogs after pregnant woman mauled to death

Elisa Pilarski phoned her partner before the attack to tell him she came across "threatening dogs". Source: Facebook

A pregnant woman's gruesome death in a forest has caused shock in France, sparking intense speculation about what might have happened.

French police investigating the death of a pregnant woman mauled to death by dogs while walking in the woods have carried out DNA tests on 67 dogs to try to identify those that attacked her.

Elisa Pilarski, 29, was found dead on Saturday in Retz forest about 90 kilometres (55 miles) northeast of Paris.

A post-mortem showed that she died of bleeding after several dog bites to the upper and lower limbs and the head.

A deer hunt with hounds was underway in the forest where Ms Pilarski, a dog lover, was walking her own American Staffordshire terrier.

Frederic Trinh, the public prosecutor leading the investigation into her death, said on Thursday that DNA tests had been carried out on 67 dogs - 62 from the hunting club and five belonging to Ms Pilarski and her partner.

But France's main hunting federation said that none of the tested hounds bore bite marks, a fact it said proved their innocence.

Antoine Gallon, the federation's communications director, argued that Ms Pilarski's dog Curtis would have put up a fight if its owner was under attack, leaving marks on its adversaries.

The time of Ms Pilarksi's death - between 1 and 1.30 pm - also put the hounds in the clear, he claimed, saying the hunt only began at 1.30 pm.

The police have launched an investigation against persons unknown - a common procedure in France when no suspect has been identified - for manslaughter due to carelessness or negligence.

Mr Trinh said that police still had no main line of inquiry.

He confirmed that Ms Pilarski had phoned her partner, who was at work, before the attack to tell him that she had come across "threatening dogs".

In a Facebook message she also wrote that a German shepherd was on the prowl but police had yet to identify that dog, Mr Trinh said.

Ms Pilarski's partner Christophe told France's BFM news channel that when he arrived on the scene around 45 minutes later he came across hunting hounds and a rider.

He then saw a pack of "around 30" dogs near a ravine where he found her body, as well as the couple's own dog, who he said, had been bitten on the head.

'Conditioned to kill'

Sobbing during the interview, he told BFM that what he initially mistook for a log turned out to be Ms Pilarski's bare stomach.

She was "entirely undressed" and had been "bitten all over," he said.

"It can only be the hunt," he said, allegations the hunting associations have vigorously rejected.

France has more than 30,000 hunting hounds, grouped in 390 packs, according to the national hunting federation.

"These dogs are trained to hunt a particular animal and obey man in all circumstances," the federation said in a statement on Wednesday.

Eric Tramson, a dog trainer specialising in aggressive dogs, told AFP that packs of hounds are "conditioned to kill and can be dangerous."

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