Missing Guinean model drowned in River Seine: police

PARIS, Feb 29, 2008 (AFP) - A Guinean former catwalk model, whose body was found in the River Seine a month after she went missing from her Paris houseboat, died by drowning, police said on Friday February 19th.

A one-time muse of the haute couture giant Yves Saint Laurent nicknamed the "black princess", the 47-year-old Katoucha Niane went missing from her home on a central stretch of the Seine on the night of February 1.

Police recovered a woman's body matching her description on Thursday, floating in the river under a bridge west of the capital, later formally identifying it as the missing mother-of-three.

According to autopsy results, police said, the model died due to "rapid submersion without any trace of violence", suggesting her death was accidental.

Katoucha disappeared after being dropped off from a party and her handbag was later recovered near her houseboat.

Born in Conakry, Katoucha worked with the greatest fashion 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 femininity, I who was supposed to be diminished," she wrote.

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