Elite Models boss Gérald Marie was one of the most powerful men in fashion. Was he also a sexual predator? As French prosecutors investigate, four women tell their stories for the first time

A special investigation by Lucy Osborne

In the spring of 1980, Wendy Walsh and her mother flew to Paris from their home in a suburb of Toronto, Canada. Walsh was 17, a straight-A student who excelled at maths. She was also an aspiring model whose blond, blue-eyed, girl-next-door look had already got her noticed; at a local hairdressing event, a couple of stylists from a Paris salon had offered to send her headshots to a leading model agency, Paris Planning. Letters and phone calls had been exchanged, and Walsh was invited to Paris.

At the agency’s offices, Walsh and her mother, Ellen, were introduced to the charismatic 30-year-old boss, Gérald Marie. Marie offered to take them to lunch. “So we went to a little outdoor bistro in the Place de la Madeleine, around the corner from the agency,” says Walsh, speaking on the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “It was the first time I ever had a croque monsieur, and he was explaining what it was. I realise now it’s a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. And I remember distinctly him fawning over my mother, and this was surprising to me. She had been an extremely beautiful woman in her youth, but lupus had left scars on her face.

Based on my own experiences, I believe these women are telling the truth. It breaks my heart and I admire their courage

This man had control of your life. So you make him think you’re enjoying it – then you get the hell out

Related: Teen models, powerful men and private dinners: when Trump hosted Look of the Year

People ask how I got brave. I say: I’m a woman of a certain age. What I mean is, I learned the hard way. Gérald Marie prepared me

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