A British woman drowned trying to save her husband after he apparently suffered a fatal heart attack in the swimming pool of their luxury villa in France.
Diana Shamash, 80, jumped dressed in the water to try to help real estate mogul David, 82, at the couple’s holiday home near Montpellier.
But she was swept away by the weight of her clothes, police in southern France said.
The couple were discovered by friends who arrived last Saturday for dinner at the remote property. It is feared they may have been in the pool for days, as they were last heard on Wednesday night.
Diana Shamash, 80, pictured jumped fully clothed into the water to try and help real estate mogul David, 82, at the couple’s holiday home near Montpellier
“The house is far from other houses, so no one could have heard their cries for help,” a senior research source told the Daily Mail.
“But what we do know now is that Ms. Shamash was fully clothed and wearing her shoes when she jumped into the pool to save her husband after he suffered a suspected heart attack.
“She no doubt found it very difficult to stay afloat in these conditions and sank into the water.”
Detectives working on the case pieced together what happened using post-mortem examinations conducted on Thursday. “The timeline of events seems to rule out malicious intent. This was a very tragic accident,” the source said.
One question is whether the pool was heated, as cold water is a notorious killer in hot weather. It has a deep end of over 7ft and a diving board.
The area is dotted with million pound properties, many of which are owned by British people who are drawn to the Mediterranean climate.
The couple were discovered by friends who arrived last Saturday for dinner at the remote property. It is feared they may have been in the pool for days, as they were last heard on Wednesday night. Pictured: David Shamash
Near the picturesque town of Gignac, the house Shamash is set in secluded countryside and is screened by trees. There is a lavender farm nearby and small clusters of properties. But they are all well out of earshot of Villa Maria, one of the couple’s many properties.
Mr Shamash was director of ten property companies with assets in excess of £5million, and secretary to a further four worth the same amount.
He and his wife also owned a sprawling farm in the village of South Fawley, Berkshire, and an apartment above the official Tintin shop in Covent Garden, central London.
The couple would visit their French holiday home three or four times a year for a three-week break. They were due to return to the UK next Monday and were already planning their next trip when they died.
A close friend in South Fawley said: ‘They called to say they had a flight booked to return in October on the Wednesday before they were found. It’s just a tragedy. They loved France, they wanted to spend as much time as possible there. The television here [in South Fawley] is in French and they speak it fluently.’
Another friend added: ‘Honestly, you wouldn’t meet a more devoted couple. They were devoted to each other, such a beautiful couple.”
Luxury: The pool where the couple was found after Diana came to her husband’s rescue. The couple had two children
In recent years, the couple had spent their fortunes on good works by setting up the charity Covent Garden Group Foundation. It sets its goals as “poverty alleviation around the world, but with an emphasis on Southeast Asia” and “blindness treatment and prevention.” The photos also show Ms. Shamash on a mission abroad with Action Against Hunger. An Oxford graduate, Mr Shamash ran his property empire with his son Anthony, 56, while his daughter Nicola, 58, lived further down South Fawley.
The devastated children flew to France this week to identify the bodies of their parents.
Mr and Mrs Shamash also adored their five grandchildren. “They had so much to live for,” said a friend. ‘He was a big noise in London and still worked from home. She was always in the garden. She had her own studio where she made photo frames. They were both as fit as each other. It’s just awful.’
The pair were popular in South Fawley, where they gave away fruit from their trees, grapes and eggs from the eight chickens they kept.
The animal lovers also had an alpaca, nine sheep and three cats, while their gardens worth an estimated £1.2 million would make the neighbors jealous.