Willy Bardon, on trial over the murder of Elodie Kulik in 2002 in a case that has attracted strong interest in France for years, ingested the substance at the courthouse in the northern city of Amiens late on Friday.

Bardon had been sentenced to 30 years jail for kidnapping and holding a person against their will followed by death. He was however acquitted of murder.

"The condition of Willy Bardon was stabilised by the doctors during the night," Amiens prosecutor Alexandre de Bosschere told AFP.

He said indications given by his family and also an analysis showed that Bardon had swallowed a pesticide in the seconds after the verdict was announced at court in Amiens at the climax of a 13-day trial.

"We do not know how he managed to hide that," said de Bosschere, adding that the defendant would have been searched before entering the court.

Bardon, 45, was placed under police guard at a hospital and an update on his condition was expected later in the day.

'Suicide attempt'

Bank employee Elodie Kulik, 24, was kidnapped, raped, strangled and her corpse then burned in January 2002 in Tertry, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Saint-Quentin in the Aisne region.

Before dying, she managed to call emergency services and the harrowing 26-second recording was the key piece of evidence in the trial.

Another suspect Gregory Wiart, whose DNA was found at the scene, died in 2003. But six witnesses told the court they recognised the voice of Willy Bardon on the tape.

DNA testing advances had allowed new evidence to be gathered years after the event, leading police to identify Wiart.

Throughout the trial, Bardon insisted he was innocent, even protesting to the parents of Kulik that he had not been at the scene.

"It is clear that Mr Bardon tried to kill himself. He had said repeatedly that he could not bear going back to prison," his lawyer Stephane Daquo told AFP, adding that the defence would appeal a conviction that he claimed was based "on a simple impression".

The victim's father Jacky Kulik expressed relief at the verdict while regretting Bardon's apparent suicide attempt.

"I can go to her grave tomorrow and say that I did my job," Kulik said.

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