Three under investigation over topless Kate photos: source

PARIS Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:24pm EDT

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the National Review of Queen's Scouts at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, near London April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the National Review of Queen's Scouts at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, near London April 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

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PARIS (Reuters) - The publisher of a French celebrity magazine was placed under formal investigation for breach of privacy over the publication of topless pictures of Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

The photographer who snapped the pictures of the Duchess, or Kate Middleton, in the summer last year and a regional daily were also put under investigation, the last step in France before being charged, the source said.

Closer magazine, a weekly round-up of celebrity gossip, published in September a series of photos of the Duchess, the wife of Prince William, topless on holidays in southern France, something that incensed much of the British public.

The photos showed Kate slipping off her bikini top, relaxing on a sun lounger and at one point pulling down the back of her bikini bottoms. Buckingham Palace had called the photo spread a "grotesque" invasion of the royal couple's privacy.

The publisher of the magazine - the French branch of Italy's Mondadori - and the paparazzi who snapped the photos from a distance were put under formal investigation earlier this month, the judicial source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mondadori in a statement said the company "was not aware of any new developments in addition to what is already known on this matter".

The regional daily La Provence, which published pictures of Prince William and his wife in swimming suits during the same holiday, was put under formal investigation this week, the source said.

An investigation does not necessarily lead to formal charges.

The office of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge could not be reached for comment.

(Corrects that publisher, not editor, of Closer put under investigation)

(Reporting by Nicolas Bertin in Paris; Additional reporting by Antonella Ciancio in Milan and Sarah Young in London; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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