Six months ago, a 54-year-old toolmaker from England was knocked over and kicked in the head on the Champs Elysees by a group of skating youths. He died two days later of head injuries without ever recovering consciousness.

Today, his wife, Eve, is no closer to knowing who his killers were.The French police have no leads. An appeal for witnesses was finally launched this week, almost certainly too late to reach the throng of tourists and suburbanites who packed Paris's most famous avenue on that October night.

To a list of 27 unsolved killings of Britons in France over the past 20 years is now added the name of Rodney Henderson.

His widow, Eve, said: "I am astonished at the laxity of the French system. I can't believe the examining magistrate admits there are gangs operating on the Champs Elysees and no one knows who they are. I can't believe no one informs me of what's going on. I am astonished the Foreign Office can't do more."

Rodney and Eve Henderson arrived in Paris on Oct. 24. With them were their children, Scott and Nicola, Scott's girlfriend, now wife, Jenny, and Nicola's husband Andrew.

The next morning they were up early for the sights.

"Someone suggested the Champs-Elysees by night," Henderson said. "We had a quick drink in a cafe, then queued for a taxi. The three women got in the first one that came; the men were going to follow."

No taxi came. Rodney, Scott and Andrew went for another drink in the nearby Cafe Leffe. There was a brief altercation over the bill when it was time to leave.

Outside, Andrew heard a sound and turned to see Scott hit by a group of two or three youths before he himself was surrounded by three others. He was knocked to the floor by a kick to the leg. Andrew struggled to his feet to see his father-in-law slumping to the ground.

"He was kicked in the face," Henderson said. "Between the eyes, by someone with a skate on. Andrew saw it."

The porter at the Cafe Leffe, some 30 yards away, standing chatting with a friend, saw several people fleeing the scene. He has been interviewed by police once; the friend has not been questioned.

The emergency services arrived. While Scott and Andrew insist they made it clear, in broken French, that this was an assault, police were not called.

Then Henderson's nightmare began. An initial attempt to report the incident to police headquarters was rebuffed; under French law, that has to be done at the station nearest to the scene. Later on Sunday she learned that Roderick had been transferred to intensive care; his brain was damaged and there was internal bleeding.

On Monday she found the right police station.

"The senior officer was, well, very rude," she said. "It was a civil matter, nothing to do with them." On Tuesday evening, with her approval, her husband's life support machine was switched off.

Finally convinced, Paris police launched a homicide inquiry headed by investigating magistrate Olivier Deparis.

Henderson hired two French lawyers who spent two months persuading police to issue an appeal for witnesses. This finally appeared on Christmas Eve and was full of errors.

In February, the lawyers wrote a formal letter to the examining magistrate demanding action. This week, a new, accurate appeal for witnesses appeared.