• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

The man who tried to kill the French president

Dan MacGuill · 5 Jul 2013, 19:00

Published: 05 Jul 2013 14:01 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Jul 2013 19:00 GMT+02:00

Who’s Maxime Bruniere?

He’s a 36-year-old former neo-nazi activist who attempted to assassinate then French President Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Why is he in the news?

This week it was revealed that he had been charged with committing acts of violence against his girlfriend.

Tell me more.

On Wednesday, French radio RTL reported that Brunerie had been arrested by police in Hauts-de-Seine, near Paris, on suspicion of domestic violence against his girlfriend.

They also revealed he had been spotted by French intelligence services at anti-gay marriage protests, in the company of members of the far-right Printemps Français group.

So he tried to kill the president?

Yes. On July 14th 2002, Bastille Day, 25-year-old Brunerie tried to assassinate Chirac with a rifle at a military parade on the Champs Elysées.

After missing by a long way, he turned the weapon on himself, inserted the barrel into his mouth, and attempted to kill himself.

He couldn’t reach the trigger, however, and was quickly bundled to the ground by police and arrested.

Why did he (try to) do it?

In 2011 he told French magazine Paris Match his actions were the result of “existential despair, a rejection of our society which transformed itself into a rage and hatred for the whole world, and a big dose of megalomania.”

It then emerged he was a member of the far-right Unité Radicale group, which was immediately disbanded by the French government.

What happened to him afterwards?

At his trial in 2004 it emerged that Brunerie was less a political or ideological zealot, and more a very strange and deeply unhappy young man.

He had initially simply been planning to kill himself , but wanted to at least end his life with some notoriety, and hatched a plan to go out in a blaze of glory – ‘suicide by cop’, having just “killed the King.”

“Having screwed up my life, I didn’t want to screw up my death,” he said afterwards.

He was sentenced to ten years in prison for attempted murder.

What’s he done since then?

Brunerie got a two-year technical degree in management in 2009, before being released later that year.

In 2011 he published his memoirs, “An Ordinary Life: I Tried to Kill Chirac”, in which he recounted his troubled childhood (he called his mother a ‘castrator’), his search for belonging in skinhead groups, and his five difficult years in prison.

Up until this week, Brunerie appeared to have been a changed man.

Story continues below…

A lover of improv theatre (“I enjoy myself like a little mad man”), a trader of antique books, and a supposedly devoted boyfriend to his partner Delphine, he has nonetheless found it hard to escape his past and be accepted back into society.

In 2010 he tried to join the centrist Modem party, but had his membership application rejected. In 2012, he was placed on the jury of a French literary prize but the rest of the judges left in protest.

What does he have to say for himself?

“Delphine is more than my rock. If one day she wasn’t there, there would be an empty abyss,” Brunerie told Paris Match in 2011.

What do others say about him?

“He is a brilliant human being, very literary. He might seem like a psychopath at first glance, but he’s really not,” French writer Laurence Biava, justifying her decision to invite him on to the jury of a literary competition in 2011.

“The accused’s past is a tale that moves between the bright light of his scandalous fame and the darkness of his death. Above all, this is about a childish obsession with the forbidden,” prosecutor Philippe Bilger said at Brunerie’s trial in 2004.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to increase forces in Ivory Coast
French troops based in Abidjan and a soldier from Ivory Coast's Republican Forces carry a soldier during a military exercise. Photo: AFP

France will increase the number of its troops in Ivory Coast, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday on a trip to the African nation which hosts a regional base for French forces.

Fire ravages Muslim prayer hall in Corsica
The building, one of the largest prayer halls in the capital Ajaccio, suffered major damage in the fire. Photo: Yannick Graziani/AFP

A Muslim prayer hall on the French island of Corsica was ravaged by fire on Saturday in what prosecutors said was probably a criminal attack.

'I feel no guilt': French boss defends €2.5m salary hike
"I earn this much". Peugeot Citroen boss Carlos Tavares defends his salary. Photo: AFP

The boss of French car giant Peugeot says he feels no guilt over his €2.5million salary rise and the criticism is all part of his pay packet.

Nine must-see landmarks in Paris you may have missed
Photo: AFP

You've seen the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral. So what next?

Cap on EU roaming charges set to kick in
Photo: zoetnet/Flickr

EU mobile users will soon be calling from Alicante to Zagreb at lower prices.

UK pair charged with funding Paris attacks suspect
Photo: Police

Two UK nationals have been charged with handing over to cash to a suspect in the Paris terror attacks.

Paris makes love-lock bridge even more love-lock proof
Photo: Michel Gauret/No Love Locks

Good luck attaching a love lock now.

France gets tough on Muslim footballers praying on pitch
Archive photo of Muslims praying on a sports pitch in France. Photo: AFP

Authorities in the Riviera city of Nice are cracking down on Muslims praying on their football pitches, arguing it is against France's Republican principles.

What's on in France: Ten great things to do in May
Photo: AFP

Events to keep you entertained as summer approaches.

Labour reform protests
Who are the masked rioters causing havoc in France?
Photos: AFP

Who's smashing up shops, banks, and bus stops - and attacking the French police force?

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Society
Protesters clash with police over France's new labour laws
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
French dangerously 'unprepared' for future natural disasters
Is it really safe to come to France for Euro 2016?
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
National
Salah Abdeslam: Pot-smoking 'little moron' is finally back in Paris
Society
PICTURES: Snow falls in Paris... at the end of April?
Rail strike: Passengers in France face major disruption
Cats in a cafe?!? Nine of the quirkiest things you can see in Paris
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
National
VIDEO: The moment a Paris suicide bomber blew himself up
National
Why there's another rail strike in France and why there will be more
National
Winter is coming (back). Why is France so cold right now?
National
WWI's Anzac Day heroes honoured in northern France service
Lifestyle
VIDEO: Did you know all these stars spoke great French?
Culture
How did the French end up with their 'crazy' numbers?
Politics
Why this man could become the next president of France
Society
VIDEO: Jewellers in southern France raided by... swarm of bees
Culture
Did you know the strange origins of these six French curse words?
Why are more and more people dying on French roads?
National
VIDEO: Mass street brawl erupts at Paris migrant camp
Culture
Film 'Chocolat' highlights taboo of race problem in French cinema
Society
British people have been urged to come to France... and to get naked
Culture
15 reasons Clermont-Ferrand is the best place in France
National
Eight tips for buying wine in a French supermarket
Culture
Steven Spielberg and Jodie Foster top star-studded Cannes cast
2,776
jobs available