Daily newspaper Libération reported that the first of the three officers was found dead some time around 8am on Thursday. The 29-year-old had killed himself “with the help of his service weapon in an unmarked car” in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, according to a source quoted by the newspaper.
The second police officer shot himself about one hour later, at 9am, after shooting and killing his ex-wife.
Reports said the woman had just returned home from taking her two children, aged 5 and 7, to school in Chevilly-Larue, south of Paris.
She found her former husband waiting at the door of the building where she lived and ran when he brandished his police weapon. The 37-year-old officer shot the woman, hitting her in the shoulder and the head. After the shooting, the policeman went to his car where he shot himself in the head. The two were taken to separate hospitals where both died.
In the third incident, at around 10am, a 36-year-old police officer hanged himself at his home in Pré-Saint-Gervais to the north east of Paris.
Police held a meeting to discuss the wave of suicides on Thursday but sources quoted by Libération said it was “the first time in the police” that a string of suicides happened “on the same day” and that the timing seemed to be “coincidental.”
A police source said the three events seemed to be linked to “marital and private difficulties.”
A report in Le Parisien on Friday claimed that the suicide of the first of the three officers was linked to the recent deaths of his father and grandfather. The second had been separated from his wife for three years, leading to depression. The third man was reportedly having relationship problems.
Claude Guéant, interior minister, offered his condolences. Police union leaders said the stresses of police work can lead to terrible consequences.
“The stress of our profession can lead men and women to the worst extremes when they find themselves with personal problems,” said Nicolas Comte, general secretary of police union Unité-Police SGP-FO.
A study in 2008 by the national institute of health and medical research (Inserm) found that police officers had a 36 percent higher risk of suicide than the general population. The same study found there are around 40 to 50 suicides each year in the police and that officers often use their service weapons.