Webcam suicide in online medical forum

A depressed man using a chat room on a medical website shot himself dead in front of other users on his webcam.

The man, named only as Jean-Edouard, was staying at his uncle’s home in the southern port city of Marseille when he took his life by shooting himself in the head on Saturday, reported local newspaper La Provence.

Initial reports suggested the man, who used the alias Redjohn, had been talking to a psychologist at the time he killed himself but Wednesday’s Le Parisien newspaper claimed these were untrue and he had been talking to another user named Ravioli.

Ravioli contacted other users as well as the police after the incident. Another user contacted one of the site’s administrators, based in Canada, who was able to track down the man’s identity.

The website alerted Interpol and local police visited the man’s home in Castres in the south west of the country.

His parents told police that their son was away, staying with family in Marseille. In the meantime, the man’s body had been found in the apartment in the Trois-Lucs district of the city. 

Newspaper Le Parisien reported the Doctissimo website as saying the man was not a frequent user.

“This man was not a regular,” said Christophe Clément, a spokesman for the site. “He had created his profile quite recently and had hardly any previous history of using the site.”

The newspaper also claimed that the image of the dead man was left on the site for several hours. 

“Other internet users were able to see the images,” said one site regular, according to the newspaper. “The image of his head lying on the desk after his death stayed up for several hours before the site took it down.”

The site’s managers have kept details of the dead man’s activity before his death which they will hand to police. 

“This was a very regrettable incident,” said Christophe Clément. “It’s clear that the links and exchanges that happen between people on our site have managed to prevent many more suicides than they’ve caused.”

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France Telecom’s ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides

France Telecom's former CEO Didier Lombard rejected any responsibility for the suicides of his employees when he faced court, a decade after a wrenching restructuring plan cost thousands of employees their jobs.

France Telecom's ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides
Union representatives gather outside the trial of ex French Telecom CEO Didier Lombard on May 6th. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Lombard and other former executives are on trial on unprecedented charges of moral harassment that allegedly prompted 35 employees to take their lives in 2008 and 2009.

“The transformations a business has to go through aren't pleasant, that's just the way it is, there's nothing I could have done,” Didier Lombard told a Paris court on Tuesday.

“If I hadn't been there, it would have been the same, if not worse,” he said. “The problem was that we had to get our house in order.”

Now 77, Lombard resigned under a cloud in 2010 after several disparaging remarks including one referring to a “suicide fad” at the former state telecoms giant, since rechristened Orange.

In 2006, he told staff: “I'll get people to leave one way or another, either through the window or the door.”

Relatives of the suicide victims and other plaintiffs accuse Lombard and other officials of instituting systemic psychological pressure to push workers to quit, through forced transfers or demotions.

The restructuring plan involved cutting 22,000 jobs out of 120,000 over a three-year period.

On Tuesday, however, Lombard blamed a “media crisis” for overshadowing the success of his efforts.

“Newspapers said the company was in a terrible state, it wrecked morale,” he said.

“Profound Sadness”

In a letter he read to the court, Lombard also expressed his “sincere and profound sadness that this situation involuntarily contributed to the fragility of some, to the point that they carried out this irreparable act.”

But his remarks angered some former workers attending the trial.

“I can't believe it. It makes me sick,” said Yves Minguy, an IT specialist who suffered severe depression which he said resulted from intense pressure by his supervisors.

“Saving a company means the loss of human lives, and he couldn't do anything about it?” he told AFP after the hearing.

“It's staggering.”

During their investigation, magistrates focused on the cases of 39 employees –19 of whom killed themselves, 12 who tried to, and eight who suffered from acute depression or were signed off sick as a result of it.

Alongside Lombard, also in the dock on the same charge were his former number two Louis-Pierre Wenes and the ex-head of human resources Olivier Barberot.

Four others face charges of complicity in a trial set to be closely followed by businesses, unions and workforce experts.

If convicted, they could face a year behind bars and a 15,000-euro ($16,800) fine. The trial could last until July 12th.

Orange itself could be slapped with a 75,000-euro sanction if found guilty.

The trial marks the first time that representatives from a blue-chip company in France's CAC-40 stock index have gone on trial for moral harassment.