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CRIME

Broke French crime reporter turns to hold ups

There was good news and bad news for a crime reporter at a French newspaper this week. On the plus side there was a good story about an armed robber being snared by police, but on the downside, the suspect turned out to be his predecessor on the crime desk.

Broke French crime reporter turns to hold ups
A former crime reporter at the Nouvelle Republique followed in the footsteps of the subjects of his articles. But he couldn't learn from their mistakes. Photo: AFP/ Police nationale

There aren’t many journalists out there getting rich off their work, especially not that underappreciated newsroom stalwart: the crime reporter. And for one crime beat veteran in the central French city of Blois things just spiralled after retirement.

The retired hack had gone through a nasty divorce, his son was racking up bills for school and his money problems kept growing. That’s when police say he turned to something he’d written about plenty of times, robberies, France Info radio reported.

The 63-year-old former hack for French regional newspaper Nouvelle Republique allegedly donned a wig, fake mustache, gloves and a hefty ‘Clint Eastwood’ revolver and began holding up stores in the area.

He is believed to have hit five shops since September 2013, gathering about €9,000 in cash, up until last week.  His modus operendi was usually the same each time. He’d wait until closing time and then force the workers at gunpoint to turn over the day's takings or the contents of the safe.

But on Monday, after his sixth and final hold up, the cops nabbed him as he walked out of the store in his disguise. It turned out detectives had been watching the old reporter, whom they knew well from his days onthe crime beat, for weeks.

In his time as a reporter, the journalist who wasn’t named, had probably written about the careless criminals who left their wallets at crime scenes or crash into police cars after robbing banks. Butthat didn't stop him making his own mistakes.

After he’d been identified as a suspect police took a look at the retired reporter's bank records and were struck by the timing and amount of the deposits. It turned out he’d been putting the loot into his personal account shortly after the crimes.

The tale should serve as warning to the ex-reporter’s replacement at the Nouvelle Republique, who was forced to write about the arrest. Not surprisingly there is no mention that the suspect used to ply his trade at the paper.

Nouvelle Republique declined to comment on the arrest when contact by France Info. 

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CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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