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CRIME

Another arrested as clown fear grips France

A 14-year-old dressed as a clown was arrested Monday near Paris for attempting to attack a woman, as a strange phenomenon of fake, evil clowns terrorizing passers-by spreads in France.

Another arrested as clown fear grips France
It's no joke. Clown panic is spreading across France. Photo: Shutterstock

Another teenager in the southern city of Montpellier was sentenced to four months in prison for hitting a passer-by 30 times with an iron bar overnight Saturday. The teen was also kitted out as a clown.

Complaints have poured in recently over "armed clowns" wreaking havoc in various parts of the country — some carrying pistols, knives or baseball bats — and police have detained several people over the violent trend.

The phenomenon has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to step in to try and quell the hysteria by saying there have only been a few sightings of the grotesque pranksters.

On Monday, a woman who had just got out of her car in Chelles near Paris called the police, saying two clowns — one of whom was armed with a fake axe — had attacked her, a source said.

They escaped when a passer-by armed with a baseball bat tried to stop them, and one of the pranksters was subsequently detained when police spotted him, white make-up still all over his face.

In a separate incident just half an hour afterwards, a dozen people wearing the smiling, white masks associated with the Anonymous hacktivist collective attacked three youths at a station in Melun, also in the Paris suburbs, stealing their mobile phones, the police source added.

Trend seen in the US and Britain

The phenomenon of dressing up as an evil clown and terrifying passers-by — a trend which has also been seen in the United States and Britain — cropped up in the north of France in early October.

In the town of Bethune, a 19-year-old received a six-month suspended jail term last week for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown.

These "clowns" have been "mostly spotted outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square. Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults," a police source in northern France told AFP.

And the phenomenon has spread to the south of the country.  

Police on Saturday night arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons in the Mediterranean port town of Agde.

In Montpellier, meanwhile, the victim of the fake clown told the court that the costumed assailant had chased him, yelling "give me everything, your telephone, your money, your briefcase," and added he had trouble sleeping and had nightmares since the assault.

The attacker, meanwhile, admitted he was drunk.

Theories abound as to the origin of this trend of violence in a country where Halloween has barely made any inroads.

The suggestions include a challenge launched on social networks, popular videos on YouTube showing a terrifying clown pranking people, or even a recent episode of the popular TV series American Horror Story featuring Twisty the killer clown.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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