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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 tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”

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