Fake cops turn robbers to hit tourists in France

Foreign tourists visiting the south of France have been warned to be alert after reports that a gang of robbers, dubbed "motorway pirates" were pretending to be French police as a ruse to rob unsuspecting visitors.

Fake cops turn robbers to hit tourists in France
A real police stop on tourists in France. Be aware for fake cops. Photo: AFP

An organised crime gang, who disguise themselves as police or gendarmes – France’s military police – have been targeting motorists on the motorways in the south of France, according to reports on Friday.

They strike at night, mainly in the regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the Bouches-du-Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon.

The gendarmerie have warned motorists travelling in these areas to be on their guard — particularly at night .

According to reports in the French press the gang’s chosen targets are foreign tourists, because they are less aware of how French police traditionally operate.

The gang are extremely well organized and use police equipment, such as flashing lights and clothing to help deceive their victims.

Driving in an unmarked car they normally strike between 2am and 6am and follow vehicles before pulling out a flashing blue light and signalling for them to pull onto the hard shoulder.

They shine torches into the face of the driver and any other occupants of the car before carrying out searches of the vehicle claiming to be looking for drugs or fake identity papers.

As they are rooting through the possessions, they pilfer anything of value.

“Sometimes it can take less than a minute and often they purposefully rob mobile phones and the keys of the car, so the victims cannot raise the alarm,” Alain Archaimbault, captain of the Gendarmerie told France Info radio on Friday.

He reminded motorists that a real police search of a vehicle would never take place by the side of a motorway “for reasons of safety”.

He also said it's very rare for police to carry out operations in plain clothes and in unmarked police cars.

He also advised tourists simply no to stop their cars if they are in doubt.

Police in the region have been forced to send out a press release in the hope of alerting drivers.

It made clear that while it would be quite common to ask for driver's papers police, “unlike these motorway pirates” would never ask to search through bags under the pretext of looking for drugs.

The gendarmes tried to reassure tourists by insisting the investigation to track down the culprits was making progress.

“We are confident this probe will be completed quickly,” he said.

But the reports of robberies by fake cops are not restricted to the south of France. Last month police reported around 10 similar incidents on the A13 motorway between Paris and Normandy.

British drivers have also been warned to lock doors while travelling through Calais this summer.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”