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CRIME

Primark hold up: French cops hunt gunmen

UPDATED: French police were desperately trying to track down three gunmen who held 18 people hostage during a hold-up at a Primark store near Paris on Monday.

Primark hold up: French cops hunt gunmen
The Primark store at the Quartz shopping centre near Paris. Photo: Google street view

LATEST: 

  • 18 people freed after intervention from French special forces
  • Three armed men still believed to be on the loose and in the shopping centre
  • One gunman believed to be member of staff at Primark
  • Hostage situation began with attempted armed robbery on Primark
  • Qwartz shopping centre to north of Paris on lock down
  • Witnesses talk of people fleeing in panic

French police on Monday were hunting armed robbers who escaped after holding up a Primark store in a shopping mall near Paris, prompting special forces to intervene and seal off the area.

Elite forces freed 18 people who were being held hostage at the Primark store in a shopping centre at Villeneuve-la-Garenne to the north of Paris.

The gunmen — one of whom was thought to be a Primark employee — were still on the loose and believed to be inside the Qwartz mall.

The area around the mall was shut down, all traffic stopped and other stores in the vicinity closed up.

The mall was promptly evacuated but according to police, some 18 employees had remained inside, holed up in a canteen.

It was not clear whether they had been taken there by the gunmen or whether they escaped on their own.

They “were evacuated around 10:30, one of them was unwell but no one was injured ,” police said, adding security forces were still hunting for the gunmen.

But while security forces initially thought the gunmen were still inside the mall, they realised after searching the premises that the men had escaped.

The suspects “appear to have run away, and the search continues outside the mall,” a source close to the probe said.

 

A specialist armed police unit had been sent to the scene and the shopping mall was still in lock down. 

At around 6.30am armed men broke in to the Primark store to carry out what we believe was an attempted armed robbery,” a police source told Le Parisien newspaper.

A witness the newspaper spoke to talked of employees, who were arriving for work, fleeing panic.

“Everyone was running and screaming: 'They are armed, they are armed' We must get out.”

One of the hostages managed to raise the alarm by sending an SMS to her boyfriend telling her she was being held hostage by two armed men, reports said.

A London-based spokesman for Primark, a low-cost clothing store that has been a huge success in Britain, confirmed there had been an “incident” at its store just north of Paris.

“Police are in attendance… We will do all we can to support our staff and their families,” he said.

“We hope for a speedy and safe end to this incident.”

The incident comes on the eve of the traditional military parade that takes place every year in Paris on July 14, France's national day.

This year, special forces such as the ones that intervened Monday will march down the Champs-Elysees for the first time in recognition of the role they played in countering the January attacks.

 

 

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CRIME

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer

Two newborn babies whose corpses were found in a woman's freezer in southern France did not die of natural causes, prosecutors said on Monday.

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer

 “The two children were not stillborn,” Florence Galtier, prosecutor in the southern town of Avignon, told AFP, citing an autopsy.

Their deaths were “not natural in origin”, she added, after the discovery at the home of a 41-year-old woman arrested last Thursday in the southern village of Bedoin.

The woman was charged Friday on suspicion of murder of two minors.

It is not known if she is the mother of the victims, both girls.

The autopsy showed one of the babies had suffered a blow leaving “cranial and intracranial” bruising, believed to be the cause of death.

Galtier said it was not clear if the injuries were the result of violence or a fall, a lack of care or something else.

She added it had also not been established if the girls were twins — or even unrelated.

Police received a telephone tip off from a man whose identity and potential connection to the case are also unclear.

France has known similar cases over the years.

Last March, a woman in her 30s was placed under investigation after two frozen babies were found at her home.

In 2015, five bodies were found in a similar case which saw the mother handed an eight-year jail term.

Another case which went down in French legal annals was that of Veronique Courjault, given an eight-year sentence in 2009 for killing three of her newborn children.

The bodies of two were discovered in a freezer in the home she shared with her husband in South Korea.

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