French Couchsurfer host filmed guests in shower

A host of the "Couchsurfing" scheme, who secretly filmed his guests while they showered and added acid to their shower gel at his home in Marseille has been jailed for six months by a French court.

French Couchsurfer host filmed guests in shower
The man admitted to using a hole at the back of his wardrobe to watch female guests while they washed. File photo: Steven Zolneczko/Flickr

The 37-year-old engineer at the electrical company ERDF was on Tuesday jailed for six months with an 18-month suspended sentence for filming guests in his shower, 20 Minutes reported

He attracted his guests to his house by placing an ad on the global Couchsurfing website, which allows travellers to stay in hosts' homes for free.

The man admitted to using a hole at the back of his wardrobe to watch female guests while they washed. He also admitted to adding hydrochloric acid to their shower gel to prolong their showers.

“I wanted the girls to shower longer, so they would stay and rub themselves to get the product off,” he told investigators.

The case dates back to July 2012 when a young German tourist accused him of putting the anti-anxiety drug Lexomil on a her slice of bread and butter and putting hydrochloric acid in her shower gel and on her knickers.

The man confessed to having voyeuristic tendencies, which was confirmed in court by a psychiatrist.

However he denied that his actions were sexually motivated.

“What interested me was going out-of-bounds, it wasn’t necessarily sexual. It was about seeing without being seen,” he said.

Although he said he had offered his sofa to around 40 mainly young female travellers since 2006, he claims that he only spied on five or six of them.

In 2009 he was also caught trying to photograph a woman in the showers at a swimming pool in Bordeaux.

The German victim’s lawyer described the man as “an unremarkable person” who “doesn’t seem suspicious”.

“The thing that makes him dangerous is precisely because he doesn’t appear to be [suspicious],” she said.

But the man’s lawyer pointed out that he did not sexually abuse his victims, remarking that he was “still immature but extremely intelligent”. 

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France vows to tackle motorbike ‘rodeos’ after children injured

The French government has pledged a new crackdown against illicit motorbike cruising by youths in suburbs across the country, after two children were seriously injured by a rider near Paris.

France vows to tackle motorbike 'rodeos' after children injured

The rowdy late-night races and stunts known as “rodeos” have become increasingly popular in particular in low-income neighbourhoods, leading to complaints about traffic and noise from local officials and many residents.

On Friday evening, a 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy were hit by a rider while playing tag outside their home in Pontoise, northwest of the capital.

French daily Le Figaro reported on Monday that the girl suffered a blow to the head and remained in serious condition in hospital, while the boy had a broken leg.

The accident came after a 19-year-old man was killed in June after being hit by a bike rider in the western city of Rennes.

“I have asked the police to step up their interventions this month,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said in the southern city of Marseille.

Nonetheless the rodeos are often tolerated or defended as a gritty urban subculture that provides an outlet for disaffected youths, with an upcoming film, “Rodeo”, that appears to glorify the gatherings and  generated a strong buzz at the Cannes film festival last May.

Police have carried out 8,000 operations to break up rodeos in the past two months, leading to 1,200 arrests and the seizure of around 700 motorbikes and other vehicles including all-terrain “quads”.

In 2018, parliament passed a law increasing penalties for the riders to up to five years in prison.