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CRIME

Canadian tourist recounts alleged rape at hands of French police at Paris HQ

A Canadian tourist who was the victim of an alleged rape by French policeman at the legendary Paris police HQ by the banks of the Seine has spoken out for the first time about the night she was attacked and how her life has changed for the worse.

 
In an interview with France 3 TV from her Ontario home, Sponton said she had been drinking with the three police officers who had been regaling her with stories of their work at the police HQ, the legendary Quai des Orfèvres on the banks of the River Seine in the heart of Paris.
 
 
“I've seen so many films about the place and I was fascinated about it,” she said. 
 
The officers then offered to give her a tour of the building but once there Sponton says they tried to force her to drink large amount of whisky.
 
But then according to her, the atmosphere changed.
 
“It became very different when I refused to do what they wanted,” she said. “They smashed my face against the desk. I was stunned, I was seeing stars. I couldn't see anything for a while. I couldn't see them either, they were behind me.”
 
She then says she was raped several times while her head was held down against the desk.
 
She was later found lying on the street outside the police HQ by a policewoman who took her to a nearby hospital. On examination she was found to have bruises and lesions in the genital area. She immediately filed a complaint for rape before heading home to Canada.
 
The three accused officers were later arrested, with two finally set to face trial on charges of gang rape. That came after Sponton had won her appeal to see the case brought back to court after judges initially threw it out last year.
 
“This decision restores the dignity of my client, who has been dragged through the mud during this investigation,” her lawyer Sophie Obadia said in September.
 
“The judicial authorities have finally recognised that this woman, who is a foreigner and in a vulnerable position, has been sexually abused,” the lawyer added.
 
One of the officers says he had “consensual” sexual relations with the woman. The other denied having any relations with her, before saying there had been “reciprocal touching”.
 
The men's DNA was found on the tourist's underwear, along with that of another unknown person.
 
A major operation to take DNA samples from police was carried out in September 2015, but no third suspect was found.
 
Prosecutors argued in June 2017 that the woman's “free and cheerful behaviour” did not indicate consent.
 
Speaking to France 3 Sponton said: “There is no other word for it. It's rape. When I hear [the accused police officers] I want to stand up and shout 'I am not a liar, this really happened to me, how dare you?'”
 
The woman says her life is very different since that night in April 2014.
 
“Before I was a happy person, open but now I am closed and isolated. That's why this trial is very important for me.”
 
A date for the trial has not been set.

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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