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CRIME

How four women were freed in a hostage drama in Toulouse

A teenager is being questioned by police after taking four women hostage at a bar on the outskirts of the southern French city of Toulouse.

How four women were freed in a hostage drama in Toulouse
Police in Blagnac just outside Toulouse. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

The women were freed “safe and sound”, officials said.

The 17-year-old hostage-taker remained holed up alone in the establishment in the north-west Blagnac suburb of the city for a couple of hours afterwards before finally being arrested following protracted negotiations, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter.

The teen, “who is nearly 18, has a police record for incidents of violence, notably against police officers, for robbery, and also for participating in December in a 'yellow vest' (anti-government) protest during which he was arrested,” Toulouse chief prosecutor Dominique Alzeari earlier told a news conference.

He was not “someone who was classed as dangerous” previously, he said.

The gunman, who was not identified publicly, burst into the bar in the afternoon, firing two shots and allegedly warning he would fire on police if they approached, Alzeari said.

He left a letter at his home “in which he seemed fairly depressive, or at least worried about his state of health, and he made mention of the 'yellow vest' movement but stating that the act he was about to commit would not go beyond what turned out to be not so impressive,” he said.

The mayor's office in Blagnac said earlier there was “no suspicion of a terrorist motive” in the incident, an evaluation shared by police.

The gunman released the female owner of the bar first, then a short time later the three women who some witnesses said included bar staff.

A delivery man who said he knew the father of the gunman told media outside the police cordon at the scene that the teen, named “Yanis”, was a local resident from a nearby downmarket neighbourhood.

He said police had brought the mother to the scene, apparently to help with negotiations.

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CRIME

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl

A French court on Wednesday acquitted three English teachers and a lifeguard accused over the 2015 drowning of a 12-year-old British schoolgirl in France.

French court acquits four over death of British schoolgirl

Jessica Lawson drowned in July 2015 after a swim in a lake with 23 other British children on a school trip. She died after the pontoon they were playing on capsized near Limoges in southwest central France.

The trial began Tuesday in nearby Tulle, attended by the child’s parents.

The suspects including the teachers from Hull, northeast England, and the lifeguard on duty at the time were charged with manslaughter caused by a “deliberate breach of safety or caution”.

The judges said on Wednesday there were too many elements in the case that were unclear including exactly when the child disappeared in the water.

The court also could not establish a link between the pontoon overturning and the schoolgirl’s death.

The local authority was also cleared of any role in the death.

It was the lifeguard who had found the missing child at the bottom of the lake (lac de la Triouzoune) on July 21 and she was airlifted to hospital. She died the next day.

The public prosecutor had requested a suspended sentence of three years for the teachers and the same for the lifeguard, who was 21 years old at the time, as well as a lifetime ban on doing similar work.

The suspects denied that they had failed to provide proper surveillance.

A lawyer for the schoolgirl’s family said they hoped the public prosecutor would appeal the court’s decision, pointing to many issues.

“A young girl of 12 disappeared, the pontoon was dangerous and there was an obvious lack of surveillance. Another court must hear this,” lawyer Eloi Chan told AFP.

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