Lyon knife attacker smoked cannabis and ‘heard the voice of God’

The Lyon knife attacker smoked large amounts of cannabis before his rampage and "heard the voice of God telling him to kill", according to French police.

Lyon knife attacker smoked cannabis and 'heard the voice of God'
The attack scene in Villeurbanne, Lyon. Photo: AP

One person died and eight others were injured after a man believed to be an Afghan asylum seeker went on the rampage with a knife and a meat skewer in the Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne on Saturday.

Investigators said the killer appeared to have psychological problems and had smoked large quantities of cannabis before stabbing the 19-year-old man to death and injuring eight others on Saturday afternoon at a bus station. 

He was found in public records with two identities and three different dates of birth, making him either 33, 31 or 27-years-old, prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told a news conference in Lyon.

A witness is comforted by friends. Photo: AFP

During “confused” interviews with police, he said he was a Muslim “who had heard voices saying God had been insulted and instructing him to kill,” Jacquet said, adding that the case was being treated as a criminal, rather than terrorist, incident.

Jacquet paid tribute to three bus drivers and other members of the public who had succeeded in cornering the man and persuading him to drop his knife and a meat skewer before the police arrived on the scene.

“I want to pay tribute to the actions of witnesses. Their courageous and controlled intervention was decisive in ending these criminal acts,” he added.

Sofiane, a 17-year-old from the area, told AFP on Sunday that the dead man was one of the first to try to reason with the knifeman.

The killer “stabbed him and then when he fell on the ground, he continued,” Sofiane explained.

A young girl, still in shock at having witnessed the attack, told AFP: “A man at the 57 (bus) stop started stabbing people left, right and centre.

 “Nobody came to help so I threw myself on her (one of the victims) to protect her to prevent him stabbing her again,” said the girl, who finally managed to help the woman into the bus.

Bus driver Abdelkadar speaks of how he challenged the knifeman. Photo: AFP

Abdelkader, one of the bus drivers who came to their aid, said he saw the assailant head towards the metro and instinctively challenged him as he repeatedly slashed at one victim. 

“His face was expressionless – you felt he was stabbing away just for the sake of it,”  said Abdelkader

On Sunday, he admitted to feeling “worse and worse – many flashbacks are coming back to me,” prosecutor Jacquet said.

Jacquet said the knifeman had been first registered in France in 2009 as a minor, but travelled to Germany, Norway, Britain and Italy before returning to France in 2016 where he was granted temporary residency rights.

Two of the eight injured victims remained in hospital on Sunday, but none was in intensive care, Jacquet said. 

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