Is France any closer to solving the shocking series of horse mutilations?

A first arrest in the series of horse attacks that shocked France this summer sparked hope of a breakthrough in the mystery case. But is France any closer to solving the spate of crimes?

Is France any closer to solving the shocking series of horse mutilations?
Dozens of horses have been attacked since August. Illustration photo: AFPPhoto: AFP

French police have been stymied all summer, unable to solve the series of attacks on horses and ponies that have terrorised farmers and animal owners across the country.

On Monday, police detained a man, 50, based on a computer-generated image of one of two people suspected of cutting horses in the Yonne département of central France.

The suspect was arrested in the Haut-Rhin département of eastern France said Laraize and prosecutors told AFP that the man was known in neighbouring Germany for attacks on animals.

But just as hopes were raised of a breakthrough in the case the man was released early Tuesday morning without charges. Police have said however he has not been completely ruled out as a suspect.

So where does that put the investigation?

French authorities believe several people are behind the crimes, and speculate that they could be motivated by a satanic rite or an internet cult. 

Many owners are so worried that they have stopped letting their horses graze at night while some have even been mounting their own patrols.

How many cases are there?
There is no definitive list of attacks, but authorities said over 150 possible incidents were being looked at.
“153 investigations are open, in more than half of the départements of France,” said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Monday.
Thirty of the total cases were considered “particularly serious.”
“That is to say they led to the death of the horse or to very violent injuries,” Darmanin said.
The French daily Libération's Check News website has found 36 cases dating from November 27th 2017 until September 3rd 2020, but the data shows a massive uptick in cases from the start of August, with ears cut off some 22 horses nationwide, as well as genital mutilations and other cuts.
The map below, made by France Bleu, shows where and when incidents have occurred.


Are all the attacks the same phenomenon?

Probably not. According to the French Central Office for the Fight against Environmental Damages, the majority of cases “did not involve human action.”

“There is a bit of everything, natural deaths, vultures and people” Jacques Diacono, who heads up the office, told Libération on Sunday.

“Vultures attack the most tender parts, so the ears, eyes, genitals,” he said, adding that their job largely consisted of separating the human-originated attacks by those who were not caused by humans. 

“What is certain [is that] between 20 to 25 percent of the cases without doubt were of human origin,” he said.

However, in a big chunk of the total 153 cases humans were probably not responsible for the mutilations.

Are only horses being attacked?

Until now only cases involving horses or ponies had been reported but on September 3rd an alpaca was found dead in its field in the southern département of Lot-et-Garonne field, with one ear cut off.

Are there other suspects?

French police at the weekend launched a search for two suspects in the Cote-d'Or region of eastern France after a stable owner told police of an intrusion on his premises during which one horse was wounded.

A 40-strong team of gendarmes backed up by police dogs and a helicopter were sent to the scene but have not found the culprits so far.

“In this case, we absolutely do not exclude the idea that there is no link with other incidents nationwide,” the prosecutor said.

What about the man who was arrested?

He's still a suspect in the case.
Authorities constructed the suspect's likeness in part based on testimony from stable manager Nicolas Demajean, whose premises were attacked in August.

Demajean was injured when he went to confront two attackers who had cut two ponies with knives and mutilated another horse, he said.

Searches of the 50-year-old's home did not find conclusive evidence but there was  considerable digital material still to examine, he added, while emphasising it was not clear if there was any link to the other attacks.

What penalty do the attackers face?

The maximum penalty in France for serious abuse or cruelty to an animal is two years in jail and a €30,000 fine.


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French minister investigated after rape allegations

A junior minister in President Emmanuel Macron's government is under investigation after two allegations of rape were brought against her, French prosecutors have said.

French minister investigated after rape allegations

The allegations go back to when Chrysoula Zacharopoulou – who is now state secretary for development, Francophonie and international partnerships – worked as a gynaecologist, according to French magazine Marianne.

One complaint was lodged on May 25th and the investigation opened two days later, the prosecutors said. The second complaint was filed on June 16th.

Greece-born Zacharopoulou, 46, joined the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in May, having been a member of the European Parliament for the previous three years. She reports to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

She gained prominence in 2015 by campaigning for greater public awareness of endometriosis together with actress Julie Gayet, who this year married former French president Francois Hollande.

Zacharopoulou was strongly involved in the UN’s COVAX coronavirus vaccine rollout effort, and has spoken out in favour of women’s reproductive rights.

These are not the first rape allegations to overshadow Macron’s government and come at a time of political difficulty for the president after he failed to retain a majority in parliamentary elections.

Prosecutors investigated Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin over an allegation for rape filed in 2017. He denied any wrongdoing and prosecutors in
January asked for the case to be dropped.

Rape allegations were also made against Solidarities minister Damien Abad last month but French prosecutors have said they were not currently opening an investigation.