Catholic priest murdered in western France

A man suspected of causing a major fire that ravaged the cathedral in the French city of Nantes last year murdered a Catholic priest in western France on Monday, the interior minister and a source close to the investigation said.

Catholic priest murdered in western France
Illustration photo: Loic Venance/AFP

“All my support for the Catholics of our country after the tragic murder of a priest in the Vendée,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter, saying he was heading to the scene.

According to France 3, the body of the victim was discovered on Monday in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, about twenty kilometres from Cholet in the Vendée département.

A source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, said a man had earlier gone to police in the town of Mortagne-sur-Sevre and declared he had killed a priest.

The man was already under judicial control over the fire at Nantes cathedral in July 2020, the source added.

Darmanin, writing on Twitter, said that the man – a Rwandan national – could not be deported because he was still under judicial control in France.

The priest has been named as Olivier Maire. It is understood that the 60-year-old priest had been welcoming the man into his church for several months.

The man, named as Emmanuel A, has confessed to being behind the fire at the Gothic Nantes cathedral that horrified France on July 18th, 2020.

He had initially been placed under arrest before being freed under judicial control.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who accuses the government of being weak on immigration, sought to seize on the incident, saying that in France “you can
be an illegal migrant, set fire to a cathedral, not be expelled and then reoffend by murdering a priest”.

While firefighters were able to contain the Nantes blaze after just two hours and save the main structure, its famed organ, which dated from 1621 and had survived the French revolution and World War II bombardment, was destroyed.

Also lost were priceless artefacts and paintings, including a work by the 19th-century artist Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin and stained glass windows that
contained remnants of 16th-century glass. Repairs are due to take several years.

The man, an asylum-seeker from Rwanda who has lived in France for several years, had worked as a volunteer at the church.

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French police seize 2.4 tonnes of cannabis near Bordeaux

France’s Economy Minister has praised the work of Bordeaux law officers, after they seized more than 2.4 tonnes of cannabis resin with an estimated street value in excess of €19 million.

French police seize 2.4 tonnes of cannabis near Bordeaux

Bruno Le Maire and Minister Delegate in charge of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal in a joint statement: “Once again, Customs distinguished itself with an exceptional seizure of cannabis, recalling its key role in the fight against drug trafficking. We congratulate the customs officers for their daily commitment to the protection of our fellow citizens.”

Two people were taken into custody after officers stopped a lorry from Spain on the A63, near the Saugnac-et-Muret toll area, just south of Bordeaux, on Monday.

According to Le Figaro, the drugs were hidden in side compartments of the lorry, and concealed by its stated load of wheat, and were discovered by a sniffer dog during the stop.

In total, 2,414.8kg of cannabis resin and 9.75kg of cannabis herb were intercepted by the Bordeaux brigade, with an estimated value of more than €19 million on the illicit market.

Since the end of July, 2022, Customs officials have seized nearly 73 tonnes of drugs, including 41.2 tonnes of cannabis.

The French drugs squad is now investigating to determine the point of origin of the drugs, as well as their destination and the crime network behind the smuggling attempt.