What we know about the murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty

A banner expressing solidarity after the murder of Samuel Paty
A banner expressing solidarity after the murder of Samuel Paty. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP
France has been paying tribute to schoolteacher Samuel Paty - one year on from his shocking murder, this is what we know about what happened.

It was a crime that sent shockwaves through France, already reeling from multiple previous terror attacks, and came to be seen as an attack on the fundamental values of the country itself.

Here is what happened:

The attack

On Friday, October 16th, 47-year-old Samuel Paty was leaving the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine where he taught history and geography.

As he left the school in the quiet suburb about 20km from Paris, he was attacked and beheaded. 

His killer was shot by police shortly after the attack and died.

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Relatives and colleagues holding a picture of Samuel Paty. Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP

The background

It was later revealed that Paty was not a random victim, but had been the subject of an online hate campaign sparked by a civics lesson he had taught at the beginning of October.

In the lesson, which discussed issues around free speech, he showed several cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and the background to the 2015 Islamist terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebo, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, killing 12 people and injuring 11 more.

The killer

Paty’s attacker was 18-year-old Chechen refugee Abdullakh Anzorov, who had travelled 80km from his home in Normandy to commit the atrocity.

Anzorov arrived in France with his family more than a decade earlier. According to anti-terror prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard, he had been granted refugee status in France and received a 10-year residency permit earlier in 2020.

He had no previous connection to the school and had apparently become aware of it through the online hate campaign waged against Paty.

The hate campaign

Although Anzorov died at the scene, three people are currently on trial over Paty’s death – a pupil in his class, the pupil’s father and a local imam.

The court hearings are still ongoing but it appears that the pupil, 13 years old at the time of the attack, had been excluded from school for two days for bad behaviour.

Fearful of getting into trouble, she told her father that she had been excluded because she objected to the showing of the cartoons in Paty’s class. A class, it later turned out, that she had not attended.

The father believed her account and posted several furious videos on social media, denouncing Paty for insults to the Prophet and discrimination against his Muslim daughter.

In some of the later videos he is joined by Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a local imam who was already on a police watchlist for his extremist Islamist views.

It was these videos that apparently prompted Anzorov to travel from Normandy and stage the horrific attack.

Sefrioui and the girl’s father are both in custody charged with conspiracy to murder while the girl, who now attends a different school, is charged with slanderous denunciation. All three have stated that they deeply regret their actions and have apologised to Paty’s friends and family for what happened.

One year on from the attack, France on Saturday and Sunday staged a number of memorials and events in the name of Samuel Paty.

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