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CRIME

Two men on trial over murder of elderly Jewish woman that shocked France

Two men went on trial on Tuesday over the 2018 murder of an elderly Jewish woman that provoked protests and alarm in France about anti-Semitic crime.

Flowers left in tribute to Mireille Knoll, 85, outside her home in Paros.
Flowers left in tribute to Mireille Knoll, outside her home in Paris. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

The partly burned body of Mireille Knoll, 85, was found in her apartment in central Paris after she had been stabbed 11 times before her home was set on fire.

President Emmanuel Macron attended the funeral of the Holocaust survivor, who escaped a notorious 1942 roundup of more than 13,000 Jews in Paris by fleeing with her mother to Portugal when she was nine years old.

Two men have been charged with her killing, a 25-year-old homeless man with psychiatric problems and the 31-year-old son of one of Kroll’s neighbours.

The pair, who met in prison and have past convictions for theft and violence, both deny killing the frail and immobile grandmother and each blames the other for her death.

“We will need a miracle for the truth to come out of their mouths,” Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer acting for Knoll’s family, told reporters as he entered the court, adding that it was a case of “anti-Semitism motivated by financial gain.”

Prosecutors are treating the murder as an anti-Semitic hate crime because one of the men said he had overheard the other “talking about Jews’ money and their wealth” and that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) while stabbing her.

The investigation had also shown one of the suspects, named as Yacine Mihoub, had an “ambivalent” attitude towards Islamic extremism, prosecutors claim.

“They’re monsters,” Knoll’s son, Daniel Knoll, told reporters on Tuesday.

“We are expecting a very severe verdict.”

Both Mihoub, 31, and co-accused Alex Carrimbacus, 25, were present in court or the trial which is due to last until November 10th.

The murder was the latest in a series of attacks that have horrified France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community and exacerbated concern about how rising Islamic extremism is fuelling anti-Semitism.

An estimated 30,000 people took part in a silent march in her memory in March 2018 that was attended by government ministers and the heads of France’s political parties.

One of the organisers, Sabrina Moise, said at that the time that while she “loves France” she felt it was “no longer safe for Jews because of galloping anti-Semitism.”

In 2012, Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Three years later, a gunman killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in the French capital.

And in 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, Sarah Halimi, was thrown out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting “Allahu Akhbar”.

France’s highest court ruled in April that the killer, Kobili Traore, was not criminally responsible for crime after succumbing to a “delirious fit” under the influence of drugs and could not go on trial.

That ruling infuriated the victim’s family as well as Jewish groups, and prompted Macron to urge a change in French law to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs.

It also prompted protests in France and also Israel.

Speaking about Knoll, Macron had said her killer she “murdered an innocent and vulnerable woman because she was Jewish and in doing so had sullied our most sacred values and our memory.”

Member comments

  1. Even without knowing the outcome of the long awaited trial we almost know for sure the verdict . This will be “not guilty” on reason that one is bonkers and the other was high on drugs at the time of the unfortunate murder of this fine Jewish lady. Its very risky being Jewish in France now .

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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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