French trial opens over brutal killing of transgender sex worker

Vanesa Campos was shot in the chest in the Paris' Bois de Boulogne back in 2018. After years of waiting, her alleged killer and two associates are now finally facing trial.

People march the streets of Paris, calling for justice for Vanesa Campos.
People march the streets of Paris, calling for justice for Vanesa Campos. The sex worker's alleged killers will now finally face trial in France. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Three men went on trial in Paris on Tuesday over the killing of a transgender prostitute three years ago that drew widespread attention to rising violence against sex workers in France.

Vanesa Campos, a 36-year-old originally from Peru, was fatally shot in the chest on the night of August 16-17, 2018, in a remote section of the Bois de Boulogne, the vast forest park west of the capital that has long been a sex work zone once night falls.

Police quickly focused on a group of around a dozen men of Egyptian origin, who had staged what prosecutors called a “punitive expedition” against Campos and others who had denounced repeated robberies and assaults against sex worker and their clients by armed gangs.

Just a month before her death, Campos was among a group who hired a guard to protect them while working among dense trees with no public lighting.

The assailants were armed with tear gas, tree branches, a knife, a stun gun, and a pistol that had been stolen a week earlier from a police car while the officer was with a prostitute.

Mahmoud Kadri, 24, suspected of shooting Campos, and two associates appeared in court on murder charges and told their lawyers via translators that they “formally denied” the accusations.

Six other men, ages 23 to 34, are charged with participating in the murder — five for taking part in the assault, and a sixth for stealing the pistol.

Campos’ mother and sister, who live in Peru, are civil plaintiffs in the case along with six of her former colleagues, the bodyguard, the Acceptess-T transgender advocacy association and the Mouvement du Nid sex worker support group.

Acceptess-T in particular argues that increased violence against prostitutes stems from a 2016 law making it illegal to buy sex in France but not to sell it, shifting the criminal responsibility to clients who can be fined if caught.

While some groups say the law helps protect women from trafficking and exploitation by discouraging sex work, many working in the sector say it has made their jobs more dangerous and deprived them of income.

The trial is expected to run until January 28.

Member comments

  1. It is infuriating that a person is killed and the killers get to run free for four years before the state decides to try them!

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France vows to tackle motorbike ‘rodeos’ after children injured

The French government has pledged a new crackdown against illicit motorbike cruising by youths in suburbs across the country, after two children were seriously injured by a rider near Paris.

France vows to tackle motorbike 'rodeos' after children injured

The rowdy late-night races and stunts known as “rodeos” have become increasingly popular in particular in low-income neighbourhoods, leading to complaints about traffic and noise from local officials and many residents.

On Friday evening, a 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy were hit by a rider while playing tag outside their home in Pontoise, northwest of the capital.

French daily Le Figaro reported on Monday that the girl suffered a blow to the head and remained in serious condition in hospital, while the boy had a broken leg.

The accident came after a 19-year-old man was killed in June after being hit by a bike rider in the western city of Rennes.

“I have asked the police to step up their interventions this month,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said in the southern city of Marseille.

Nonetheless the rodeos are often tolerated or defended as a gritty urban subculture that provides an outlet for disaffected youths, with an upcoming film, “Rodeo”, that appears to glorify the gatherings and  generated a strong buzz at the Cannes film festival last May.

Police have carried out 8,000 operations to break up rodeos in the past two months, leading to 1,200 arrests and the seizure of around 700 motorbikes and other vehicles including all-terrain “quads”.

In 2018, parliament passed a law increasing penalties for the riders to up to five years in prison.