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CRIME

New schoolgirl murder horrifies France

A 31-year-old man has been charged over the abduction and murder of a schoolgirl in France, just a month after the killing of a girl in Paris caused outrage.

New schoolgirl murder horrifies France
A photograph shows a French police logo on a police car (Photo by FRED TANNEAU / AFP)

The latest victim, a 14-year-old named Vanesa in French media, was snatched on her way home from school in the town of Tonneins last Friday in the rural Lot-et-Garonne region.

A local Frenchman, who spent the day smoking cannabis in his car, confessed to raping and strangling her before dumping her body in an abandoned building, local prosecutors said in a statement on Sunday.

While in custody, he said he had not planned the crime and did not know the victim, adding that “his acts were sexually motivated,” the statement said.

“This man is overwhelmed by the seriousness of his acts. For the moment, he will stay in his cell and will meet experts who are the best placed to explain what appears completely inexplicable,” his lawyer, Alexandre Martin, told the BFM news channel.

The killer, named as Romain Chevrel, lived with his partner and has a one-month-old daughter.

He was previously convicted for sexually assaulting children when he was aged 15.

Murders of school children are extremely rare in France and the killing of a 12-year-old girl in Paris in October caused shock and anger.

The victim was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered after school in a crime branded as “evil” by President Emmanuel Macron.

The case kicked off a fierce political row because the alleged killer was a mentally disturbed Algerian woman, in France illegally and the subject of an expulsion order.

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CRIME

Rape case against France’s interior minister is dropped

The Paris appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the dropping of a rape case against Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, although his accuser said she would keep fighting to have it heard.

Rape case against France's interior minister is dropped

Chief prosecutor Remy Heitz said the court had confirmed the abandonment of the case, originating from a 2017 complaint by Sophie Patterson-Spatz that Darmanin raped her in 2009.

Darmanin, 40, is high-flying figure on the right of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government who frequently talks tough on fighting illegal immigration and crime.

His appointment as Interior Minister – the nominal head of the police and judicial services – while under investigation for rape prompted furious protests from feminist groups when it was announced in 2020. 

“For the fifth time in almost six years, the justice system has found that no objectionable act can be imputed to Gérald Darmanin,” his lawyers Pierre-Olivier Sur and Mathias Chichportich said, adding that the minister “will make no further comment”.

“What a surprise,” Patterson-Spatz’s lawyer Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon wrote on Twitter, adding that her client would take her case to France’s top court, the Court of Cassation, and the European Court of Human Rights if she failed there.

Patterson-Spatz and her lawyers say Darmanin extorted sex from the plaintiff in exchange for intervening in a case against her when he worked in the legal service of the conservative UMP party – since renamed to Les Républicains.

Darmanin acknowledges having sex with Patterson-Spatz, but says it was consensual.

In 2021 an investigating magistrate said the case should be dropped, finding that Patterson-Spatz’s “sincerity… could not be doubted” but that she had “deliberately chosen to have sex with (Darmanin) in hopes of having her criminal case retried”.

“The law cannot be mixed up with morality,” the magistrate added, saying the plaintiff was “consenting in the eyes of the law”.

A second rape investigation against Darmanin, on suspicion he extorted sex from a woman in exchange for a job and an apartment, was dropped in 2018.

In his post since July 2020, Darmanin has sought to shore up relations with the police and also played a key role in talks with British counterparts seeking to limit the crossings of small boats across the Channel.

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