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Fury over Paris gun suspect death

Police officers tried, in vain, to hold Durn back before he jumped
Police officers tried, in vain, to hold Durn back before he jumped  

NANTERRE, France -- Prosecutors in Paris have opened an inquiry into the apparent suicide of a man arrested 24-hours earlier in connection with the murders of eight politicians.

Richard Durn, 33, scrambled through a fourth-floor window at the Quai des Orfevres, headquarters of the Paris Criminal Brigade on Thursday, despite his interrogators' efforts to hold him back by the legs, a police statement said.

He was being questioned about France's worst mass killing in years before he was due to face a judge. (Full story)

Interior Minister Daniel Vaillant said the suspect's death seemed to him "a case of serious malfunctioning" on the part of the police.

"I can tell you that if there was proven malfunctioning, sanctions will be taken," he told France-2 television.

Durn had been in custody since his arrest following the killing eight officials at the Nanterre city council meeting at about 1:15 a.m. (0015 GMT) Wednesday. Another 19 people were injured.

Image gallery: Devastation at the scene of the shooting Europe
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On Thursday, the question on many people's lips was how Durn was able to commit suicide while in police custody.

Nanterre mayor Jacqueline Fraysse, who survived as council colleagues slumped over dead around her, was appalled that Durn had been able to slip away so easily.

"There are councillors who, putting their lives in danger, were able to hold this man and disarm him to hand him over to the police," she said on France 2 radio.

"But at the Quai des Orfevres, they're not capable of overseeing him."

Lucien Batard, Nanterre's deputy mayor asked: "How can you kill yourself at police headquarters?

"I didn't think someone at criminal police headquarters would have so much liberty of movement that he could jump out a window.

"He killed the largest possible number of elected officials and he killed himself afterward."

Dern had told police while in custody of his wish to kill himself
Dern had told police while in custody of his wish to kill himself  

Samuel Rijik, a municipal official in Naterre, who survived the massacre, expressed disappointment that Durn would never stand trial.

"I would have liked to know the truth about his past ... to know where the fault lines were," said Rijik, who hid under a table during the shooting.

Police said Durn managed to scramble through a small fourth-floor window at the Quai des Orfevres building, despite his interrogators' efforts to hold him back by the legs.

"When he was asked to rise to consult a document on the desk of an interrogator, Durn suddenly rushed to a window, opened it and scrambled out onto the roof," a police statement said.

"The two interrogators tried to hold him back by the legs, but the determination of this fanatic, whose body was already mostly outside, meant all this effort was in vain."

France 2 television said police found at Durn's home a 13-page letter in which he said he was ashamed of his failed life in Nanterre, and wanted police to kill him.

His 65-year-old mother, Stephanie, said her son began psychotherapy in 1990, asking the therapist to "Help me to die."

At the scene
Consolation for relatives of the victims near the scene of the shooting  

Witnesses to Wednesday's shooting said Durn, an unemployed local man, frequently attended council meetings at Nanterre, a middle-class neighbourhood near a business district of western Paris.

He was an a active member of the local political scene, believed to have ties to the left-wing Green Party. However, authorities are not sure if the shooting was politically motivated.

The suspect, who was of Yugoslav origin, had no criminal record and had a permit for his guns, which he had bought in 1997 and used for recreational shooting, prosecutors said. His permit came from a gun association.

The shooting rampage seemed set to become an issue in France's upcoming presidential election where crime had already risen to top the election agenda. (Full story)


• Eight die in Paris gun attack
March 28, 2002

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