Copycat killing fuels video violence debate

MARY DEJEVSKY

Paris

When the British video launch of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers was cancelled this week after the Dunblane tragedy, the decision had particular resonance in France. A debate about media violence is raging here, centred on that same film and a couple of teenage killers.

Two weeks ago, police discovered a cassette of the film in the bloodstained bedroom of a 17-year-old - referred to only by his first name, Sebastien, for legal reasons - after a particularly bizarre and gruesome murder. The bloodstained body of a 16-year-old boy called Abdel Gharbiche had been found, wrapped in bedclothes, under the patio of Sebastien's family's respectable detached house near Paris. Abdel had been stabbed more than 40 times.

According to the police who questioned Sebastien and his 18-year-old girlfriend, Veronique Herbert, the scenario for the murder bore an uncanny resemblance to the plot of Natural Born Killers.

Together, it is said, they agreed that Veronique would lure Abdel, a one-time schoolfriend, into bed; Sebastien would find them together and see whether he was sufficiently overcome with jealousy to kill. That, more or less, is what seems to have happened, with a couple of unforeseen hitches: Veronique was accidentally grazed with the knife and had to seek hospital treatment during their subsequent flight. In addition, they had not anticipated the quantities of blood.

In the days that followed the discovery of Abdel's body, the hunt for Veronique and Sebastien was the talk of France. They had taken off in a Renault belonging to Sebastien's father. For two days there was no trace of them; then police were called to a garage in a small town in the Cantal, one of the wildest regions of central France, where a young couple had filled up with diesel and driven away without paying. The police lost the trail, but finally Veronique and Sebastien were cornered in a town 70km away in the rush-hour crowds.

According to police reports - released, unlike in Britain, at the time charges are laid - they admitted the killing at once. Veronique, a year older than Sebastien and past the age of majority, was dubbed the mastermind - "Veronique diabolique". Called confident and unrepentant, when advised to cover her head to thwart photographers on her way into the police station, she declined.

The French media made much of her background. Her parents were separated and she had lived briefly with her father, an enthusiast for American Indians, who took her on a trip to the "Wild West" of the US. The press printed pictures of her mixing confidently with the wolves her father kept in a pen by his suburban house.

Veronique, it was said, had been obsessed by death since childhood and written macabre poems since the age of 10. The Silence of the Lambs was said to have been her favourite film.

It will be months before the case comes to trial. Meanwhile, the French have found a new reason for berating the influence of American films and have opened a debate about violence on television. To many, the crime is not a one-off act of evil, but the logical culmination of what they see as a growing culture of violencethat makes it acceptable to bring knives, tear-gas pellets and even guns into the school playground.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
science
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
News
Comedian Ted Robbins collapsed on stage during a performance of Phoenix Nights Live at Manchester Arena (Rex)
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links