France beheading attack: Yassin Salhi tells investigators he murdered and beheaded his boss because of 'problems at home and at work'

But investigators remain convinced that Mr Salhi’s links with radical Islam, including Isis, also motivated the attack

John Lichfield
Sunday 28 June 2015 22:26
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French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon
French police secure the entrance of the Air Products company in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon

The truck driver who beheaded his boss before trying to blow up a chemicals factory may have been deranged, rather than motivated by religion, French investigators believe.

Breaking his silence after Friday’s attack, Yassin Salhi, 35, told interrogators that he had decapitated his employer “in a car park” because of “problems at home and at work”.

Before attacking the factory near Lyon, Mr Salhi used his mobile phone to take an image of himself with the severed head of his boss, Hervé Cornara, 54. He then sent the image to a number in Toronto, Canada. French and Canadian investigators believe the number may have relayed the image to an acquaintance of Mr Salhi who is fighting with Isis in Syria.

But searches of Mr Salhi’s home in the Lyon suburbs have produced no evidence to suggest he was in contact with a terrorist network. He was taken to his home by police on Sunday to assist in a new search. There was nothing to indicate he had planned either the beheading or the attack on the Air Products chemical factory at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, south-east of Lyon.

“We are not sure whether he was just a believer in fundamentalist Islam who went crazy or whether we are dealing with a genuine terrorist,” an investigation source told Le Parisien newspaper.

Mr Salhi said he had murdered the manager of his delivery company in a car park an hour before he arrived at the factory. “He spoke about personal difficulties linked to his work and family life which might have led him to commit his crime,” said the source.

Forensic investigators and gendarmes next to the fence where the head was found in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier

The French news agency AFP reported that Salhi had quarrelled with his boss a few days ago after he dropped an expensive consignment of computer equipment.

Just before 10am on Friday morning, Mr Salhi chained his employers’ head to a fence at the Air Products factory and placed banners professing faith in Islam. He then drove his truck, loaded with cylinders of chemicals, into the side of a warehouse, but the explosion was only weak.

Mr Salhi’s colleagues at the ATC transport firm said he was cheerful and hardworking.

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