Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's a Good Frenchman, Said Killer's Mother; She Told Police He Was Innocent before Brutal Murder of Priest

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

He's a Good Frenchman, Said Killer's Mother; She Told Police He Was Innocent before Brutal Murder of Priest

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Allen in Paris and Justin Davenport

THE mother of one of the Islamic State fanatics who butchered a French priest at the altar of a church told police hunting him before the attack: "He's a good Frenchman."

French intelligence services received a warning that a terror suspect was preparing an attack four days before Abdelmalik Petitjean, 19, and an accomplice murdered Father Jacques Hamel, 86, on Tuesday in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a town near Rouen in Normandy.

The authorities received an image of the suspect after an anonymous tip-off on July 22 and confirmed Petitjean's identity before circulating his ID and image to police stations. He had been put on the terrorist watch list on June 29 after trying to travel to IS's socalled caliphate in Syria via Turkey. On seeing the photograph received by counter-terrorism police, Petitjean's mother Yamina told them: "Yes, that's him. He's a good Frenchman. He's soft. I know my kid. I know my son. He's not implicated in any of this."

After the priest was killed, she denied her son could be involved, telling BFM TV: "I didn't produce a devil. He's not at all the monster that people want us to believe. No, no it's impossible."

She said she had spent the weekend with Petitjean at home in Aix-les-Bains, and thought he had gone to stay with a cousin in Lorraine, north-east France.

The anonymous tip-off included a colour photograph of Petitjean, but not his name and said he "was preparing to take part in an attack on national territory". It added: "He's already in France, and is preparing to act alone, or with others."

Petitjean's image was not released to the media at the time. Some French media organisations have since adopted a policy of not publishing photographs of people responsible for terrorist killings, to avoid glorifying them and their acts. …

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