A “Mysterious fire.” That is the term used by the French newspaper Le Parisien, which was the first to tell about the story, to describe the murder of an 85 year-old Holocaust survivor, found dead on Friday night in her apartment in Paris. Because French mainstream media were focused on the hostage situation in Trèbes, a terrorist attack that resulted in four casualties, news of the murder was only revealed today.
While the investigation has just started, Le Parisien reports that the old lady, whose name has not yet been revealed, had previously complained to the police about someone in her neighborhood who threatened several times to “set her on fire.” Her body was stabbed eleven times, while the police has confirmed five fire sources, which suggests the fire was caused as a result of an arson.
Although no evidence yet exists to suggest that the woman’s religion motivated the murderer, the attack comes a year after the murder of another older Jewish woman, Sarah Halimi, a 65 year-old retiree who was stabbed to death a few blocks away from Friday’s victim. Halimi’s murder not only shook the Jewish community to the core, but sparked anger amongst French Jews, as the news was largely under-reported by the press, having happened during the Presidential elections last year.
Noémie Halioua, a French journalist for Actualité Juive and author of the newly released book Sarah Halimi’s Case, published by Cerf Books, said there were similarities between the two attacks. “You can clearly see there is a repetition of the tragic,” she said. “There are no measures to take things seriously and to eradicate the evil. As a matter of fact, the story repeats itself and there is no awareness, whether on Trèbes or this old lady. The connection is jihadism. And yet, no decisions have been taken”.
The 85-year-old woman’s body was found by firemen at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, in the busy 11th arrondissement in downtown Paris, in the Philippe August area. Reached by the French media France Info, a police source said that the case was investigated as a murder, and that the investigation will be handled by the federal police’s second district. As of Sunday afternoon, an individual born in 1989 was placed in custody the day after the arson for this specific case, sources familair with the investigation confirmed.
While the Parisien says that the victim went to the police station several times to alert the authorities about death threats she had recieved, the suspect was reportedly spotted at her flat.
As the French law stipulates, ongoing investigations usually take a few days to unfold and it will take a few days for the French police to release a report to fill in with more details about the crime and evaluate on whether the murderer had antisemitic motivations.