Paris attacks trial

The bereaved families of Bataclan victims get their chance to speak

Members of the French fire brigade help an injured person near the Bataclan concert hall after fatal shootings in Paris, France, on November 13, 2015.
Members of the French fire brigade help an injured person near the Bataclan concert hall after fatal shootings in Paris, France, on November 13, 2015. REUTERS - Christian Hartmann

Survivors of the Paris terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015 continue to testify before the special criminal court where 20 men are being tried for alleged involvement in the planning and preparation of a night of terror in which 130 people lost their lives.


Yesterday's first witness began by extending his sympathies to all who lost someone on that "unforgettable night".

In the world before 13 November 2015, he told us, he worked as a trader in London, enjoying membership of a wealthy, influential elite. Now unemployed, he lives with his mother, surviving on the RSA, the French state allowance paid to the very poor.

"I'm as dependent on my mother now as when I was five years old." Adapting to the change in his lifestyle has been, he admitted with a rueful smile, "a bit difficult".

He had invited six friends to the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan on the night of the attack. Two of the friends were wounded, but all survived.

Among the memories the witness attempted to describe was his loss of all sense of time.

"When the shooting began, we knelt down. I can't say whether what followed lasted two minutes, ten minutes, or half an hour.

"I will never forget the sound of the weapons being re-loaded. And the extraordinary silence. Despite the fact that people were hurt, dying, there wasn't a sound, not a whimper.

"It's hard to forget the sight of bodies with rivers of blood flowing from them. The iron smell of the blood.

"The fact that the survivors had to walk over people in their efforts to escape.

"I also remember a girl who shouted to warn the people upstairs that the terrorists were on their way up. She was very brave. She saved hundreds of lives. I have no idea who she was."

He lost his golden job because he could no longer concentrate, had difficulties in crowds, in situations of stress. "In the world of finance," he explained, "they want strong people."

Thanks from a bereaved family

A girl who was shot in the leg told the court that she began her evening at the Bataclan by stumbling down the steps onto the main floor, falling into the arms of a smiling young man. "Don't break a leg," he joked. His name was Pierre Innocenti.

Minutes later, he was dead and she was lying beside him, severely injured.

When she finished testifying yesterday, a lawyer asked to address the court, saying that she represented the Innocenti family, who are following the trial on the webradio service available to the relatives of victims.

"They have sent me an SMS," the lawyer said, "asking me to thank the witness for her evidence that Pierre Innocenti was smiling and happy just before he died. And your evidence suggests that he died instantly. That information has helped them enormously. They are grateful."

Anger, absence and gratitude

Another witness appeared in the clothes she wore on the night of the attack. She described herself, with chilling simplicity, as "having been alive among the dead, I am now dead among the living".

She was echoed by another girl, 18-years-old in 2015, who said: "I don't exist any more. I'm not alive. I'm breathing, that's all."

An angry young man told the accused that they were lucky they were being tried before a French court. The unspoken implication was that they could expect real justice, not formalised revenge.

Another wanted to know how such an attack could be allowed to happen, involving dangerous weapons and suspects already on police watch-lists. "I would like them to suffer the way they made us suffer."

And then we heard from the man who was saved from certain death by the police commissioner and his driver, who opened fire with their service pistols, killing terrorist Sami Amimour on stage as he was preparing to shoot the witness.

"I met the police officer about a week after the attacks," the survivor explained. "He was afraid I had died in the explosion as Amimour's suicide vest detonated.

"He saved my life twice. Once on the night. And then by helping me to separate the facts from my feelings. He shared his training on keeping traumatic situations at a distance. I can not exaggerate the extent of my gratitude to the police on duty that night."

A mother's wise advice

One girl had a brief conversation with her mother as she cowered with 30 others in a dressing-room over the stage. The mother asked about the strange noises in the background. "It's OK, Mum," the girl explained. "I'm at a party and I'm completely drunk."

"Well, you should sit down somewhere quiet and drink a lot of water."

The trial continues.

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