Suspect in fatal knife attack at French priest retirement home arrested

Posted at 9:04 PM, Nov 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-25 21:06:32-05

A man suspected of carrying out a knife attack at a French retirement home for priests that left one person dead has been arrested, the Hérault region military police said.

The man was arrested Friday evening in Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers, a town about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the retirement home.

CNN affiliate BFMTV reported the suspect is a 42-year-old former paratrooper and father of two. He had worked at the retirement home many years ago, BFMTV reported.

A 15-year-old pointed out the suspect to the authorities, after noticing he hid away anytime the police helicopter came around, BFMTV said.

Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret told reporters that police had been called to the Maison des Chênes Verts in Montferrier-sur-Lez, near the city of Montpellier in the greater French province of Lyon, at 10:45 p.m. Thursday.

The alarm was raised by a nurse at the home who told police she had been tied up by a male attacker. She managed to free herself to make the call, Barret said.

Officers discovered the body of a woman in the laundry room.

She had been stabbed several times with a knife, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutor: No known link to terrorism

The motivation for the attack is still unknown, but police have no reason to connect it to terrorism, the prosecutor said.

Police found an air rifle in a bag in a car left near the building, he said, adding that it was “not a real weapon.” Other items were found in the bag, but Barret said he was not at liberty to say what they were.

French media reports have said the suspect was masked and armed with a sawed-off shotgun. The prosecutor did not confirm those details.

The Society of African Missions, a Catholic missionary congregation that operates mostly in Africa, oversees the retirement home, where about 60 people live.

None of the home’s residents were hurt in the attack, Barret said. Most were still asleep as the police entered the building, a source close to the operation told CNN.

Lack of security?

French commercial radio station RTL interviewed a man who said he was the husband of the victim. The man, identified only as Georges, criticized a lack of security at the home, saying there was no alarm or guard on the door.

He said his wife was a care worker in her 50s who worked the overnight shift. She was very kind, he said, adding that he was “destroyed” by her death.

“She had no problem with anyone, she was friendly to everyone and always helpful,” he said.