A teacher at a school in France has been stabbed to death by a pupil who claimed he was ‘possessed by the devil’ in front of a packed class.
The Spanish teacher, 53, was taking her lesson at the Saint-Thomas d’Aquin private school in Saint-Jean-de-Luz near Bordeaux when a 16-year-old pupil attacked her with a bladed weapon around 10am local time this morning.
She was given emergency aid at the scene, but Bayonne prosecutor Jerome Bourrier told AFP she died of her wounds.
‘A Spanish lesson was taking place, when the pupil launched a frenzied attack on the teacher,’ said an investigating source. ‘She was stabbed through the chest,’ they said.
Sources told French outlets BFMTV and le Parisien that the pupil ‘was hearing voices’ when he launched the attack and that the pupil himself confessed to police he had been ‘possessed by the devil’ upon his arrest.
Today’s fatal attack took place at Saint Thomas d’Aquin Roman Catholic private school near Bordeaux
Police officers guard the entrance of Saint Thomas d’Aquin school
Concerned parents gather outside the school where the lethal attack took place this morning
The Spanish teacher, in her 50s, was giving the class earlier today at the Roman Catholic Saint-Thomas d’Aquin private school (pictured) in the town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz
The attacker was later transported to the Saint-Jean-de-Luz police station and remains in custody. Officers said at this at this stage of the investigation there was no suggestion the incident was terror related.
A pupil who watched the killing happen said the attacker ‘was normally very calm, but had been taking medication for stress.’
The witness told local Sud Ouest newspaper: ‘We saw him take something out of his bag, an object surrounded by paper.
‘Then he headed for the door. We thought he wanted to go to the bathroom. In fact, he blocked access.
‘The teacher was then at the blackboard, near this door. He then turned around and struck a blow with what looked like a screwdriver, at the level of the throat. We heard a scream, then nothing’.
There was then an ‘immediate panic’ as ‘everyone tried to get out through a door leading to another class.
‘Others were so scared they were tempted to jump through the window. We did not know if all the students had been able to escape.
‘Before exiting, we saw the assailant remain standing, his weapon in his hand – he was holding it up.
‘We passed a senior teacher in the hallway and we told him to run. Other classes had been alerted.
‘Apparently, the students were quickly brought to safety. We wanted to get out of the campus – to get as far away as possible.’
The victim had taught at the school ‘for a number of years’ and was ‘well liked and respected,’ a source told MailOnline.
The private school, which has around 1000 pupils, was placed in lockdown as each class was instructed to remain in their classrooms until the attacker was taken away by police at 11:30am local time, roughly an hour and a half after the incident.
Scared pupils stand outside the Saint Thomas D’Aquin private school in southwestern France after they were evacuated amid a knife attack on a teacher
Saint-Thomas d’Aquin school is located in Saint Jean de Luz, a popular seaside town near Bordeaux
A portrait of French teacher Samuel Paty is displayed on the facade of the Opera Comedie in Montpellier on October 21, 2020, during a national homage to the teacher who was beheaded for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in his civics class
‘My thoughts are with the family, colleagues and the pupils. I will be going to the site straight away,’ said Education Minister Pap Ndiaye.
Senator Frédérique Espagnac, who represents the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region in which the school is set said she ‘totally condemns this act of violence against a teacher’.
Once the attacker had been detained and removed from the premises, parents were allowed to take their children home.
‘Other pupils are aware that the attacker had psychological problems,’ said the source, adding that specialist units had been drafted in to deal with the ‘psychological wellbeing’ of all those connected with the school.
‘I can barely imagine the trauma that this represents at a local level and more generally on a national scale,’ said government spokesman Olivier Veran.
Other officials compared the tragedy to the death of Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher who was stabbed and beheaded by a teenager near his school in the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris, in 2020.
Paty’s 18-year-old attacker, a refugee of Chechen origin, sought the teacher out after seeing a video of him showing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad to his history class during a discussion about religion.
‘It’s a shock. A tragedy that echoes the assassination of Samuel Paty and other events of violence against teachers that ended less tragically,’ said Stéphane Crochet, secretary general of the UNSA teachers’ union.
‘Our thoughts go out to the family of the victim and for the entire educational community.’
‘It’s very unexpected, given the profile of this establishment,’ said local delegate Serge Hastoy.
‘Nothing suggested that it could happen here, there is, to my knowledge, no precedent. It is absolute horror. I hope the ministry will not tell us not to make waves. We want answers.’
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