French Woman Burned Alive in Street by Husband

A 31-year-old French woman was burned alive by her estranged husband after he chased her down the street, shot her in the legs, doused her in a flammable liquid and set her on fire.

The attack took place in broad daylight on May 4 in the Mérignac neighborhood near the Bordeaux airport.

Police say the man fired several shots at the woman as she ran away from him, striking her in the legs. He then set her on fire after she collapsed from the gunshot wounds.

The suspect was arrested half an hour after the murder in the neighboring district of Pessac, armed with a pistol, a pellet gun and a cartridge belt, the Bordeaux prosecutor's office said.

The woman and the 44-year-old man were separated. They had three children, aged 3, 7, and 11, who lived with their mother. The man is also suspected of having started a fire that damaged her home.

Prosecutors said that the couple's children were not home at the time of the incident and that they are receiving trauma counseling. In addition, local authorities have set up services for witnesses of the murder.

During a news conference two days after the incident, prosecutor Frédérique Porterie said witnesses heard screams and gunshots before seeing a woman fall to the ground with wounds in her thighs.

"As it stands, we can assume that the perpetrator shot the victim and that the victim was still alive when he immolated her," Porterie said.

She said the man had seven previous convictions, including a charge last year for spousal violence in the presence of a minor. After he served a brief sentence in prison, he was released in December and ordered not to have any contact with his wife.

However, the man admitted to contacting her multiple times, and she filed a complaint of aggression against him in March.

France Femicide Burned Alive Woman Killing
Thousands of women and men took to the streets of Toulouse, France, for International Women's Day on March 8. National anger over femicide has resurfaced after a man killed his estranged wife by setting her on fire in public last week. Alain Pitton/NurPhoto

The killing has reignited national anger over femicide, the intentional killing of a woman based on gender. The problem of domestic violence and killings has prompted protests in France since 2019, with activists saying that women who tried to report abusive partners were often turned away by police.

Following the incident, a women's rights group called La Fondation des Femmes called for the "immediate confiscation" of weapons from men who have convictions for domestic violence.

In 2019, 146 women in France were reportedly killed by a spouse or partner, a 21 percent increase from the previous year. The number of killings fell to 90 in 2020—a decrease that has largely been attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there have already been 39 such killings this year in the country, according to La Fondation des Femmes.

Government minister Marlène Schiappa visited the scene of the crime last week, saying, "Horrified by this heinous crime, I extend my sincere support to the family of the victim. The fight against domestic violence and femicides continues."

Prosecutors allege that the man believed his estranged wife was cheating on him and "decided to punish [her] for the endured sufferings" without intending to kill her. He has been charged with voluntary homicide and other charges relating to the fire at the woman's house.