French “Satanic defenestration” story thrown out the window

October 26, 2010

devil 1Apart from the strikes against pension reform, one of the big stories in France that made headlines around the world these past few days has been about 12 people of African origin who reportedly jumped out of an apartment window in a Paris suburb to flee from a man they thought was the devil. A four-month old baby died in the incident. The initial stories spoke of satanic rituals, maybe something to do with voodoo, and a crazed collective leap into the dark.

(Images: The Devil, by Polish sculptor Jan Graczyk, 2005/Michal Graczyk)

The drama was said to have begun when a woman awoke late at night to find her husband walking in the bedroom naked. As one report put it:

She began screaming ‘it’s the devil! it’s the devil!’, and the man ran into the other room where 11 others adults and children were watching television. One woman grabbed a knife and stabbed the man before other family members pushed him out through the front door.

When the man forced his way back in, they all began screaming in terror and  leapt from the balcony screaming ‘Jesus! Jesus!’ The naked man also leapt from the balcony after them, detectives said.

A four-month old baby died in his mother’s arms, while a two-year-old was critically injured.

devil 4Google News found 396 stories in English on this and 375 in French. But you can’t believe everything you read about belief. If the story sounded incredible, maybe that’s because it was.

A magistrate investigating the case has now thrown the “Satanic defenestration” story out the window. “There was no question of satanism or Satan,” magistrate Michel Desplan told journalists in Versailles on Monday. Police found religious books in the apartment, but “that’s nothing exceptional for a family of evangelicals.”

Investigators think the Satan story was an alibi by the naked husband, who said he had been up preparing a baby bottle. His relatives in the apartment thought he was the devil, tried to kill him and then jumped out of the window in panic, he said. But the relatives crowded into the apartment told police he had threatened them with a knife and demanded that they jump out of the window. They did leave by the second-storey balcony, but tried to climb down to safety, they said.

The naked husband has been put under investigation for “voluntary assault and injuries leading to the death of others involuntarily.” Two relatives who struggled with him were put under investigation for “voluntary armed violence provoking an interruption of work for more than 8 days” — an interesting charge, by the way, at a time when so many French are on strike!

As the daily France-Soir commented: “La silhouette du diable s’est évaporée, reste l’ordinaire violence des hommes”  — The silhouette of the devil has evaporated, only man’s ordinary violence remains.

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