In two separate cases, jewellery-store owners have shot dead would-be thieves and in each case, a trial-by-public-media of sorts has ensued, with overwhelming support for the assailants.
“I’m really sorry for what happened.” These were the words of Stephan Turk speaking on French web television site BFMTV last week. Turk, a jeweller in Nice, shot dead a young man who came to rob his jewellery shop in the Côte d’Azur capital on September 11th last.
Turk is currently facing a charge of “voluntary homicide” as a result of his actions, but is speaking openly to the media about the event that has caused a flurry of debate on the airwaves and print media, as well as a huge amount of activity on Facebook and Twitter.
He says that his life has been threatened on more than one occasion since the incident. “When I find myself threatened with a gun pointed at me, I defend my life. I don’t care about the jewels; they’re insured. I tried to stop the scooter, so that they would have to escape on foot. With the guns and the cases, they wouldn’t have got far in the city centre.”
The initial results of the autopsy confirmed that 19-year-old jewel thief Anthony Asli was killed by a gunshot wound to the back. It will be up to further expert analysis on the angle of the fatal shot to determine whether or not it represents a defensive shot, according to the local prosecutor.
On Facebook, meanwhile, a support page for Turk entitled “Soutien au bijoutier de Nice” has already amassed some 1.6 million “Likes” (four times that of the French President’s official FB page) for the Nice jeweller with a trend that has been exponential in its rise. It has spawned opposition pages, some of them based on parody, such as the Facebook page “Soutien au lapin qui a tué un chasseur” (Support for the Rabbit who Killed a Hunter), which has a following of almost 300,000. It’s stated goal is to “support this rabbit that was only doing his job.”
All of which is seen by many to trivialise a very important subject matter. But now, it looks as if history has repeated itself in another incident involving a jeweller gunning down a would-be jewel thief.
Last Thursday at around 4:30pm in the town of Sézanne in the Marne department to the east of Paris, an armed jewel thief entered the jewellery store of Eric Bey, while an accomplice kept watch outside. He asked to see one bracelet and quickly asked to see another, arousing the suspicion of Bey. A gun was drawn by the would-be jewel thief.Speaking in a radio interview after his release from police custody, Bey described the incident, saying: “I shot several times, without knowing how many times I shot, to defend myself because I could see (his) weapon…
“Nothing can justify the death of a man. What happened was a drama. I don’t want this to lead to other dramas. There should not be any licence to kill.”
By around 8pm, the Facebook page in support of the latest French jeweller to shoot a jewel thief was up and running and had garnered 12,500 “likes” within 12 hours.
“If France doesn’t want to defend us, we’ll defend ourselves.” So read the rather grandiose claims of the page’s founder in the “about” section. An opposition page set up to counter the vigilante sentiment only gathered 66 likes in the same period.