Alleged police gang rape sends shock waves through Paris
Two senior French officers arrested on suspicion of assaulting Canadian tourist
36 Quai des Orfèvres, where the Paris criminal investigation department headquarters are located. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
The crime brigade at number 36 Quai des Orfèvres was a legendary institution, immortalised by Inspector Maigret, the character created by Belgian writer Georges Simenon. Last year the brigade celebrated its 100th anniversary with an exhibition sponsored by actor Jean-Paul Belmondo.
In the early hours of April 23rd the brigade’s headquarters, contiguous to the Palais de Justice, became a crime scene. Two senior officers have been placed under investigation on suspicion they gang-raped a Canadian tourist, then tampered with evidence.
There was insufficient proof to charge a third officer. He has been given the status of an “assisted witness” who must be available for questioning at all times. All three have been suspended.
The 34-year-old Canadian woman went to the Galway pub on the Quai des Des Grands Augustin, across the Seine from the Quai des Orfèvres, on the night of April 22nd. She told the officers she met while drinking there that she was the daughter of a retired Toronto police officer, and a former policewoman herself.
According to the French press, she flirted with a 45-year-old officer who offered her a “private tour” of the brigade’s headquarters.
A 40-year-old police captain drove the woman the short distance. The captain led her to what Libération newspaper called the “lair” of the Brigade de re cherche et d’intervention on the fourth floor, through a hall covered with photographs of the anti-gang unit’s exploits. She said he forced her to perform oral sex before his colleagues arrived on foot.
A service lift next to the brigade’s armoury is used to send explosives and weapons to vehicles on the ground floor. After hours, it is used to bring up bottles of alcohol.
When the other officers arrived, they produced alcohol and resumed drinking with the Canadian woman. She said the three policemen removed her glasses, without which she couldn’t see, undressed and raped her, wearing condoms.
She said she tried to escape, but a fourth man, whom she could not identify because she could not see him, pushed her into another office and raped her too.
The woman ran down four flights of stairs. The guard on the ground floor said she was “dishevelled, in tears, panicked, bare-footed”. She was taken to the police commissariat of the 5th arrondissement, where she identified her alleged assailants from photographs and filed a complaint.
In the meantime, the officers washed the office with bleach and got rid of the woman’s glasses and tights. Under questioning, they denied sexual contact. But the 45-year-old admitted at the weekend that he had intercourse with her, but claimed it was “consensual”. The woman returned to Canada two days later.
The alleged gang rape sent shock waves through the crime brigade. “These guys have no place in our unit. They have no place at 36 Quai des Orfèvres,” said Bernard Petit, recently appointed director of the Paris judiciary police.