Friday, 4 Dec 2020

The three lives lost in French knife attack

NICE, FRANCE (AFP) – A devoted sexton respected for his energy and good humour. A Brazilian mother of three who never stopped smiling and passed on her radiant enthusiasm to others. And a faithful church-goer with grown up children.

Three lives were brutally cut short in the attack by a suspected Islamist on the Notre-Dame Basilica in the southern French city of Nice, in what should have been a time of peace and reflection on Thursday morning (Oct 29).

AFP profiles the three:

Vincent Loques

Mr Loques, the basilica’s sexton charged with the upkeep of the building, would have turned 55 on Friday, according to parish priest Franklin Parmentier.

“He took care of this church so it would be beautiful, and clean,” the priest told AFP.

The sexton opened the Notre-Dame basilica’s doors each day and prepared liturgical objects for mass and other religious ceremonies.

“He was a good man, full of energy,” said former parish priest Jean-Louis Gordian.

Mr Loques had remarried and had two daughters from his first marriage.

Father Gil Florini, dean of the priests in Nice, said the sexton had worked for about 20 years at two churches in the city and was “kind, open, an ordinary guy in the good sense of the term”.

Mr Ludovic Balade saw Mr Loques almost every morning as the sexton, who was in his 50s, had a cup of coffee near the church.

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“He was always smiling, and always had time for others, for the neighbourhood and for his basilica,” Mr Balade said after laying a bouquet of white roses at the entrance.

Parish treasurer Jean-Francois Gourdon noted that Mr Loques came from a family of clergy, and said he received “217 voice messages and more than 300 texts” asking about the sexton after the attack.

He had previously worked in construction, was handy with tools and built “magnificent” manger scenes for Christmas, Mr Gourdon recalled.

Ms Simone Barreto Silva was able to run to a nearby restaurant after being attacked but died there of her wounds. PHOTO: REUTERS

Simone Barreto Silva

Brazilian authorities have confirmed that Ms Silva, 44 and a native of that country, was killed during the attack, people close to her told AFP.

She was able to run to a restaurant nearby after being attacked but died there of her wounds.

Ms Silva was a single mother of three children, two of whom are very young, neighbours said.

“Simone was an extraordinary woman, always smiling, she spoke with everyone and came to eat with us with her family and sister,” said Ms Angela Tavares, who runs a cafe and restaurant that serves food from Cape Verde in the building where Ms Silva lived.

Ms Silva often stopped in for coffee before going to pick up her kids at school.

“She liked picanhas, a Brazilian speciality made with beef. The other day we put some music on and we danced together,” Ms Tavares recalled as tears welled up in her eyes.

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Ms Nathalie Moya, who runs Forum Jorge Francois, an association that aids women, told AFP: “We worked with her as part of our ‘Women and Stars’ project” that helps provide food-service training.

“She earned her diploma two years ago and wanted to open a restaurant,” said Ms Moya, who remembers a woman full of “sunshine” who was “always taking people into her arms”.

“She loved everyone and was also devout. If you were looking to strike a symbol of the joy of living, you could not have found a better one.”

The third victim

Little is known of the third victim, a woman aged 60 who suffered the most savage violence and has yet to be named.

She was married, had grown-up children and often went to the church, a source close to the case said.

Anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said the woman’s body was found at the basilica entrance and that her throat had been cut “deeply in the manner of a decapitation”.

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