A Moroccan man who stabbed a mother and her three young daughters in an Alpine holiday village in France says he carried out the attack because he had been offended by the father scratching his thigh in the presence of the man’s wife.
The man, named only as Mohamed B, reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar”, meaning Allah is greatest, three times while being questioned by investigators after Tuesday’s attack, The Telegraph has reported.
The 37-year old was arrested at the Garde-Colombe Alpine resort, near Laragne in southern France, after stabbing a mother, 46, and her three daughters, aged eight, 12, and 14. He had been staying with his wife and children in the neighbouring cabin.
The mother and two eldest girls were treated for injuries described as serious but not life threatening at the local hospital in Gap, but the youngest girl had to be airlifted to Grenoble hospital as she suffered a punctured lung.
Shortly after the attack, reports circulated that the assailant had carried out the stabbings as he thought the mother and her daughters were “too scantily dressed”, but Raphael Balland, the Gap prosecutor, said there was no evidence of this.
Rather, he says the assailant told him he had carried out the violent assault as he was offended by an “inappropriate gesture”.
“The husband and father of the victims confirms he crossed the suspect while he was leaving the premises after the attack. The suspect allegedly then told him: ‘You shouldn’t have done that in front of my wife’, then scratched the inside of his thigh over his shorts.”
Mr. Balland added: “The husband doesn’t remember doing such a gesture.”
He said it was “hard to comprehend that such a gesture could have sparked such a serious attack from a person in full mental health or devoid of any ideological intent”.
The attack provoked fears of lone wolf style Islamic terrorism, coming just days after a major terrorist incident in Nice which claimed the lives of 84 victims, including ten children. But searching the assailant’s home in the Paris region, police say they found no Islamist materials. The Moroccan national is said to have been known to the police for petty crimes, but not for radicalisation.
According to the victims he didn’t say a word during the attack, and in questioning at first only shouted Allahu Akbar three times before falling silent.
He later told prosecutors that he had suffered from “depression and schizophrenia for several years”, causing him to be on permanent sick leave since 2009, and stopped taking his medication six months ago.
However, medical and psychiatric experts found “no evidence of any pathology of a psychiatric nature”.
He has now been placed under judicial investigation for “attempted murder” against the mother and “aggravated attempted murder” against the three daughters and is being remanded in custody.