Murder of police officer Masson: the trial becomes tense in the face of crucial witnesses – 02/22/2024 at 6:44 p.m.

Court sketch of Ilias Akoudad (g) and his lawyers, during the trial for the murder of French police officer Eric Masson at the Vaucluse Assize Court, February 19, 2024 in Avignon (AFP / Benoit PEYRUCQ)

The atmosphere became electric on Thursday at the trial for the murder of police officer Eric Masson in Avignon, with the embarrassing testimony of several witnesses for a suspect who still denies but is gradually cowering in his box.

Julie takes the stand. She lives on rue du Râteau, where the brigadier was shot dead on May 5, 2021 at the end of the afternoon, on a deal point.

She hears two or three explosions, which she mistakes for firecrackers. When she goes out, she sees “someone running” in front of her house, then a man on the ground. The one who runs: in his twenties, North African type, slim build, hair with brown roots, bleached on the top.

Her neighbor Nadia comes down in a slipper, she too sees a young man pass by, wearing a black hoodie. She begins a cardiac massage, while Julie keeps the curious at a distance, looks for a metronome on her phone to accompany the treatments, then goes to get a small foam cushion.

For both women, the firefighters took a long time to arrive. “I would have liked him to get up again, that he could find his family, his children,” says Nadia, her sentences interrupted by emotion and tears.

But the brigadier, elevated to the rank of commander after his death at the age of 36, will not rise again. His colleague on this operation, which was intended to be trivial, holds his head in his hands. According to a student who passes by, he shouts: “I’m a fucking police officer and he’s my colleague.”

Romain, still a police officer, but far from Vaucluse, will come to testify on Monday. But from Thursday, one of the central questions, that of knowing whether Eric Masson’s quality as a police officer was visible, increased the pressure.

This point is decisive for Ilias Akoudad, barely 22 years old. For the murder of a person holding public authority, an aggravating circumstance, he faces life imprisonment. But, if it is not possible to establish that he knew that Eric Masson was a police officer, the maximum sentence incurred increases to 30 years.

– “Nothing to declare” –

The president therefore asks the witnesses if they saw any elements in this sense, on or around the body.

“Really focused on the person on the ground”, Julie has “no memory of that”. Nadia “quickly understood that it was a police officer”: “He was carrying a weapon on his right side, his armband next to it on the ground.”

the portrait of police officer Eric Masson, killed in Avignon, during a national tribute, May 11, 2021 in Avignon (POOL / Nicolas TUCAT)

the portrait of police officer Eric Masson, killed in Avignon, during a national tribute, May 11, 2021 in Avignon (POOL / Nicolas TUCAT)

“She never said that she saw an armband on the ground,” then jumps up Me Frank Berton, the tenor from Lille who defends Ilias Akoudad. “You are not interrupting me! Suspension of hearing,” replies President Roger Arata. From the ranks of the public, filled with police officers, a “badger” shouts to the attention of the lawyer.

Julien, then Eric Masson’s teammate, arrives just as Nadia is performing cardiac massage. Also a firefighter, he takes over. “There is the bag, the telescopic baton, his armband,” he says, which bother him: “I put everything away and I continue the massage.”

According to them, Brigadier Masson had his “Police” armband out. But had he presented it to the shooter when he approached him?

In his box, Ilias Akoudad, alert and relaxed at the start of his trial, now constantly lowers his head. After the investigators’ testimony on Wednesday, the damning evidence is piling up.

“If you want to talk about this armband, perhaps this is the time to stand up, Mr. Akoudad, and explain yourself,” says Mr. Philippe Expert, one of the Masson family lawyers.

But, the accused, who has always denied being on rue du Râteau during the events, remaining unclear about his schedule that day, has “nothing to declare”.

And one of his ex-clients drives home the point, affirming that he had bought a dose from him on May 5, 2021, in this street: “I had been getting supplies from him for a couple of months via Snap” (Editor’s note: Snapchat ), explains the young man, who describes him, in a tracksuit, with a large bag and blonde locks. A hair detail noted by Julie like other witnesses in the file.

On the benches of the civil parties, Eric Masson’s father takes notes diligently. And the family is still hoping for a confession.

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