A French hunter who shot dead a British man after mistaking him for a boar is set to stand trial for manslaughter and could face three years in jail.
Morgan Keane, 25, was gunned down while cutting wood outside his home in La Garrigue near the village of Calvignac north of Toulouse in December 2020.
The Briton, whose father was English and mother was French, died instantly when he was shot in the chest in the isolated hamlet and a 33-year-old unnamed man and the head of the shooting party were arrested.
If convicted, they face a maximum of three years in prison after friends of Mr Keane launched a campaign for new gun laws in France.
Mr Keane’s younger brother Rowan has called for the killer to be tried for murder.
A French hunter who shot dead British man Morgan Keane (pictured) after mistaking him for a boar is set to stand trial for manslaughter and could face three years in jail
His lawyer Benoit Coussy says organisers deliberately arranged the hunt near Mr Keane’s home in retaliation for his late father complaining about them shooting dangerously close to the property in 2017.
There is no legal minimum distance for shooting near homes in France, but a 150m rule is in place in some areas.
The death was one of several in France which have led to calls for a crackdown on hunting safety.
The powerful hunting lobby is supported by Emmanuel Macron and has so far ignored calls for reform.
Campaigners have called for a ban of shooting within range of property and an end to hunting on Sundays and Wednesdays when many children are not at school.
Friends of Mr Keane, who campaign under the name Un Jour, Un Chausseur (One Day, One Hunter), filed a petition that prompted a senate inquiry but all their demands were refused.
Mr Keane is thought to have died instantly when a bullet fired by a hunter hit him in the isolated hamlet of La Garrigue (the area, pictured), near Calvignac and north of Toulouse
They slammed the senate’s 140-page report as ‘indecent’, adding: ‘We feel insulted… we feel all the more wounded because we lost someone close to us because of hunting.’
The group said yesterday they hope the court will make an example of the hunters on trial, and give them a lifetime ban.
Both of Mr Keane’s parents died in the years before his death, leaving him and his younger brother living in the house alone.
Lilliane – a friend in nearby Cajarc who asked to be identified by only her first name – told local media that Mr Keane ‘had been very close to his parents’.
She said upon his death: ‘He cared for his mother, and stayed at his father’s bedside and watched over him until the end.’
Lilliane – who runs a pottery shop and is originally from South Africa – described Mr Keane as a keen musician, who was creative and generous.
Lucas Clerc, 22, (left) gunned down Mark Sutton, 34, (right) believing he was an animal, and is still in hospital being treated for severe shock, according to his father Dominique.
Gavin, her husband, said: ‘Morgan was always helpful. When I asked for help on a job site, restoring a building, he was always there.’
In a tribute on Facebook, Liliane wrote: ‘Michael’s best friend and our surrogate boy was accidentally killed by a hunter last evening.
‘He leaves a brother of 21. His dad died this year and his mum a couple of years ago.
‘This is the saddest thing that has every happened to me.’
The incident comes after another French hunter was jailed for a year who – in similar circumstances – accidentally shot and killed a British man.
Marc Sutton, 34, and originally from Wales, was fatally shot with a rifle while cycling down a popular route high in the French Alps in 2018.
Lucas Clerc, a 24-year-old hunter, was sentenced in 2020 after he admitted firing the fatal shot, which he said was intended for a wild boar.
Clerc was sentenced to a total of four years, three of them suspended, was banned from owning a gun for five years, and banned from hunting for ten.
Marc Sutton (pictured), 34, and originally from Wales, was fatally shot with a rifle while cycling down a popular route high in the French Alps in 2018
Two other hunters, the father of one of them who had been on the hunt, and that man’s wife, were also given suspended sentences of between six and 18 months for concealing evidence.
A court heard that they altered hunting logs to make it appear as if they had not been in the area at the time, and later put up signs warning of a hunt to make it appear as if they had taken safety precautions.
Mr Sutton had lived with partner Jo Watts in the Haute-Savoie region of France for four years before he was killed on October 13, 2018.
The couple were well-known locally as the owners of two restaurants, one of them vegetarian, and were well-liked by customers.
Around 6.50pm on the day in question, Marc was heading down a steep but popular cycling route near his home when he was struck and killed by a rifle bullet.
An investigation found that Marc had been wearing high-visibility clothing and that visibility was good at the time he was shot.
Instead, investigators pointed to a litany of safety failings by the hunting party, including that they had failed to put up signs warning of a hunt in the area.
The largely inexperienced party had also failed to nominate a person to be in charge of the hunt, had not established a clear area for their hunt, had not completed the proper paperwork and were hunting within 500ft of homes, prosecutors said.
The hunter had said the rifle bullet which killed Mr Sutton (left, with his partner Jo Watts) was intended for a wild boar, but prosecutors pointed to a litany of safety failings
Mr Clerc’s father, Dominique, said his son (pictured) shot Mr Sutton believing he was a deer
Investigators added that the hunter, taking aim at a boar, had not angled the shot towards the ground as is required, but had instead fired straight.
That meant, when he missed the shot, the bullet was able to travel far enough to hit and kill Marc, who had unknowingly cycled into the line of fire.
Frédéric Noetinger-Berlioz, a lawyer for the victim’s family, described the hunters as ‘pathetic and pitiful’ and called the sentence ‘balanced… in the circumstances’.
He added that hunting had not been the cause of Mr Sutton’s death, but rather ‘delinquent hunters who observed no safety rules’.
At the time of his death, Miss Watts paid tribute to a ‘kind, happy, loving man’ saying they had shared nine happy years together.
He was also described by those living in the French Alpine community they called home as ‘well-liked’ and ‘popular’.
A 17-year-old chasseur who killed a 25-year-old hiker in the Massif Central highlands is also awaiting trial, as is a a shooter whose bullet entered a car on a dual carriageway between Rennes and Nantes, killing the 67-year-old driver.