French hunter apologizes for shooting dead a British man, 25, he mistook for a boar as he tells court: ‘It’s marked me for life’
A French hunter has apologized for shooting dead a 25-year-old British man he mistook for a boar in 2020, telling the court: ‘It marked me for life’. The death of Morgan Keane, a Franco-British man, caused outrage when he was shot while cutting wood near his house in the village of Calvignac in south-west France. Two men – the man who fired the fatal shot and the 51-year-old organizer of the hunt – both went on trial on Thursday in the nearby town of Cahors, charged with involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison and a 75,000 euros ($78,000) fine.
‘There isn’t a day I don’t think about it, it’s marked me for life. I’m sorry,’ the shooter told the court, admitting that he had not ‘identified the target’. The case has revived tensions between anti-hunting activists and defenders of a rural hobby and practice that is seen as necessary by farmers to keep down deer and boar populations in particular. During the busy times of the hunting season, large parts of the French countryside reverberate with the sound of gunshots, leading many walkers to avoid forested areas for their own safety.
‘A lot of people support us,’ said Audrey Tindiliere, a member of a collective campaigning for restrictions which was set up after Keane’s death. ‘Eighty per cent of people are in favor of strengthening the regulation of hunting in order to improve the sharing of the countryside with hunters,’ she told AFP news agency before the trial. State prosecutors called for both defendants to be given a two-year jail term, with 18 months suspended, underscoring ‘the seriousness of the shortcomings that led to the death of Morgan Keane’. A verdict is expected on January 12.
Hunters form a powerful political lobby in France through the National Federation of Hunters (FNC). FNC head Willy Schraen called for an ‘exemplary verdict’ in the Keane case, an acknowledgement of the strong public feelings around the death. ‘We ban hunters who do not respect the most basic rules. It mustn’t happen again. It’s unacceptable that this mistake led to the death of a man,’ he said. ‘If you don’t know what you’re shooting at, you don’t shoot.’ Keane, whose father was British and mother French, was inside the boundary of his property. The number of hunting accidents has fallen over the last 20 years, according to the French government’s Office for Biodiversity.
There were 90 accidents during the 2021/22 season, eight of which were fatal, including two people who were not hunters, the figures show. Last month, a British woman was accidentally shot and killed by her French boyfriend during a wild boar hunt in northern France . And on October 9, a 62-year-old hunter was shot in the abdomen while picking mushrooms in the town of Vinsobres in the Drôme region. Also in October, a 33-year-old mother and her young children were injured during a small game hunt in the Rhône, according to Le Bien Public. In February, a 25-year-old woman died instantly after being hit by a hunter’s bullet while walking with a friend along a marked trail near Aurillac, in the Cantal region.
The British woman who died last month, Jacqueline Taylor, 67, from a gunshot wound ‘above the heart’ after her partner Pierrot Philippot, 69, fired his shoulder-mounted rifle in her direction during the hunt.
Philippot, who faces a manslaughter charge, is the president of the Goudelin-Bringolo hunt and organized the wild boar hunt close to the couple’s home in Goudelin, Brittany. Miss Taylor was rushed to hospital in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, but died from her injuries at around midday. An investigating source said: ‘The hunters were walking through a field of corn silage when the president of the hunt fired with his shoulder-mounted rifle, barrel pointing towards the back. ‘The shot hit his partner, and the bullet caused a penetrating wound above her heart. She was rushed to hospital but died of her wounds’. Philippot, who has been hunting in the area since he was a teenager, was bailed while an investigation went on.
The hunting party included around a dozen hunters and two guests, public prosecutor Nicolas Heitz said. Laurent Le Faucheur, mayor of Goudelin, said Philippot was ‘absolutely devastated by the accident’. Mr Le Faucheur said: ‘It’s a terrible shock for us all. I knew the couple well. ‘Jacqueline arrived from Britain about seven years ago, and was very happy in the village. ‘She had a horse, and they both shared other animals including dogs and cats. ‘What happened is devastating. I was called quickly, I came right away, because of course, a hunting accident is a sensitive subject. ‘A full investigation is under way.’
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