Hate motive 'possible' in alleged murder of Orthodox woman in Paris

Police urge calm as man arrested


Court investigators are examining the possibility that the death of a 65-year-old Jewish woman early on Tuesday morning in Paris was a murder motivated by antisemitism. 

Sarah Halimi, a member of the Orthodox Yad Mordechai community, was attacked in her home at about 4am. She was then pushed out of her third-floor balcony, according to police sources.

The suspect, her 27-year-old neighbour, was arrested and when police said he was too incoherent to be questioned, he was taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. 

The suspect, whose brother is in prison on drug-related offences, is reportedly known to police for drug dealing and theft. Other neighbours in the building said he had been aggressive for days before the attack.

Sammy Ghozlan, the head of the Vigilance Bureau Against Antisemitism, has been in contact with the victim’s family and police. 

“The suspect was apparently under the influence of toxic substances. His own family alerted police that night to have him taken away. Another family in the building also called police. He was apparently trying to escape. Then he entered the victim’s apartment where he attacked her,” Mr Ghozlan said.

The other family that alerted police told Jewish newspaper Actualité Juive the killer had forced himself into their home as well.

“He said he wanted to spend the night in our home. When I refused he got violent. We’re all traumatised,” said the neighbour, who did not wish to give his name.

Investigators are examining whether the attack was a hate crime.  

According to one allegation circulating online, the suspected killer shouted “Allahu Akabar” before pushing his neighbour to her death.

“Sarah Halimi’s son-in-law says the suspect and other members of his family had repeatedly insulted them as ‘dirty Jews’,” said Mr Ghozlan. 

France’s community is on edge as it waits for answers. Jewish community officials have called for calm, asking people to wait for solid information.

On Friday, Paris Prosecutor François Molins told community leaders all leads were being investigated.

“So far, nothing proves this murder was antisemitic and nothing proves it wasn’t,” he said.

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