Police ‘could have stopped murder of Sarah Halimi’

French parliamentary probe hears new evidence over death of Jewish pensioner whose killer was spared trial


A Franco-Israeli woman raises a placard during a rally on April 25, 2021, in front of the French Embassy in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, after the killer of a Jewish woman in Paris in 2017, avoided being tried on the grounds he acted in delirium due to drug-taking. The writing on the placard reads: "J'accuse or I accuse, in reference to the title of a 1898 article by French writer Emile Zola regarding the Dreyfus affair. - Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, died in 2017 after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by neighbour Traore, 27, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great" in Arabic). Traore, a heavy cannabis smoker, has been in psychiatric care since Halimi's death and he remains there after the ruling. The court said he committed the killing after succumbing to a "delirious fit" and was thus not responsible for his actions. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The French parliamentary inquiry into the murder of Sarah Halimi has been told that police could have stopped the killing of the Orthodox Jewish pensioner but did not act in time.  
The 65-year-old kindergarten director died when she was thrown off her balcony having been savagely assaulted by Kobili Traore, a fellow resident in their block of flats in Paris, in 2017.  
There was outrage in France and across the world’s Jewish community when Traore was spared a trial and instead placed in a mental hospital because he was said to have suffered cannabis-induced psychosis on the night of the murder.  
Now the inquiry has heard that he could have been stopped by police. On the night of murder he had earlier been in the apartment of his relatives the Diarras. His agitated state caused the family to lock themselves in a room and call the police.  
It was from there that Traore broke into Halimi’s home by crossing over via her balcony and killed her, before returning to the Diarras’ flat at 4.45am.  
Police took more than an hour after turning up to arrest Traore, reportedly breaking into the Diarras’ home at 5.35am. The official report said they had no other way to get in.  
However, Thieman Diarra, the family’s father, told the inquiry that he had thrown a set of keys for his apartment to police. It was said this would have allowed officers to apprehend Traore before the murder, either in the Diarras’ home or Mrs Halimi’s flat, to which they could easily have crossed over.  
Member of parliament and the head of the investigation committee Meyer Habib wrote: “Thieman Diarra confirmed that he threw to police his own set of keys and a building entrance pass.  When police entered the Diarra home they didn’t break open the door but used the key!!!”  
Lawyer Muriel Ouaknine-Melki, representing Halimi’s brother, who was also interviewed by the committee, said that police officers at the scene were waiting for an order to intervene. She said that after examining thousands of pages related to the case her office found no evidence such an order had been given.  
The committee is examining whether the case was mishandled by both the police and the judiciary, and considering measures to prevent future similar failures.  
Police, psychiatrists and legal professionals are due to give evidence before the inquiry submits its final report in January.  
A lawyer representing Mrs Halimi’s sister said the case had exposed the pitfalls of court-appointed experts. Psychiatrists disagreed on whether the killer was legally responsible before the case was dismissed. 
“Psychiatrists should not be the ones to decide whether a trial should be held or not,” said Francis Szpiner. “There should be an overhaul of the way these experts are selected.” 

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive