Mares, stallions, ponies and donkeys from 25 departments have been savagely mutilated in recent months. The investigation is complex, for lack of clues. A range of tracks, more or less reliable, is studied at the highest level.
Eric Abrassart’s story is precise, as if he had lived every minute in slow motion. It is 8.45 am, Wednesday September 2, when this breeder from Saint-Tugdual, a small town in Morbihan, goes to his meadow, a few hundred meters from his house. Like every day, he comes to pick up his horses for his driving course. He had left four of them the day before. But only three approach when he arrives. Arkane, his 10-year-old mare, is missing. Eric Abrassart sees her, stretched out a few meters away. “I immediately thought of a ‘natural’ death. I told myself that she had swallowed a stomach of acorns or that she had poisoned herself with a branch of yew”, says the 61-year-old breeder. But he notices that the mare’s ear has been severed. “I said to myself: this is it, we are entitled to it”.
Like all horse owners in France, he knows this macabre signature. Since the start of the year, more than thirty equines have been found mutilated. Often their right ear is carefully cut off. Sometimes, other abuses are noted. “I saw that her genitals and her anus were gone. Then I saw that her breasts were missing and that she had swollen eyes., continues Eric Abrassart. I immediately dialed 17. Then I cried. I never thought I would experience this “.
The authorities, up to the highest level of the State, are mobilizing. “Today, there are 153 investigations opened in France in more than half of the departments”, listed the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, on September 7. About 30 concern “particularly serious facts”, which resulted in the death of horses or which caused “extremely violent injuries”, according to the minister.
Our security forces are particularly mobilized to question those responsible for acts of torture on horses.
With @J_Denormandie, we call on the French for general mobilization to report any clue that will put an end to these atrocities. pic.twitter.com/Mt1i6BFKZO
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) September 7, 2020
That day, Gérald Darmanin recognized not understanding the claims of the authors. For their part, the investigators are also trampling, despite the patrols and dedicated cells within the gendarmerie. On September 7, a man was taken into custody in the Haut-Rhin. Without follow-up. “The file has priority”, nevertheless assures Franceinfo the prosecutor of Lons-le-Saunier (Jura) who counts “seven or eight surveys” in his department.
In the field, the main issue is to determine whether the injuries observed are indeed man-made or whether, in the surrounding psychosis, an owner would not have mistaken a banal accident for an assault. This is “a good part of our work “, confirm in Release General Jacques Diacono, head of the Central Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Attacks, the body which coordinates investigations at the national level. For “20 to 25% of cases, there is no doubt of human origin”, he assures.
Another difficulty of this titanic investigation: the random nature of the attacks. These are the result of a “plurality of authors”, recently assured AFP Colonel Hubert Percie du Sert, coordinator of the judicial police sub-directorate of the gendarmerie.
The size of the farms and the price of the animals do not seem to be taken into account. A donkey was thus targeted in Seine-Maritime, at the beginning of June, while in February, it is a running trotter, who was starting to make a name for himself on racetracks, who was found dead. Démon du Médoc, which had previously brought in 130,000 euros in earnings, was attacked in Vendée, on the eve of a competition. Again his ear was “cut to the head”, described his trainer to France 3 Pays de la Loire.
Neighborhood surveys, classic in this kind of business, could help move forward. But they have so far proved unsuccessful. “Horses are rarely attacked near homes. Rather, they are in relatively isolated pastures.”, observes the prosecutor of Lons-le-Saunier. Not enough to help the gendarmes who cannot count on surveillance cameras, rare in these remote places. “The investigators fall back on the cameras of the surrounding villages, those of the banks in particular, when they give on the road”, says the prosecutor to franceinfo.
Witnesses, too, are rare. Eric Abrassart’s mare was attacked in a meadow surrounded by four houses and a caravan. No one heard anything. Like him, most owners describe quiet attacks, obviously well prepared. “They took a hiking trail so as not to be noticed, with a light car”, he notes. Proof that the authors would be connoisseurs of the equine world. “You have to know how to pass fences, take a horse from the herd without creating panic, without making noise, knowing how to immobilize it”, says Lydie Cerisier, whose Shetland pony died, her ear cut off, in a stable on the Somme in May.
The same goes for Pauline Sarrazin, whose mare was tortured in Dieppe (Seine-Maritime). The breeder did not notice any trace of blood: “Whoever or those who do this know what they are doing and know how to do it very well”, she describes to Figaro (paid item). A hypothesis confirmed by the Central Territorial Intelligence Service (SCRT) in a note unveiled in July by The Parisian (paid item). “The traces found on the nostrils suggest the use of a nose twist, an accessory requiring to its knowledge user and skills in the equestrian world to handle it efficiently. “
Either way, the motivations of the culprits remain a mystery. The macabre and ritualized process, as well as the violence of the abuses, give rise to all the hypotheses. There is for example that of a disaster “challenge” launched “between several individuals”, indicated another note territorial intelligence, also revealed by The Parisian (paid item) early September. It could take place on groups created on the Darknet or via WhatsApp or Telegram messaging. This theory would explain the dissemination of acts throughout the territory.
Another motive studied by the SCRT: the “sexual frustration” authors, who remove genitals. Territorial intelligence does not exclude the trail of sectarian movements either. The Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses (Miviludes) was thus called upon at the end of March to provide assistance to the investigators. But for Nathalie Luca, research director at the CNRS and specialist in sects, this track does not hold water. “For there to be a sect, the group must no longer communicate with the outside world, no longer interact with the rest of society and that the members no longer marry or no longer have sexual relations with people outside the group “, explains the anthropologist to franceinfo. “However, when we kill horses, we are not closed to the outside world, on the contrary. These facts generate media coverage.”
As it is an incomprehensible phenomenon, which is frightening, we put the word ‘sect’ on it. But there are dangerous groups of all kinds that we do not call ‘sects’.to franceinfo
The services of the SCRT also speak of possibilities “satanic rituals”. “Improbable”, tranche Olivier Bobineau, member of the group Societies, religions, secularism (laboratory of the CNRS and the EPHE). After a three-year investigation, the sociologist concluded in his essay Satanism: what danger for society? (ed. Pygmalion) that the Satanists were only a hundred in France. Above all, the aggressors’ modus operandi does not seem to correspond to their habits. “The Satanists radically question the judicial authority, but refrain from any illegal act because they are in a quest for absolute freedom. No Satanist in France commits crimes, so as not to lose this freedom”, explains Olivier Bobineau to franceinfo.
So what assumptions are there for investigators? It has not escaped nobody, there is, in this affair, “a real desire to harm equines in general”, underlines the SCRT.
Horses have also been assaulted on multiple occasions in recent decades. In the United Kingdom, between 1983 and 1993, more than 160 of them were mutilated, causing psychosis in the stud farms. Each time, serious injuries are observed, especially on the genitals. In Germany, 300 cases of mutilation were recorded between 1992 and 1998, according to The Independant. Here again, we find surprising similarities with the French cases: “Severed ears, torn genitals, animals slaughtered or abandoned to a slow death …”, described Release in 1996. A specific commission of inquiry had drawn up a psychological portrait of the killer, “an unloved child, who would ‘take revenge’ on horses by killing them by hand, like a ritual”, then advanced the criminal police.
Laurent Bègue-Shankland, professor of social psychology at the University of Grenoble Alpes, invites him to look at the figure of the horse, a target far from trivial. “It is a very anthropomorphized animal: we also speak of mouth, foot, leg, which we do not do with most animals”, he explains to franceinfo. An indirect way to attack the human being? Possible.
On the socio-zoological scale, which reflects the importance we give to the different species, the horse is located very high, and represents the third preferred species of the French.to france info
The researcher has conducted a study with 12,500 adolescents and “observed that those who had committed acts of cruelty to animals (7.3% of the sample) were more likely to have harassed other students at school”, he explains to franceinfo. he also quotes a Brazilian study published in 2017 in the journal Research in Veterinary Science, which identified 96 publications on the links between violence against humans and animal abuse, since 1960. In 98% of the articles, a correlation was noted between the two.“As a result, since 2015, the FBI has been collecting data on acts of cruelty to pets, which are then linked to domestic violence or homicides.”, explains the researcher. All the more reason for the authorities to take these matters very seriously.