Prosecutor Frédérique Porterie said in a news conference that witnesses heard screams and gunshots, then saw a woman fall to the ground with wounds in her thighs, shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday on a street in Mérignac, near Bordeaux.
While she was on the ground, the male suspect “doused the woman with a liquid and set her on fire,” Porterie said.
“As it stands, we can assume that the perpetrator shot the victim and that the victim was still alive when he immolated her,” Porterie said.
The prosecutor named the victim as Chahinez B., and her vicious killing has sparked fury in France.
Police arrested her estranged husband, identified as Mounir B., shortly after the incident on Tuesday, according to the prosecutor. Porterie told reporters the man had seven previous convictions, including a charge last year for spousal violence in the presence of a minor.
He served a brief sentence in prison but was released in December, and was ordered not to have any contact with his wife, Porterie said.
However, the man admitted having contacted his estranged wife several times and she filed a complaint of aggression against him in March, the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor alleges he believed Chahinez was cheating on him, and “decided to punish [her] for the endured sufferings,” without intending to kill her. He has been charged with voluntary homicide and other charges relating to the fire, Porterie said. The woman’s house was partially burned down during the altercation, the prosecutor said. CNN has been unable to contact the suspect’s lawyer.
People gathered in Mérignac to pay tribute to Chahinez, and politicians have condemned the killing, but there is rising anger across the political spectrum over the incident.
Right-wing National Front politician Bruno Gollnisch called the suspect’s early release from prison a “dramatic failure.” Government minister Marlene Schiappa visited the scene of the incident on Thursday, where she met with police.
“Horrified by this heinous crime, I extend my sincere support to the family of the victim,” she wrote on Wednesday. “The fight against domestic violence and femicides continues.”
And women’s rights group Fondation des Femmes called for the “immediate confiscation” of weapons from men who have convictions for domestic violence.Femicides — the intentional killing of women based on their gender — have prompted protests in France in recent years. Despite a fall in numbers last year, widely attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have already been 39 such killings this year in the country, according to Fondation des Femmes.
In 2019 tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of French cities urging new measures to tackle the problem. Schiappa told CNN at the time that “French society is deeply sexist and it’s difficult to make it evolve.”
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