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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
France left reeling after freed teenage rapist allowed into school where he abused, killed and burned 13-year-old girl
The rape and murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl has led to uproar in France after it was revealed that the alleged teenage killer was admitted to an up-scale boarding school despite a previous rape charge.
The burned body of Agnes Marin was found in woodland near the College-lycee Cevenol International in central France on Friday.
A 17-year-old boy, identified only as Mathieu, was arrested after he allegedly confessed to 'raping and burning' Agnes - after luring her into woodland on Wednesday by suggesting they pick mushrooms together.
Investigating police have said the murder was particularly brutal, with the killer using a number of 'objects' to kill Agnes.
But the girl's family, the French public and education and legal authorities reacted in horror when it was revealed Mathieu was conditionally freed on charges of rape less than a year ago.
He was jailed for the rape of a minor in 2010, released under supervision after four months.
The Marin family have accused the school of knowing Mathieu's criminal history but allowing him to become a pupil anyway - an allegation the school denies.
Agnes's devastated mother, Paola, told a radio station that the murder 'could have been avoided with a little less negligence', while father Frederic said: 'The school should have been a bit more vigilant.'
But the school, in Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon, is denying specific knowledge of Mathieu's past - admitting that it knew of his criminal past but not what he was convicted of.
The school's head, Philippe Bauwens, said: 'If I had known, I would not have accepted him in our establishment, because we're not equipped.'
The school, with the motto 'Humanism and tolerance', said the tragedy was the result of failures in the legal system.
But prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat has defended the legal process, saying psychiatric evaluations said Mathieu could be 'rehabilitated and did not show signs of being dangerous'.
Furthermore, the boy was set free under strict conditions - that he was treated by a psychiatrist, as well as a psychologist at the school.
Mr Coquillat's comments suggested that the school - at the very least the school-appointed psychologist - must have had prior knowledge of Mathieu's history.
But Anne-Sylvie Debard, a member of the school's board of governors, said the problem lay with a lack of communication between state departments.
She added: 'There was a serious breakdown between what the school's management knew and what the national education system and the judiciary knew.'
The French media is understandably asking questions as to how Mathieu could have been placed among unwitting pupils, given his background.
The case is especially sensitive for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently pushed through tough laws to severely punish repeat offenders.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon has promised to 'clarify possible malfunctioning of the penal system'.