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‘You imagine the worst’: People of Annecy reflect on playground attack

todayAugust 13, 2023 6

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‘You imagine the worst’: People of Annecy reflect on playground attack

The school run in Annecy on Friday morning was not an easy one for many parents.

It was perhaps most difficult for those dropping their children off at the school next to the playground where four toddlers were attacked on Thursday.

Among them was Colene Semoen, a grandmother. She was bringing her four-year-old granddaughter Iris to school.

As we chatted she became extremely emotional, reflecting on the attack and how, when she’d heard the news, she’d wondered whether Iris had been hurt. Iris and her classmates often play in the park and playground.

“I ran to the school and the police were there and reassured us. It was terrible because you imagine the worst for the people you love, and I love my granddaughter. So it was really worrying for most parents.”

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Iris was fine, but she’s still shaken.

Ms Semoen said that after she’d got home the four-year-old had asked her grandmother whether there was a war taking place in Annecy.

Iris was too afraid to sleep and had to stay in her grandma’s bed for the night.

Ms Semoen was also upset when she wondered how recent events will affect the reputation of Annecy.

She worries people will be put off visiting this idyllic city in the French Alps. But she was generous with her time, speaking to us at length about the community and her granddaughter.

Those working around the lake next to the playground were not so keen to talk.

This is a popular tourist destination, especially at this time of year – but many of those here day in and day out did not want to speak on camera.

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‘I saw him all the time’

Some told us they had seen the suspect of the attack hanging around the lake and playground.

They said he was here in the months and days leading up to the attack, sitting on benches and surveying the area “completely calm”.

I was told the suspect, a man named locally and in the French media as Abdalmasih H, was homeless.

A woman who cleans apartments close to the park told me he would sleep in the alleyway leading to the building she works in.

Giving her name only as Sofia, she said: “I come here every day and I saw him sleeping here all the time. He always had his face covered.

“I saw him once with a whisky bottle next to him, asleep at seven in the evening and I thought he was drunk.”

Sofia also told me he was reasonably well-dressed, and she didn’t think he looked homeless.

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She used to find his wet socks drying over the doors on the apartments’ letter boxes, many of which are never closed.

As many here reflect on what they knew about the suspect, many, too, are thinking of the age and vulnerability of his victims.

The playground where they were targeted is now a place for the community to gather, contemplate and mourn.

Written by: Newsroom

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