Jean-Pierre Treiber: The Great Escape (radio)

Today, a death is on everybody’s lips in France: Jean Pierre Treiber killed himself in his cell.

We only won two gold medals in the Olympics – we’re only in 7th position. The Parisians are currently rushing out of the capital city for the winter holidays. Everyone should be thinking about wintry slopes…

image from Le Point.fr

But Jean Pierre Treiber is dead. He escaped from jail on September 8th, got caught on November 20th. He had escaped then because, as he wrote in a letter to left-wing newspaper Marianne: “I couldn’t bear detention anymore, I was on the edge of killing myself”. He said many times that he wouldn’t be going to his trial. So he kept his word and escaped for the last time this morning, by committing suicide before 7AM.

Jean Pierre Treiber was convicted as a murderer, but he kept claiming his innocence. When he fled for the first time, every French person followed hungrily every step of his Harrisson Ford-like hitch-hike through the woods. Although some say he never was in the woods. There was a strange aura around this man, who was half Robin Hood, half a killer and quite mediatic.

Jean Pierre Treiber killed himself. May he rest in peace: his death disrupted the peace of our Saturday morning. As I write these words, a crowd specialist, lawyer, prison guard, and psychologist is flooding the TV stations to give their comments, appreciations and suggestions. No politicians yet – but not to worry, they will officially react as soon as their speeches are written. And unlike the journalist currently on my screen, the politicians will at least shave before giving their impressions.

The real point of this death isn’t that it prompted a good hundred of people to wake up quite early on a Saturday morning. What is really shocking is that he was able to do it at all. A double murderer, who made the whole police force a complete fool during almost 2 months, who was due another trial in April… We can assume he was under maximum security. And he can just kill himself? Just what happens behind those shutters?

He was isolated, watched over by a good series of guards, who were paying careful attention to his every moves. “They did everything right,” according to Marcel Duredon, Local Correspondant of the Prison Labor Union. Every hour, they visually checked that he was still alive. He hung himself some time between two checkpoints.

Inmates have no belt. No shoelaces either. He used his linnens: “it’s a common way for those who kill themselves in jail,” according to Marcel Duredon again – so common yet not prevented. It is not news that our judicial system has numerous flaws. Everyone knows that the French jails are amongst the worst in the so-called developed countries.

But a man who is really determined to kill himself will always find a way to do it. Okay, so let’s say no one could prevent Treiber from hanging himself. And Jean Pierre Treiber is not an isolated case. Since the beginning of the year, 14 inmates committed suicide (AFP).

Can there be a conclusion to this article? What can we deduce from all this? What did Treiber’s dead achieve? We have in France the same legal principle that you Americans have: “Innocent until proven guilty“. When Treiber died, there was still the possibility that he could be innocent. I will give the last words to Spinzer, Roland Giraud’s* lawyer: “With his death, he confesses. (…) He sentenced himself to a final sentence that our penal code abolished.

*Roland Giraud is Géraldine Giraud’s father. She is one of Treiber’s potential victims.

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