“Juliette, when she wants a hug from her mother, we go to the cemetery”

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Jean-Luc Châtelain, the father of the victim, and Blandine, his sister, Friday at the courthouse in Paris.


© Marc CHAUMEIL
Jean-Luc Châtelain, the father of the victim, and Blandine, his sister, Friday at the courthouse in Paris.

The relatives of Aurélie Châtelain came to testify Friday, at the trial of Sid Ahmed Ghlam, accused of having planned an attack in a church and of having killed the young woman in April 2015.

A smile «grandiose» and “legendary”, eyes “That shine”, “A huge heart” and an “Extreme sensitivity”. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Aurélie Châtelain, a fitness teacher who should have turned 38 this year if she hadn’t been shot in the chest on April 19, 2015, in the passenger seat from his car in Villejuif (Val-de-Marne). In front of the specially composed assize court in Paris, this Friday morning, the throats of relatives are knotted, voices hoarse and tears escape to describe the loss. A few meters away, behind the glass box, Sid Ahmed Ghlam is impenetrable. The 29-year-old Algerian, accused of having killed the young woman, clearly wanted to steal his car in order to commit, on this day of baptisms, a massacre in a church. It was only after having accidentally injured himself, replacing his pistol on his belt, that he would have abandoned his project.

“I didn’t know what to do”

“We will always have a lack, this lack of my daughter who is not there», laments Aurélie Châtelain’s father. But it is her daughter’s distraught devotion to others that shapes the stories. “All her life shows that she was driven by the gift of herself and the fact of doing good around her”, remembers Frédéric Bricout, the city councilor of Caudry (North) where the young municipal councilor was from. It could almost seem too much, so his little sister Blandine, frail and slender figure dressed in black, wants to dispel any misunderstanding: “Everything you may have heard is true. Very often when people leave, we are used to hearing praise, sometimes it is a bit abused, a bit exaggerated, but here it is not. She was truly exceptional, she was my sister, my best friend, my second mom. ” Aurélie Châtelain’s mother did not wish to speak. “You don’t have the strength or the courage?” the president asks thoughtfully. «Non», nods a head in a handkerchief. To hear their words, one can imagine the vitality and cheerfulness of this passionate dancer, the stage costumes hastily sewn, in the basement of the house, by a benevolent mother-in-law. We perceive the trauma, too.

“I don’t understand why Aurélie is no longer there”, says Mickaël Bazin, ex-companion and father of their daughter, Juliette. They were no longer together at the time of the incident, but had remained very close, «confidents». “I’m here mainly to talk to you about Juliette, about everything we’ve been through together. How to say that… It’s quite complicated to explain ”, summarizes this beefy with short hair. The soon-to-be 40-year-old man recounts the helplessness, the fears for his child, the upset daily life of a fatherhood he so longed for. Her voice fades away, swallowed up by emotion. How do you tell a 4 and a half year old girl that her mother died in such conditions, that she will never see her again? “When I got home, I didn’t know what to do, how to react. It was so much info all of a sudden. I just gave a hug, I didn’t say anything. ”



Paris, October 16, 2020. Assize court. Mickaël Bazin, Aurélie's ex-companion and father of his daughter Juliette. Trial of Sid Ahmed Ghlam and the alleged accomplices in the assassination of Aurélie Châtelain.


© Marc CHAUMEIL
Paris, October 16, 2020. Assize court. Mickaël Bazin, Aurélie’s ex-companion and father of his daughter Juliette. Trial of Sid Ahmed Ghlam and the alleged accomplices in the assassination of Aurélie Châtelain.


Mickaël Bazin, former companion of Aurélie Châtelain and father of their daughter, Friday at the courthouse in Paris. Photo Marc Chaumeil

Ritual

Two days earlier, this computer scientist had learned a happy news: the pregnancy of his new companion. He was about to tell Juliet. Between rage and sadness: “Instead of telling my daughter that she was going to be a big sister, I had to find a way to tell her that her mother was dead. A means of announcing life and death to him. I have no words to explain what happened in my head. ” He is crying. “I was told to explain to Juliette that someone had hurt her mom, that she would never see her again.” Since then, the accomplice duo have observed the same ritual every evening. They talk in bed, then “We do that”, describes the father, mimicking the gesture of a kiss carried towards the sky with the tips of the fingers, and “We say” : “Big kisses, mom I love you.” In her last SMS, Aurélie Châtelain wrote: “Give my princess a big kiss.” But the child was already asleep.

What is the world like of a ten-year-old growing up with only photos of her mother remembering her? At recess, says Mickaël Bazin, Juliette sometimes cries in her corner because her friends tell what they did with their “mom” during the weekend or the holidays. “I don’t want her to feel left out. I’m doing everything I can to make her life as normal as possible ”, says the one who explains having become overprotective, multiplies the activities, the attentions, finally trying to be both a father and a mother. Like all girls her age, Juliette loves Snow Queen. Every night of this trial, his father calls him. She stayed with this little brother she adores and her stepmother. While waiting for the day when she will be old enough to understand, Mickaël Bazin writes down the notes he scribbles every day during the debates.

Head down

At the helm, he wants to react, even push to confess Sid Ahmed Ghlam who denies from the start any involvement. So he addressed himself directly to him and his co-defendants, suspected of having provided weapons or equipment: “I don’t know how the visiting rooms are for you gentlemen, but a child needs hugs. Enjoy it! My daughter, the hugs she has, of course, are mine. Juliette, when she wants a hug from her mother, we go to the cemetery. The softness she touches is the softness of granite, it’s cold, there is no heat. Do you understand that? ” Angry, he calls out to the former computer science student: “I don’t understand, I don’t accept, I don’t forgive.”

In the box, the other defendants do not lead off. Head down, eyes on the ground. We even think we perceive, for a moment, the misty gaze of one. All except Sid Ahmed Ghlam who fixes his gaze in the distance. He is invited to speak, present “His condolences to the whole family”. Then, in a monotonous tone: “What I saw today is pain, sadness, but also hate. It is completely understandable and human. […] From my experience in this group [l’Etat islamique, ndlr], hatred and anger, that’s what they’re looking for, that’s what they expect, that’s what makes them strong too. Hatred makes you lose your mind. ” He looks to the sky, searches for his words. Suddenly, one of these box mates, Abdelkader Jalal, explodes: “Shut up ! Admit, stop your bullshit!»

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