A “fireball” in the middle of a field, seen by a local resident.
Then on the arrival of the firefighters, this May 28, 2015 near Phalempin (North), this terrible vision: a few meters from a burning car, an arm that rises and falls, the sound of a rattle, the body naked and burnt, sprayed with gasoline, of a man with a swollen face and closed eyes.
This bruised body, quickly identified by investigators, is that of Fabien Lherbier, 41 years old.
Its vital prognosis is engaged.
At dawn, this crane operator, father of three children, usually goes for a jog.
Sometimes, the dogs having escaped from the family home in Libercourt (Pas-de-Calais), he goes looking for them.
His wife warned the municipal police: her husband has not returned.
And for good reason ... On his way, the worker crossed paths with those who forever changed his life and that of those close to him.
At the origin of the surge of violence of which Fabien Lherbier was a victim and of which he suffers every day the serious consequences, there would be, according to an informant who confirmed the elements of an anonymous letter which directed towards his alleged attackers, that 'a' bad look '.
In the box of the Assize Court of Douai will take place, this Thursday, March 4 and until the 12th, three young men aged 24 to 27 years (one appears free).
The two main defendants, Mohamed A. and his cousin Bilal B., with the records of petty drug traffickers, were only 19 years old in 2015. They have always denied any involvement and their respective lawyers, Mes Julien Delarue and Grégory Billet, intend to plead their acquittal.
The third, Mohamed B., who appointed them throughout the investigation, is tried for complicity.
For “attempted murder aggravated” by another crime, ie “destruction by fire resulting in permanent disability”, all three face life imprisonment.
Legs crushed by the car
A scene of arson without witnesses or DNA, without the words of a victim deprived of memory - head traumatized, Fabien Lherbier will take years to speak again and to recover some memories.
It was initially thanks to this anonymous letter evoking the authors as “barbarians”, which reached a brigade nine days after the tragedy, that the investigation was interested in Mohamed B. and his entourage.
He was then identified as the driver of a vehicle, followed by Fabien Lherbier's car, who had come to fill a gasoline can at 5 a.m. on May 28 on video surveillance footage from a Total station.
Arrested, he confesses and tells what he has already related to others - crying and vomiting, reports a friend.
On May 28, 2015 at dawn, Fabien Lherbier's Opel Corsa entered a dead end in a small town in Libercourt.
There is Mohamed B., who smokes a joint while waiting for someone, and the two other defendants who drink alcohol, he describes.
Soon he hears "things get confused" and screams.
Fabien Lherbier, who got out of his car, was first hit by Mohamed A. then in the head by Bilal B., who hit him with a bottle.
As the man fell, the two cousins reportedly beat him before rolling onto his legs while maneuvering his car.
Mohamed B. calls for help and tries in vain to intervene, he affirms - his cries and those of Fabien Lherbier are heard by a neighbor, but "the fear of reprisals" has nailed the tongues.
Mohamed B., however, leaves with one of the cousins to the station, buys a jerry can of gasoline, and returns to the city.
He would have felt "powerless" in the face of the injunctions of the other two, he later confided to the expert psychologist.
He sees them putting the body of their victim in the trunk of his car.
He follows them with his to the Phalempin field.
He waits for them, sees smoke and flames, the others come back.
"I put it at 6 m", Bilal B. would have said on the road.
"May justice recognize the barbarity of these odious acts"
Confronted with the denials of the two cousins, including during the reenactments, threatened in detention, Mohamed B. never varied in his statements.
Mohamed A., who fled to Algeria before being arrested there, and Bilal B. have always contested, claiming that their co-accused referred to them out of jealousy or to protect others.
Apart from his accusations, "the case is light, nothing proves that our clients were on the spot", argue the defenders of the cousins.
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Fabien Lherbier will come to the trial with his wife Cathy and their children.
"They are nervously tested, exhausted by the wait (
Editor's note: the trial was postponed for more than a year because of the epidemic)
and fear facing the two protagonists who deny", underline the lawyers of the family , My Loïc Bussy and Damien Legrand.
“I would like justice to recognize the barbarity of the heinous acts suffered by my husband.
And that they become aware of what they have destroyed ", advance Cathy Lherbier, who fought relentlessly to" put (her) husband back on his feet ".
“I'm waiting for that, but I think I'm going to be disappointed because they are going to deny it.