Wednesday May 5, in Mérignac (Gironde). The day stretches out in the courtyard of the Burck social and cultural center, where a 5-year-old boy cries out, all to his joy at running after a ball. A pupil of the neighboring kindergarten, he has fun with his school friends, under the tender gazes, in the distance, of his 13-year-old half-brother and 8-year-old half-sister, from a first marriage. "In the siblings, it is she whom we know best," testifies Paule Dubois, the president of the Tournesol association which manages the center. She receives homework help. She is adorable and cuddly, it's a pleasure to see her! "
Remained to live with his maternal grandmother in Algeria after the divorce six years ago from his mother Chahinez Boutaa - née Daoud -, the eldest has only just joined the family. His father, an electrician, died accidentally eight months ago in a fire. “Chahinez brought him in in March. She wanted to start a new life with her children and offer them the best possible future ”, confides her sister Fatima Daoud, on the other side of the Mediterranean. The teenager does not speak a word of French, but whatever. Blood ties are a universal language. "In a few days, he had reconnected with his sister and had become attached to his little brother," said the mayor of Mérignac, Alain Anziani, who saw the three children on Wednesday afternoon.
Looking from afar at the little boy frolicking under the declining sun, one would want to believe that the drama that had occurred the day before never took place. We would like to be able to tell him that the days to come will keep the lightness of those before, when his mother lined the living room with multicolored balloons for her birthday. We would like to be able to tell her that every evening, she will be waiting for him at the end of school to give him his snack and take him to play before the bath, dinner and bedtime marathon.
We would like to be able to tell him that freedom is priceless, especially when it comes to loosening the stranglehold of a jealous, impulsive and tempestuous husband.
"Alcoholic and on antidepressants too", describes Fatima Daoud.
But now, we will have to tell him that his mother died for only wishing to be free.
Chahinez Boutaa has become the 39th woman murdered since the beginning of the year, in France, by a spouse or an ex.
A few weeks ago, Chahinez was delighted to be surrounded by her three children, her eldest, born from a first marriage in Algeria, having just joined them in France.
AFP / Medhi Fedouach
There will therefore be no more flowers to plant in the garden at 76, avenue Carnot, where the family took up residence two and a half years ago.
No more couscous to bring to Anne, the 60-year-old neighbor, for whom the young woman liked to prepare this typical Maghreb dish, while the children played with her granddaughter.
No more selfies like in this photo where, her nails painted red, she smiles in front of her eldest child who is carrying the youngest in her arms.
No more walking hand in hand on the path linking the house, a social rental pavilion, to the center of the Burck.
Eight minutes on foot, three by car, before returning to the landscaped courtyard in front of this stone castle, which became the home of the medico-psychological emergency cell on Tuesday evening.
A cold and determined gesture
It was there that the children were told that their mom was gone forever. We looked for the words, we coated them with softness to try to alleviate the pain. But how to express the unspeakable? How to explain the inexplicable? How to tell a 5 year old boy that his mum was killed by his angry daddy, because he's angry all the time, this daddy, and this time he didn't just beat her, no, he shot her twice in the thighs to prevent her from fleeing, before spraying her with gasoline and setting her on fire while she was still breathing?
A cold, premeditated and determined gesture, as described by the prosecutor of Bordeaux, Frédérique Porterie, at the end of the custody of Mounir Boutaa, arrested just after the facts. Quoting one of the neighbors who, at 6:10 pm this Tuesday evening, witnessed the murder, helpless, she spelled out these atrocious minutes when the young woman, nailed to the ground and immolated, screamed her pain in front of her impassive husband, "calm" while he reloaded his pistol before striding away towards the marital home.
There, he burst into the room where the eldest sibling was resting to tell him to leave the pavilion he was about to set fire to. On leaving, the teenager tried to reach his mother on the phone before seeing, a hundred meters away, in front of number 109 on avenue Carnot, his charred body. A frightful image that he will never be able to erase again. “I spoke to her,” says Fatima, the victim's sister. He has seen everything, he is not well at all. "Entrusted to the social services of Saint-André-de-Cubzac, north of Mérignac, while his brother and sister were taken care of by the children's center in Eysines, another suburb of Bordeaux, he waits henceforth the visit of their maternal great-uncle, who lives in the Paris region. The siblings should be reunited soon,maternal grandparents wishing to obtain custody.
"She was hugging the walls"
These children are broken, but the Daoud family is united around them. Their grandparents now want to settle in France and pursue their daughter's project: to offer a future to her boys and her daughter. "So that she can rest in peace", insists Fatima. Chahinez was the penultimate child of six siblings, and the youngest of the sisters. She was 31 years old and, for the first time since her marriage in 2015 to Mounir, met in Algeria, she felt alive. This flirtatious and jovial young woman, with eyebrows thickened in pencil and hair covered with a light veil, had emancipated herself from her husband by filing a complaint against him in the spring of 2020. She had discussed for two hours with a lawyer committed to office, Me Fanny Comarmond, without however pouring out on the blows she suffered regularly.
Chahinez Boutaa had emancipated herself from her husband by filing a complaint against him in the spring of 2020. DR
Her confidences, she reserved them for her family, who tried to dry their tears from a distance.
And, above all, urged him to leave this quarrelsome husband, condemned several times for acts of drunk driving, theft and violence with a weapon.
“He beat her all the time, as he already did with his ex-wife, suspects Fatima.
He would forbid her to call us, block her Facebook account and control what she did, who she spoke with.
He didn't want her to wear make-up, to wear well-cut jeans.
It was hell.
Behind the walls of the terraced houses and the shutters that Chahinez took care to close as soon as her husband's mood turned to storm, the neighbors had clearly heard the outbursts of voices. They had worried about the beatings, screams and tears that over time they heard more and more clearly. But the young mother was discreet, stifling her suffering and trying to go unnoticed. “She was close to the walls,” recalls Marie, who passed her on the way to school. The teachers, too, understood Mounir's skittish character who, according to Fatima, hit his wife under the terrorized gaze of her children.
Oh, he knew how to be boastful when his neighbors called on him for odd masonry jobs, but more often than not he got annoyed about nothing, even in front of them.
Rolled on the sidewalk, blazing at the wheel of his van.
Tapped by guilt, residents of the neighborhood are still wondering what they could have done to avoid such a tragedy.
Anne, who retrieved the family's rabbit from the charred debris of the garage and house, is even considering moving.
"This little animal is all I have left of my neighbor and our time spent together," she slips in a voice overwhelmed by emotion.
I'm not sure I can continue to live here.
He wanted to "punish" her
Chahinez, she tried. She tried to escape her executioner by placing her trust in French justice: she went to the end of her complaint and, on June 25, Mounir was sentenced for willful violence by a spouse to eighteen months in prison, including nine suspended. “I remember that day,” another neighbor reports on condition of anonymity. She radiated happiness. I asked her what was going on, and she told me that her husband was in jail. She was so relieved! "
The deliverance, alas, turned out to be short-lived.
On December 9, Mounir was released and placed under judicial supervision, with a ban on coming into contact with his wife and coming to her home.
He doesn't care.
"He followed her everywhere, she did not feel safe," says Fatima Daoud.
She forwarded us the text messages he sent her, he threatened her.
He said to him:
I will do you Islamic justice and send you back to Algeria in a coffin!
To read also Feminicide of Mérignac: the worrying failures in the judicial follow-up of the husband
Terrorized, the young woman senses that the story will end badly.
Her husband doesn't want to hear about a divorce, and can't stand to see her happy without him.
As he confided to the police after his arrest, he was convinced that she had a lover, so he wanted to "punish her".
He tracks her down.
At the wheel of his van, he turns and circles the house.
Until a first act in mid-March, in front of the corner supermarket.
That morning, he grabs her by her scarf and tries to strangle her, before passers-by intervene.
According to neighbors, she has a crushed larynx, a black eye.
In the days that followed, she filed a new complaint, without effect.
Her husband continues to harass her without being worried.
"Why was she not protected?"
On April 20, she met Damien Darnauzan, director of the victim assistance service of the Association laïque du Prado, in Bordeaux, during a permanence.
"She was sure of herself, of the plans she had without her husband," he recalls.
But she didn't know how to protect herself from him, especially since, according to her, he lived a few streets away from her home.
Damien Darnauzan explains to him that in the current state, the ban on approaching him is purely formal.
That there is no recourse to enforce it, other than to file a complaint, as it has just done.
Chahinez leaves without being reassured.
Two weeks later, she was burned alive.
After the murder, the suspect retraced his steps to set fire to the family lodge.
MaxPPP / EPA / Caroline Blumberg
In the aftermath of this tragedy, in this seemingly peaceful neighborhood, the violence lurking for so long in the walls of the pavilion suddenly explodes in the faces of onlookers. We must hear the pain of these neighbors who knew without knowing and who, once the emotion has dissipated, will have to deal with their doubts and regrets. We must be moved by the loneliness and vulnerability of Chahinez in the face of her assassin, when she took her courage in both hands and knocked on all doors without being able to make herself heard.
“How could France have let it happen?
indignant Fatima Daoud.
Why did the police do nothing?
Why was Chahinez not protected?
Questions that echo in front of this charred garage, at the foot of which have been placed flickering candles, white roses and scribbled words.
"Chahine, we do not forget you.
"" Stop feminicides, let's protect the victims.
»« Silence, we kill.
A few meters away, a black trail on the asphalt: this is where the young woman died.
On the other side of the Mediterranean, Fatima cannot yet cry for her “little angel”.
Too much anger and resentment.
She looks at her round belly, it will be a little girl.
“I'll call her Chahinez,” she tells us.
My sister made me promise.