He should have been released from prison last April, after serving an amended sentence of 18 months for minor convictions of theft and violence. But Mehdi Berroukeche was not so lucky. On the night of December 28 to 29, 2022, while sleeping, the young man was fatally stabbed with a knife and fork by an inmate in his thirties, suffering from psychiatric problems. The latter had been placed the same day in his cell in the semi-liberty section of the Talaudière prison (Loire). And Mehdi Berroukeche "did not feel it" according to his relatives.
His mother, Sarah Ribeiro, recounts this night of horror: "This individual came from the psychiatric unit of Lyon-Corbas. He behaved abnormally. Mehdi had told my ex-husband and his sweetheart (mobile phones are allowed in semi-freedom). Back at the prison in the evening, he asked to change cells. The supervisor refused. He hung up the phone at ten o'clock and fell asleep. »
What's next? It is a wave of violence as rarely happened in a French prison. "The perpetrator took him by surprise in his sleep. Mehdi was not stabbed but was the victim of a real act of barbarism. He cut off his eyes, mouth, carotid artery with a knife and a fork, then he exploded his skull in half against the wall, "says the mother of the victim, terrified imagining the suffering endured by her son.
"What were the guards doing during that time?"
The young man, who had made a request for an electronic bracelet (refused according to his entourage), died cerebrally at the Talaudière prison. His family and relatives, who organize this Wednesday, June 7 at the stadium of Méons in Saint-Étienne at 16 pm a march in his memory, do not understand how such a tragedy could have occurred. The questions they ask themselves are many: why did the supervisors present that evening take so long to intervene? How could such a dangerous individual find himself in semi-liberty sharing a cell?
" READ ALSO Loire : investigation for murder after the death of an inmate in the prison of La Talaudière
"The assault lasted a very long time, between 45 minutes and 1 hour. What were the supervisors doing during that time? In each cell, you have an intercom to ring and alert. The semi-liberty at the Talaudière prison is located next to the watchtower. The fellow inmates banged on the walls, shouted Mirador, watchtower! Nothing. No intervention," wonders Sarah Ribeiro. The ongoing investigation, entrusted to an investigating judge, will try to determine this.
The victim's mother, who is a nursing assistant by trade, remembers that evening when she arrived at the hospital in the intensive care unit to see her son. "They took 2h30 to make my child presentable. They even advised us not to see it. I examined Mehdi from head to toe. When I saw the gashes and wounds, I immediately understood that he had received more than blows with his bare hands, contrary to what had been said at first. »
A need for truth
Today, the anger of the mother of the family is immense. She points out many inconsistencies: "I hate it! On the evening of the tragedy, it was a fellow prisoner in the semi-liberty ward who warned us of what had happened to Mehdi. It took four days for the prison director to call me to inform me of my child's death. The police were informed ten hours after the incident. The prison guards, who continue to practice, did not send me a note of condolence. They couldn't do worse! »
His anger is also aimed at the health unit of the Saint-Etienne prison. "Every prisoner is psychologically assessed. The perpetrator was coming out of psychiatry and was declared fit. How is that possible? He attacked Mehdi but he could have attacked anyone if he had left prison (in semi-freedom, detainees have a leave of absence in the afternoon). Sarah Ribeiro demands answers and trusts the investigating judge in charge of the investigation to provide them, pending a trial: "Mehdi was the apple of my eye. He was generous, sociable. He loved animals and loved his little sister Louna (9 years old) more than anything. He had his sweetheart and plans to get married. »
The young man, who had trained as a kitchen clerk, also had a permanent contract in a restaurant when he was released from prison. Medhi Berroukeche's mother wants to understand and will create an association so that the conditions of detainees improve: "Fourteen deaths have been recorded since 2018 in La Talaudière. And not just suicides... We are told about doing work but I do not believe it. This prison must cease to exist. It's the worst of France! Your child goes into detention, he has to go out standing. I am waiting for answers and I would fight for Mehdi. »
A reconstruction of the facts is planned in the coming weeks, says the family's lawyer, David Metaxas.
" READ ALSO A second prisoner found dead in Fresnes, "shortcomings" in the night rounds
In a statement issued following this "bloody night", the local union FO justice wanted to react, denouncing "the deafening silence of our management which raises questions". Faced with this scene of horror that occurred on the night of December 28 to 29, he says that "immediately alerted the officer present and the agents went to the scene".
The director of the prison could not be reached.