Amidst the commotion of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, another key policeman would be lying dead with a bullet to his head within 24-hours of the incident with the cause of his death hidden even from his own family
Q: What laws protect the policeman?
Q: How many police officers were awarded the Légion d’Honneur by François Hollande following their deaths amidst the unfolding of the Charlie Hebdo massacre?
Lieutenant Franck Brinsolaro, 49, a protection officer assigned by Paris police to ensure the security of Stéphane Charbonnier. Brinsolaro was shot on the magazine’s commercial premises.
Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 26, an unarmed trainee traffic policewoman in Montrouge, suspected to have been shot by Amedy Coulibaly.
Ahmed Merabet, 40, the most famous of the three, owing to the fact that his shooting at the hands of the Kouachi brothers was captured televisually and, at least in part, broadcast in news bulletins following the development of the story. Reports, including an official police statement and video footage, suggest that Merabet was killed by a point-blank shot to the head by one brother or the other.
Q: How many police lives were lost amidst the unfolding of the Charlie Hebdo massacre?
Lieutenant Frank Brinsolaro, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, Ahmed Merabet and Commissaire Helric Fredou
Q: Who is Helric Fredou?
A: Fredou, the forgotten man of Charlie Hebdo, was the ‘fourth policeman’. The police Commissioner had been assigned to the investigation of the Charlie Hebdo shooting by the Police Nationale.
Q: Did the Kouachi brothers murder Fredou?
Q: Did Amedy Coulibaly murder Fredou?
Q: Did Fredou die in Paris?
Q: How did Fredou die?
A: Barely acknowledged by the media in any holistic account of the massacre, despite well-integrated, even lurid accounts of the deaths of the three other late police officers, Fredou was found dead in his office in Limoges, south-western France, on Thursday the 8th of January 2015, less than twenty-four hours after the initial attacks occurred.
Q: What was the cause of death?
A: The official account of Fredou’s death, the source of which is difficult to pinpoint beyond the conclusion reached from the autopsy as performed by the University Hospital of Limoges, states that the officer ‘committed suicide’ by shooting himself in the head in his office around midnight and was found dead by his colleagues at approximately 1 am. However, neither the coroner’s report nor the autopsy results have been released to the public. Indeed, Fredou’s own mother was refused any access to the autopsy results by police officers despite her express request—this being in contravention of The Code of Criminal Procedure.
Q: What were the immediate circumstances?
A: Fredou’s final acts alive were as follows: according to his mother, Fredou intended first to ‘debrief three investigators who went out to question the immediate family of … Jeannette Bougrab, Charbonnier’s girlfriend; he then intended [to check] social networks’, presumably for clues as to how the Kouachi brothers might have been aided by them. The Commissioner then made several phone calls, although there is no unanimously agreed upon chronology to any of this.
Q: What pertinence does Limoges have to this? Why was a commissioner from south-western France in charge of essential elements of an investigation concerning a tragedy in Paris?
A: The Kouachi brothers were partially raised in Limoges. They would most likely have been radicalised there.
Q: What other testimony is available?
A: Fredou’s mother and sister have both offered detailed, respective accounts of the happenstance of the policeman’s death, though neither of them deigned to commit name to print. His mother chastised the police department of Limoges and Bernard Cazeneuve (Minister of the Interior) for their lack of condolences and their somewhat suspicious obstinacy in refusing to comply with her wish to see her son’s autopsy report.
Mme Fredou’s account supposes that there may have been an impasse that night between Fredou and the Commissioner’s superior, Gil Friedman, director of the Regional Criminal Police in Limoges. According to his mother, Fredou was determined and ‘wanted to keep working’ the job, believing it his responsibility and declining to delegate the matter of debriefing investigators and compiling the report to his director.
Helric Fredou’s sister’s account tends primarily to the immediate circumstances of her brother’s death. She quickly rules out foul play before expressing suspicion at the fact that, despite a short history of prior suicides in the department, nothing from the scene of Fredou’s death was filed by the Limoges police department as evidence, nor did the deceased leave a note, though this in itself is not uncommon. She finds the suicide charge a hard one to accept, positing that her brother ‘was neither violent nor impulsive’. Adding to this, Fredou, who had himself in the past discovered the bodies of colleagues who had committed suicide, had apparently given his mother prior assurance, at an earlier date, that he would never commit such an act himself. Fredou’s sister’s account ends on an aggrieved indictment of the Parisian police for their lack of explanation to the bereft family of Fredou.
Q: Was Helric Fredou’s report ever released?
Q: What of Helric Fredou’s personal items?
A: According to the testimony of the late Commissioner’s sister, Fredou’s computer and smartphone were seized by members of his department despite their protestations; as previously stated, none of the the seizures were officially filed.
Q: What do the otherwise conflicting accounts have in common?
A: What is in no question whatsoever is that Commissioner Fredou was in charge of a preliminary investigation into the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the time of his passing, and that he was discovered dead in his office with a wound to the forehead and a bullet inside his skull.
Q: Where do the accounts diverge?
A: The story propagated to the media at the time, to the meagre extent that it was mentioned at all, cited Fredou as being in a personal state of depression. This, as well as being ‘burn out’, was posited to be the reason behind this tragic suicide. The few outlets that did pick up on the story spread the ‘depression’ angle impersonally while the Commissioner’s mother was given the same explanation by several non-specified directors of the Parisian police. Fredou’s personal physician refuses to humour the idea that Fredou was depressed, or at least that depression was the cause of his suicide.
There is also some discrepancy with regard to the murder weapon. Fredou was in possession of a standard police issue service firearm, a SIG Sauer SP 2022 or similar model, not equipped with a silencer. Most reports can agree that Fredou died by the barrel of his own gun; given that the Limoges police department would have been staffed at the approximate time at which he died, there hangs the question as to why it took almost an hour after Fredou’s death for his body to be discovered given that a shot would most certainly have been heard. The only explanation proffered, ambiguously, is that the office that Fredou occupied and died in is ‘well-insulated’, enough that his colleagues would have heard no gun shot.
Q: What does Fredou’s death signify as a suicide?
A: A casualty of a media-saturated society’s superficial indulgence of feelings via grief-by-proxy in the face of tragedy. The satisfaction with clicking one’s tongue disapprovingly, making a speech of le mot just in just the right tone of voice to affirm your credentials as a statesman or woman, all the while neglecting to devote bodies, time and energy towards the hard yards of neutralising the considerable psychological toll for those involved. Perhaps more than this, it signifies the way in which many are beginning to take for granted those who are, to degrees of worthiness that may vary, their protectors.
Q: What does Fredou’s death signify otherwise?
A: We cannot fairly say.
Q: What law protects the policeman?