A 25-year-old British expat who was shot and killed by a hunter who mistook him for a boar close to his home in south-western France has been named. Morgan Keane is thought to have died instantly when a bullet fired by a hunter hit him in the isolated hamlet of La Garrigue, north of Toulouse.
A 33-year-old Frenchman, who has not been named, was taken into custody following the tragedy on Wednesday afternoon. He now faces manslaughter charges. Both of Mr Keane’s parents died in the past few years, leaving him and his younger brother – understood to be aged just 21 – living in the house alone.
Their father died in the last year and the sons were looking after family affairs, sources claimed. Lilliane – a friend in nearby Cajarc who asked to be identified by only her first name – told local media that Mr Keane ‘had been very close to his parents’.
She added: ‘He cared for his mother, and stayed at his father’s bedside and watched over him until the end.’
Lilliane – who runs a pottery shop and is originally from South Africa – described Mr Keane as a keen musician, who was creative and generous. Gavin, her husband, said: ‘Morgan was always helpful. When I asked for help on a job site, restoring a building, he was always there.’
In a tribute on Facebook, Liliane wrote: ‘Michael’s best friend and our surrogate boy was accidentally killed by a hunter last evening. ‘He leaves a brother of 21. His dad died this year and his mum a couple of years ago.
‘This is the saddest thing that has every happened to me. ‘For those in our area, please spread the news that we are having a protest walk in Cajarc on Saturday at 2pm. ‘More details later. Please come and bring your friends, this hunting has to stop.’
The incident came one day after another hunter was jailed for accidentally killing a British cyclist in the French alps in 2018. An investigating source said of Thursday’s incident: ‘It happened while a boar hunt was passing by the edge of the village just before 5pm on Wednesday.
‘The victim was chopping wood outside his home when a stray bullet hit him. ‘The emergency services arrived soon afterwards, but they found that the young man had died on the spot.’ The gunman, who came from Montbazens, had not been drinking alcohol, and was ‘mortified by what happened,’ the source said.
The suspect is understood to have had a hunting licence and was in an organised shoot. Mr Keane had lived in the village for a number of years as part of a British expat family – which included his brother.
‘They are friendly, nice boys,’ said a near neighbour. ‘Everybody is in a state of shock – this is a terrible tragedy.’ Didier Burg, the Mayor of La Garrigue, said Mr Keane ‘lived with his brother, and was a quiet and very nice youngster.’
A spokesman for the Cahors Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that it has since ‘launched an inquiry for manslaughter.’ Reacting to the ‘terrible accident’, André Manié, the President of the Federation of Hunters of the Lot department, offered his ‘sincere condolences’ to the family of the victim.
Mr Manié said his organisation would ‘redouble its efforts for better training and safer hunting practices.’ Public prosecutor Frédéric Almendros earlier told French media: ‘The gunman thought he had identified a wild boar, but his shot caused the death of this young man who was not taking part in the hunt.’
The investigation into the shooting ‘must determine the precise circumstances of this accident, in particular the shooting distance, visibility and the angle of the shooting,’ the prosecutor continued. Investigators were still at the scene on Thursday evening working to determine these factors, as well as to establish the organisation and planning behind the hunt, safety instructions given to hunters and marking posts.
All these elements will be studied to establish responsibility for the shooting. The incident comes after another French hunter was jailed for a year who – in similar circumstances – accidentally shot and killed a British man.
Marc Sutton, 34, and originally from Wales, was fatally shot with a rifle while cycling down a popular route high in the French Alps in 2018. Lucas Clerc, a 24-year-old hunter, was sentenced on Tuesday after he admitted firing the fatal shot, which he said was intended for a wild boar.
Clerc was sentenced to a total of four years, three of them suspended, was banned from owning a gun for five years, and banned from hunting for ten. He broke into tears as the sentence was handed down, according to French broadcasters France3.
Two other hunters, the father of one of them who had been on the hunt, and that man’s wife, were also given suspended sentences of between six and 18 months for concealing evidence. A court heard that they altered hunting logs to make it appear as if they had not been in the area at the time, and later put up signs warning of a hunt to make it appear as if they had taken safety precautions.
Mr Sutton had lived with partner Jo Watts in the Haute-Savoie region of France for four years before he was killed on October 13, 2018. The couple were well-known locally as the owners of two restaurants, one of them vegetarian, and were well-liked by customers. Around 6.50pm on the day in question, Marc was heading down a steep but popular cycling route near his home when he was struck and killed by a rifle bullet.
An investigation found that Marc had been wearing high-visibility clothing and that visibility was good at the time he was shot. Instead, investigators pointed to a litany of safety failings by the hunting party, including that they had failed to put up signs warning of a hunt in the area.
The largely inexperienced party had also failed to nominate a person to be in charge of the hunt, had not established a clear area for their hunt, had not completed the proper paperwork and were hunting within 500ft of homes, prosecutors said. Investigators added that the hunter, taking aim at a boar, had not angled the shot towards the ground as is required, but had instead fired straight.
That meant, when he missed the shot, the bullet was able to travel far enough to hit and kill Marc, who had unknowingly cycled into the line of fire. Frédéric Noetinger-Berlioz, a lawyer for the victim’s family, described the hunters as ‘pathetic and pitiful’ and called the sentence ‘balanced… in the circumstances’.
He added that hunting had not been the cause of Mr Sutton’s death, but rather ‘delinquent hunters who observed no safety rules’. At the time of his death, Miss Watts paid tribute to a ‘kind, happy, loving man’ saying they had shared nine happy years together. He was also described by those living in the French Alpine community they called home as ‘well-liked’ and ‘popular’.
This article was first published by the Daily Mail on 3 December 2020.
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