Baby dies as family jump from flat to 'escape devil'
A baby was killed and several more people seriously injured when a family of 11 threw itself from a third-floor flat to flee a man they mistook for the devil, French investigators said.
The bizarre tragedy came to light on Saturday when firefighters were called to the village of La Verriere on the outskirts of Paris following reports that several people had jumped from a balcony in a social housing block.
Among the injured they found an entirely naked man of African origin with a knife wound in his hand and two children, a baby and a two-year-old girl. The baby died later after receiving hospital treatment in Paris.
The assistant prosecutor from Versailles, Odile Faivre, told reporters the incident began in the early hours when a group of 13 people were watching television in an apartment and the naked man heard the baby cry.
"The man got up to prepare a bottle for the baby when his wife, seeing him, screamed 'It's the devil, it's the devil'," she explained.
In the confusion following this apparent case of mistaken identity, the naked man's sister-in-law stabbed him in the hand and he was ejected through the front door of the flat. When he attempted to get back in, panic erupted.
"The other occupants of the flat fled by jumping out of the window," Faivre said. According to police, one man jumped with the two-year-old in his arms and crawled two blocks away to hide in bushes, screaming: "I had to defend myself."
Investigators found no trace of hallucinogenic substances in the apartment and no evidence that any occult ritual had taken place. Seven of those who jumped were taken to hospital, some with multiple injuries.
"A number of points remain to be cleared up," Faivre said.
© 2010 AFP