A French hunting party that accidentally shot and killed an Anglo-French man considered his death “less serious” because he was of English descent, a lawyer for the victim’s family said.
French fighter Julien Féral, 35, apologized yesterday for shooting Morgan Keane, 25, in 2020, telling the court: ‘It scarred me for life’.
Keane’s death sparked outrage when he was shot while chopping wood near his home in the village of Calvignac in southwest France.
Féral, who fired the fatal shot, and the 51-year-old organizer of the hunt, Laurent Lapergue, both stood trial on Thursday in the nearby town of Cahors, charged with involuntary manslaughter.
If convicted, they face a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of €75,000.
The death of Morgan Keane (pictured in photos shown during a vigil and protest over his death in 2021), a Franco-British man, sparked outrage when he was shot while cutting wood near his home in the southwest village of Calvignac from France
Before the trial, Benoît Coussy, lawyer for Keane’s younger brother Rowan, said: “The fact that the father of the Keane brothers was English seems to have made this murder less serious in their eyes.”
In court, he added: “Morgan’s life ended in the woods where he went to chop wood. But the story began not there, but several years before, when Morgan’s father politely asked hunters to go elsewhere to shoot.
“He was a foreigner and… not a hunter and the hunting world is quite fierce. If you’re not a hunter, you’re against the hunt.’
The indictment states that at around 4:30 p.m. Keane was chopping wood on his private land in Garrigues, close to Calvignac, when Féral fired the shot that killed him, believing he was firing at a boar, from 75 yards away with a Remington pump gun.
It also states that Keane’s late father, Michael, whose nationality was registered as British when he died in July 2019, had argued with local fighters two years earlier, telling them they were getting too close to his country.
The shooter told the court: “There isn’t a day that I don’t think about it, it scars me for life. My apologies.’ He admitted that he had “failed to identify the target.”
The case has reignited tensions between anti-hunting activists and defenders of a rural hobby and practice seen by farmers as necessary to contain deer and boar populations in particular.
During the busy times of the hunting season, large areas of the French countryside echo with the sound of gunfire, leading many walkers to avoid forest areas for their own safety.
“A lot of people support us,” said Audrey Tindiliere, a member of a collective campaign for restrictions that was launched after Keane’s death.
“Eighty percent of people are in favor of strengthening the regulation of hunting to improve rural sharing with hunters,” she told TBEN news agency before the trial.
Prosecutors demanded that both defendants receive a two-year prison sentence, with 18 months suspended, underlining “the seriousness of the shortcomings that led to the death of Morgan Keane.”
The verdict is expected on January 12.
In this file photo, taken on Dec. 4, 2021, a friend holds a portrait of Morgan Keane as he leads a march to pay tribute to the young man, one year after he was killed by two hunters, in Cajarc, southwestern France
Keane was shot while chopping wood near his home in the village of Calvignac in southwestern France. In the photo: view of a road through La Garrigue (near Calvignac)
Hunters form a powerful political lobby in France through the National Federation of Hunters (FNC).
FNC head Willy Schraen called for an “exemplary judgment” in the Keane case, an acknowledgment of strong public sentiment surrounding the death.
“We ban hunters who do not respect the most basic rules. It must not happen again. It is unacceptable that this mistake led to the death of a man,” he said.
“If you don’t know what you’re shooting at, don’t shoot.”
Keane, whose father was British and mother French, was within the boundaries of his property.
According to the French government’s Office for Biodiversity, the number of hunting accidents has declined over the past 20 years.
There were 90 accidents during the 2021/22 season, eight of which were fatal, including two people who were not fighters, the figures show.
Last month, a British woman was accidentally shot dead by her French boyfriend while hunting wild boars in northern France.
And on October 9, a 62-year-old hunter was shot in the abdomen while picking mushrooms in the Drôme town of Vinsobres.
Also in October, a 33-year-old mother and her young children were injured while hunting small game in the Rhône, according to Le Bien Public.
In February, a 25-year-old woman died instantly after being hit by a hunter’s bullet while walking with a friend along a marked trail near Aurillac, in the Cantal region.
The British woman who died last month, Jacqueline Taylor, 67, died of a gunshot wound ‘above the heart’ after her partner Pierrot Philippot, 69, fired his shoulder-mounted rifle in her direction while hunting.
Philippot, charged with manslaughter, is the chairman of the Goudelin-Bringolo hunt and organized the wild boar hunt close to the couple’s home in Goudelin, Brittany.
Miss Taylor was rushed to hospital in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, but died of her injuries around noon.
Jacqueline Taylor, 67, (left) died of a gunshot wound ‘above the heart’ on Sunday after her partner Pierrot Philippot, 69, (right) fired his shoulder-mounted rifle in her direction while hunting
An investigative source said: “The hunters were walking through a field of corn silage when the hunt president fired from his shoulder-mounted rifle, barrel pointed backwards.
The shot struck his partner and the bullet caused a penetrating wound above her heart. She was rushed to hospital but died of her injuries.
Philippot, who has been hunting in the area since he was a teenager, was released on bail while the investigation was ongoing.
Philippot, who has been hunting in the area since he was a teenager, has been released on bail while the investigation continues
The hunting party consisted of a dozen hunters and two guests, prosecutor Nicolas Heitz said.
Laurent Le Faucheur, mayor of Goudelin, said Philippot was “absolutely devastated by the accident.”
Mr Le Faucheur said: ‘It is a terrible shock to all of us. I knew the pair well.
‘Jacqueline came from Britain about seven years ago and was very happy in the village.
“She had a horse and they both shared other animals, including dogs and cats.
“What happened is devastating. I was called quickly, I came right away, because a hunting accident is of course a sensitive subject.
“A full investigation is underway.”