Incompetence or something worse? After mass assaults and riots at Paris football match, key video footage is deleted

“It’s incomprehensible,” said one police source

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
Riot police watch Liverpool fans after the Champions League final soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at a fan park in Paris, France, Saturday, May 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

The massive riots that broke out at the Champions League match outside the Stade de France in Paris generated national and international headlines. And yet, despite British fans being beaten and robbed by large numbers of North African and Middle Eastern youths, the CCTV footage recorded outside the stadium and inside trains and buses has been automatically deleted.

Both police and prosecutors never requested the footage, baffling experts and law enforcement sources, and the latest information only adds to the scandal surrounding the event.

“Wrongly, we may not have known that many people had experienced hell. We were not aware that these videos showed very serious things. No one told us about it,” claimed one police source.

“It’s incomprehensible, all this is normally done in time,” the source added.

The Stade de France indicated that it only kept footage for a week, at which point it was all overwritten because no request was ever made from authorities. The stadium features cameras at every entrance and on the grounds of the stadium, which likely means hundreds of hours of valuable footage has been lost.

However, that was not the only footage investigators failed to obtain. The French public transport operator, RATP, also stated on Friday that the video surveillance recordings from the day and the evening of May 28, the day of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, were automatically deleted 72 hours after the event. RATP indicated that the prosecution never requested a copy of this vital footage.

“The retention period for videos from CCTV cameras is 72 hours for storage reasons,” the transport operator said, according to Le Parisien newspaper. “Without judicial requisition, they are automatically overwritten by new recordings. We had no requests,” it added.

In any modern investigation, one of the first steps investigators take is to secure video footage, even for minor crimes. The fact that courts and police “forgot” to request footage featuring one of the biggest riots at one of the world’s biggest sporting events is perplexing and lacks credibility, according to sources close to the case.

There are even fears that this footage was purposefully not requested, as French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin attempted to place blame for the incident on English fans, who he spuriously claimed used 30,000 to 40,000 counterfeit tickets — a claim later debunked. On the other hand, the French chief of police now says that the English supporters played a minor role, as most of the cases of serious assault and theft were perpetrated by French locals. The CCTV footage may have not only revealed what actually happened during the riots, but may have also identified the perpetrators of the assaults.

“The prosecution knows these deadlines very well; they are used to working on these cases. It can’t be an oversight,” said a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.

A politician from The Republicans is now looking to investigate how the authorities failed to request this footage.

“Each passing day reveals new negligence around a major event that was watched by 400 million viewers worldwide,” said Senator François-Noël Buffet. He said he is determined to shed light on the event and plans to bring Darmanin before the Senate for questioning along with Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement.

Mobile phone footage and witnesses testimony shows English and Spanish fans being viciously beaten by Middle Eastern and African youths. The sporting event took place in the multicultural neighborhood of Saint-Denis, which is notorious for gang and crime problems. Footage from train networks and public buses may have not only recorded crimes in progress but would have also helped identify individuals wanted by authorities for assault and other serious crimes.

“The police did not need a request from the prosecution. They had other facts before them, so they should have asked for the footage. Normally, they do this automatically. I don’t know why they didn’t do it on their own,” added a former judge.

No investigation even existed, claim prosecutors

Now, prosecutors are saying that they did not request the footage because an investigation into allegations of theft and violence against fans was never even launched to begin with, despite reports of numerous robberies and assaults reported across French media, including individuals who went on French television to describe how they were targeted at the match.

On Friday last week, Paris prosecutors belatedly launched emergency requests for footage for aggravated theft and violence on Friday. However, the new investigation was launched far too late.

The requests for footage were issued on June 9, five days after the footage was allegedly deleted.

The Bobigny prosecutor’s office indicated that “it takes the support of a judicial investigation to make requisitions.” But the only judicial investigation opened so far concerned the alleged trafficking of counterfeit tickets for the Champions League final, and so it “did not request video recordings.”

“A second investigation for aggravated theft and violence opened on Friday. We urgently requested the images from the various operators on Thursday evening,” added the prosecution, a request that appears to be too late in some cases.

While RATP indicated that its footage is gone, SNCF, a state-owned railway company that manages the regional express network, including two train lines near the stadium, confirmed that its images had been subject to this requisition and that some footage may be available. The company originally stated that all the footage they had captured had also been automatically deleted, but then later stated this was not the case and it will be saved for 30 days.

RATP and SNCF have a network of surveillance cameras that film platforms, stations and the surrounding area. The videos from RATP could have offered vital evidence since many witness testimonies reported assaults and thefts near these stations and even on the platform of the metro.

“It depends on the operating systems, but in some cases, it’s been possible to recover images after the theoretical date,” said a source close to the investigation.

Hearings about the sporting event disaster are still ongoing. Darmanin has indicated that he had footage available of a “large influx of Liverpool supporters on public transport platforms” headed in the direction of Paris. Yet, he made no mention of them causing any public disturbance, and despite saying he would provide a commission with the footage, he has failed to do so.

The Senate continues its hearings this week. The inter-ministerial delegate for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games Michel Cadot, the author of a report published on Friday that points to a series of failures that led to the “fiasco” at the Stade de France, will give evidence on Tuesday, as will representatives of SNCF and RATP.

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