Coronavirus: French bus driver dies after assault over face masks

Philippe Monguillot was viciously attacked after confronting a group who refused to wear face masks

Veronique Monguillot, wife of bus driver Philippe Monguillot, holds a picture of her husband. AFP
Veronique Monguillot, wife of bus driver Philippe Monguillot, holds a picture of her husband. AFP

A French bus driver has died after he was kicked and punched in the head for asking passengers to wear face masks in line with Covid-19 rules.

Philippe Monguillot, 59, was left brain-dead after the attack last Sunday in the town of Bayonne and died on Friday after his family switched off his life-support system, daughter Marie said.

"We decided to let him go. The doctors were in favour and we were as well," she told AFP.

Police have charged five people over the attack including two – aged 22 and 23 – for attempted murder. Prosecutor Jerome Bourrier said he would ask for the latter charges to be upgraded after Monguillot’s death.

Two other people have been charged for failing to assist a person in danger and another for attempting to hide a suspect.

Prosecutors previously said the group was known in Bayonne for taking drugs and drinking alcohol.

France’s recently appointed prime minister Jean Castex led tributes to Monguillot, describing the assault as “cowardly”.

"The Republic recognises him as an exemplary citizen and will not forget him. The law will punish the perpetrators of this despicable crime," he tweeted.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who was to meet Bayonne’s bus drivers on Saturday to discuss safety measures, said the attack was an “abhorrent act”.

"The coward responsible must not go unpunished," he said.

Local bus drivers used their right to refuse to work in the aftermath of the attack but will resume on Monday under reinforced security.

Bus drivers of the public transport network of Bayonne. AFP
Bus drivers of the public transport network of Bayonne. AFP

Monguillot's family had organised a silent march in his honour on Wednesday, departing from the bus stop where the assault took place.

On Tuesday, assistant prosecutor Marc Mariee told a press conference that the attack had been “extremely violent”.

"There were insults and then shoving. The bus driver was pushed out of the bus. Two individuals then violently kicked and punched the upper part of his body, including his head,” he said.

Flowers were left as thousands of people participated in a white march as a tribute to the bus driver. EPA
Flowers were left as thousands of people participated in a white march as a tribute to the bus driver. EPA

Earlier this week Monguillot’s wife Veronique said he had been due to retire in a year and the couple were going to buy a motor home in September. She said she was “living in a nightmare”.

Face masks remain mandatory on public transport in France to slow the Covid-19 outbreak, which has claimed nearly 30,000 lives in the country.

Published: July 11, 2020 04:53 PM

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