French teenager charged with murder over teacher killing: lawyer

Prosecutors on Friday charged a 16-year-old boy with murder over the fatal stabbing of his Spanish teacher during class earlier this week in southwest France, his lawyer said.

The teenager reported a "little voice" suggested he kill Agnes Lassalle, 52, at the school in the southwestern seaside town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz on Wednesday, according to a prosecutor.

Lawyer Thierry Sagardoytho told journalists that his client would be held in custody at an unnamed "facility that will take into account his youth and the care he needs".

"We are speaking about a young man who was previously not on any judicial or school radar and who acted suddenly based on personal motives that I will not divulge publicly but that need to be probed by psychiatrists," he said.

This was necessary to determine whether he might have suffered from "altered" judgement, the lawyer said, adding that he had been shocked by the results of an initial psychiatric examination of the boy while in detention.

Prosecutor Jerome Bourrier said on Thursday that this first assessment showed the teenager suffered from "a form of reactive anxiety that could trouble his judgement".

It reported "elements of depression" evolving over the past year, but no "mental illness such as schizophrenia, a manic phase, melancholia or mental slowness".

The teenager tried to commit suicide in October, the prosecutor said.

But he was found to be capable of bearing criminal responsibility for his acts.

- Back to school -

In conversations with a psychiatrist, the boy said he had had a fight with a classmate the day before and wanted to "punish him in some way" by committing the killing in front of him, the prosecutor said.

He also admitted "a kind of animosity towards his Spanish teacher, in a subject where he wasn't getting good grades, unlike his other classes," he added.

One pupil at the school described Lassalle as a "good listener" and a "very kind teacher".

Schools across France held a minute of silence in her memory on Thursday afternoon.

Pupils returned to their classrooms in the Saint-Jean-de-Luz school on Friday morning under the watchful eye of three policemen posted at the gates, an AFP reporter said.

Such attacks at schools are rare in France, but there have been growing concerns about the security of teachers.

The attack in Saint-Jean-de-Luz is the first killing of a teacher in the country since an Islamist radical beheaded Samuel Paty outside Paris in October 2020.

In July 2014, the mother of a pupil stabbed to death a 34-year-old teacher in the southern town of Albi. The perpetrator was later found to be legally irresponsible.

A Jewish school was targeted in the attacks carried out by Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah around Toulouse in 2012, with a teacher and three pupils shot dead.