A group of French hunters who accidentally shot and killed a Briton considered his death “less serious” because he was English, a lawyer for the victim’s family has said.
French hunter, Julien Féral, 35, yesterday apologized for shooting 25-year-old Morgan Keane in 2020, telling the court: ‘It marked me for life’.
Keane’s death sparked outrage when he was shot while chopping wood near his home in the village of Calvignac in south-west France.
Two men – the author of the fatal shot and the 51-year-old organizer of the hunt – were both tried on Thursday in the nearby town of Cahors, charged with manslaughter.
If found guilty, they face up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros (£65,000).
The death of Morgan Keane (pictured in photos posted at a vigil and protest against his death in 2021), a Franco-Briton, sparked outrage when he was shot while cutting from the wood near his house in the village of Calvignac in southwestern France
Before the trial, Benoît Coussy, lawyer for Keane’s younger brother, Rowan, said: “The fact that the Keane brothers’ father is English seems to have made this homicide less serious in their eyes.”
He added in court: ‘Morgan’s life ended in the forest where he went to cut wood. But the story didn’t start there but several years earlier when Morgan’s father politely asked the hunters to go elsewhere to shoot.
‘He was an outsider and… not a hunter and the hunting world is pretty fierce. If you are not a hunter, it means you are against hunting.
The indictment says Keane was chopping wood on his private land in Garrigues, near Calvignac at around 4.30pm when Féral fired the shot that killed him, believing he was shooting a wild boar, at 75 meters away with a Remington pump shotgun.
It also says Keane’s late father Michael, who was registered as British when he died in July 2019, had argued with local hunters two years prior, telling them they were getting too close to his lands.
The shooter told the court: ‘There isn’t a day that I don’t think about it, it scarred me for life. I am sorry.’ He admitted that he had not “identified the target”.
The case has reignited tensions between anti-hunting activists and advocates of a rural pastime and practice deemed necessary by farmers to contain populations of deer and wild boar in particular.
During busy periods of the hunting season, large parts of the French countryside echo with the sound of gunfire, leading many walkers to avoid wooded areas for their own safety.
“A lot of people are supporting us,” said Audrey Tindiliere, a member of a restrictions activist collective that was set up after Keane’s death.
“Eighty percent of people are in favor of tighter hunting regulations to improve the sharing of territory with hunters,” she told AFP before the trial.
State prosecutors have asked that the two defendants be sentenced to two years in prison, including 18 months suspended, underlining “the seriousness of the shortcomings which led to the death of Morgan Keane”.
The verdict is expected on January 12.
In this file photo taken on December 4, 2021, a friend holds a portrait of Morgan Keane as he leads a march to pay tribute to the young man, a year after he was killed by two hunters, in Cajarc, in the south -West of France
Keane was shot while chopping wood near his home in the village of Calvignac in southwestern France. Pictured: a view of a road crossing La Garrigue (near Calvignac)
Hunters form a powerful political lobby in France through the National Federation of Hunters (FNC).
FNC leader Willy Schraen has called for an “exemplary verdict” in the Keane case, an acknowledgment of the public’s strong feelings around the death.
“We ban hunters who do not respect the most basic rules. This must not happen again. It is unacceptable that this mistake resulted in the death of a man,” he said.
“If you don’t know what you’re shooting at, you don’t shoot.”
Keane, whose father was British and mother French, was within the boundaries of his property.
The number of hunting accidents has decreased over the past 20 years, according to the French government’s Office for Biodiversity.
There were 90 crashes in the 2021/22 season, eight of which were fatal, including two people who were not hunters, the figures show.
Last month, a British woman was accidentally shot dead by her French boyfriend during a wild boar hunt in northern France.
And on October 9, a 62-year-old hunter was shot in the abdomen while picking up mushrooms in the town of Vinsobres in Drôme.
Also in October, a 33-year-old mother and her young children were injured during a small game hunt 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 on a marked trail near Aurillac, Cantal.
The British woman who died last month, Jacqueline Taylor, 67, of a gunshot wound ‘above the heart’ after her partner Pierrot Philippot, 69, fired his shoulder gun in her direction during the hunt.
Philippot, who faces a manslaughter charge, is the president of the Goudelin-Bringolo hunt and organized the wild boar hunt near the couple’s home in Goudelin, Brittany.
Miss Taylor was rushed to hospital in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, but died of her injuries around midday.
Jacqueline Taylor, 67 (left) died of a gunshot wound ‘above the heart’ on Sunday after her partner Pierrot Philippot, 69 (right) fired his shoulder gun in her direction during the hunt.
A source investigating the investigation said: ‘The hunters were crossing a field of corn silage when the chairman of the hunt fired his long gun with the barrel pointed rearward.
“The shot hit 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 region since he was a teenager, was released on bail pending an investigation.
Philippot, who has been hunting in the area since he was a teenager, has been released on bail as an investigation continues
The hunting party included a dozen hunters and two guests, said the public prosecutor Nicolas Heitz.
Laurent Le Faucheur, mayor of Goudelin, said Philippot was “absolutely devastated by the accident”.
Mr Le Faucheur said: ‘This is a terrible shock for all of us. I knew the couple well.
“Jacqueline arrived 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 of course a hunting accident is a sensitive subject.
“A full investigation is underway.”