WARNING: Disturbing content. Parents strongly cautioned.
On Friday, Heat Street exclusively broke the news of evidence received by a French Parliamentary committee of gruesome tortures committed on victims at Paris’ Bataclan nightclub last November. You can find that report here.
Within minutes, our story had spread to the Drudge Report and around the world. Today, we can go further. Heat Street has collected many contemporary reports from various witnesses, all of whom described hearing of torture, most of whom specify torture by knife. One witness talking of knife torture states that she heard the terrorists laugh as they asked a man to drop his pants. These witnesses were men and women from different nations. One of them, below, is on video. We also present contemporary reports by the police that the terrorists threatened decapitations, and by the mother of an attending officer. She says her son saw severed heads.
Finally, we list testimony on Twitter from one of the hostages that she walked on corpses and saw severed heads; and from a man on the French equivalent of Wikileaks recounting torture.
News sources cited include Le Monde, the Times, the New York Times, Le Figaro, Slate France, Paris-Match, the Daily Mirror/ Daily Record, and French regional paper Le Progres. We also include two at least superficially credible accounts found on Twitter and Mediapart. While all of these accounts appeared sporadically at the time, no media outlet has yet collected them in one place to examine contemporary accounts of torture, and compare them with the accounts of torture given to the Parliamentary inquiry by attending police officers. Should Heat Street discover more contemporary testimony of torture at the Bataclan reported in legitimate news sources, this article will be updated.
Above, from contemporary video, a survivor, Amélie, 30, describes hearing torture: “People were screaming as if they were being tortured”, she says. This was reported by the media, but little noted, at the time, including by French Slate:
Amélie, 35 ans, a rapporté à 20 Minutes que «des gens hurlaient comme s’ils étaient torturés.
Equally little-noticed was a report by a male hostage in French magazine Paris-Match, which describes not only the tortured screams from the second floor but why the hostages said they were screaming:
“On entendait des cris, comme des gens qui se faisaient torturer. Ils nous ont dit : “On est là pour vous faire subir ce que les innocents subissent en Syrie. Vous entendez les cris, la souffrance ? C’est pour vous faire ressentir la peur que les gens subissent chaque jour en Syrie. C’est la guerre ! Et ce n’est que le début. On massacrera les innocents. On veut que vous répétiez ça autour de vous.“
This translates as:
“You could hear screams, as if people were being tortured.The terrorists said to us “We are here to subject you to the same things innocent people suffer in Syria. Do you hear those screams, that suffering? It’s so we can make you feel what our people endure every day in Syria. This is war! And it’s only the start. We will slaughter innocents. We want you to pass this message on to everyone around you.”
This account of screams of the tortured was repeated elsewhere by other witnesses, but glossed over by the media. Heat Street is the first news outlet to collate this contemporary testimony. A female survivor, “Alice”, was quoted in the venerable French paper Le Monde stating that victims were tortured with knives after the shooting stopped. She also made reference obliquely to castration, saying that the terrorists could speak French, and that she heard one laughing as he asked a man to “drop his pants”:
Mais de l’autre côté de « leur » porte, si les chargeurs sont vides, le massacre continue. « On entendait hurler, puis plus rien. » Alice et ses compagnons pensent alors que les assaillants achèvent les blessés, « peut-être à l’arme blanche ». C’était des francophones, précise-t-elle, des gamins qui riaient « d’un rire d’adolescence en demandant à un mec de baisser son pantalon ».
This translates as:
But on the other side of their door, if the [gun] magazines were empty, the massacre continued. ‘You could hear screams, then nothing.” Alice and her companions thought perhaps the attackers were finishing off the wounded “perhaps with knives”. The terrorists were French-speaking, she specified, kids who laughed “with a teenage laugh, demanding that a guy drop his pants”
It should be noted here that, even while denying that castration was confirmed, the officials in front of the parliamentary committee did concede to that committee that “one witness stated there was a castration” – so we know that at least one official report of castration, other than the letter of the victim’s father, was received by the authorities.
A separate and longer report on “Alice” states that her male companion was placed in an artificial coma because of wounds to his stomach:
Among them, the friend of the young graphic designer, put into an artificial coma for the pain after a double operation to the stomach.
Alice in this report also a) took a wound to the thigh and b) stated she walked over bodies to get out of the venue.
Mais elle doit enjamber des corps pour passer. « Des morts partout »
But she had to walk over bodies in order to get out. ‘Corpses everywhere’.
“Alice” is a false name and it may be that this is the same person who tweeted about severed heads (below) – that person also said that she took a wound to the thigh and had to walk over corpses.
Mariesha Payne, another female British survivor, told the Daily Record the same thing:
An eyewitness who hid in a cellar for three hours as the armed murderers rampaged through the packed Bataclan Theatre in Paris said she knew people were being tortured because she could hear their screams.
Mariesha Payne, from Perthshire, told the Daily Mail: “We knew people were being tortured in the theatre because we heard people screaming, but they were not being shot and these were singular screams. When we escaped a man trapped on the level where it happened said to us the terrorists were stabbing people in the stomach. We were told they were throwing explosives at people. It was a horrendous ordeal.”
She repeated this account of screams without shots to the UK Times:
There were very long periods where nothing happened and then there would be a singular scream, without any gunshots
Elsewhere she said:
‘I never thought I would see my children again. I cannot believe we got out alive. While we were hiding there was a pause in the shots for about 20 minutes but there was a lot of screaming – a witness we spoke to later said people were being tortured and stabbed at that point.’
The New York Times also reported that police issued statements at the time saying that the Bataclan Isis killers were threatening to decapitate hostages:
The police, in statements after the attacks, spoke of conducting fraught negotiations with the two terrorists who remained at the end. They described the men as nervous and unstable and as threatening to decapitate the hostages they had taken.
Ouest-France reports this directly in French in another contemporary account:
« Ils ne veulent pas libérer les otages. Ils disent : barrez-vous, sinon on tire et sinon décapite les personnes coincées avec nous. Ils parlent de la Syrie, du fait qu’ils ripostent parce qu’on les a attaqués. Ils veulent absolument parler aux médias aussi, ce que nous ne pouvons accepter ».
At the time, a large French regional paper, Le Progres, reported the mother of a policeman in attendance said that her son had seen severed heads when he entered the building:
Et puis, il m’a raconté que ce n’était pas beau à voir. Ce qu’il a vécu est horrible. Il a vu des scènes de sang, des têtes coupées… »
This translates as:
“And then, he told me that it wasn’t pretty. What he went through is horrific. He saw a bloodbath, severed heads…”
Referring to this, a woman on Twitter, who later deactivated her account, claiming to be a victim wounded in the thigh, stated that she had walked over severed heads in the Bataclan, when asked by another user to deny that torture occurred:
“The next time that I walk over corpses and see decapitated heads I’ll think about it”
this does seem to have been manually retweeted at the time. (The account name of the OP was taken over by another user in January of this year).
— Nutellana (@Nutellana) November 16, 2015
Furthermore the reply to her tweet is still in existence, showing that the screenshot above was not faked:
— Gugus54 (@gogo_du_54) November 26, 2015
Finally, Heat Street reviewed the alleged testimony of ‘Christopher,’ a 39 year old teacher, on a French “Wikileaks equivalent”. He stated:
Mais on entend soudain, aussi, des hurlements terrifiants. On essaye de se rassurer en disant que ce sont sans doute des blessés qui peuvent enfin crier, ou des gens horrifiés par ce qu’ils voient en étant évacués. Mais le temps passe et toujours pas de casque du RAID par la porte. Il y a alors un silence de plomb dans notre espace exigu. Je pense que les autres ont les mêmes pensées que moi : en fait, les assaillants sont toujours là, et achèvent, voire torturent les gens au couteau. Quelqu’un dit alors : « on tient, on ouvre à personne ! ».
While mediapart is not as legitimate a news source as Le Monde, this account does match exactly with that of “Alice” quoted in Le Monde. Without certainty, it would seem these two witnesses were in the same cellar together, and may indeed have been in the same cellar as Ms. Payne. All three appear to be giving identical testimony of knife torture during a pause in the shooting. Indeed, and with the reservation that no proof exists, we note that the avatar of the deleted @mahahh account on Twitter has a resemblance to the video witness “Amelie” embedded in the post above, who speaks directly to camera of hearing knife torture.
In summary, then, we have multiple reputable news sources at the time reporting that police officers said the terrorists threatened decapitation; that at least three witnesses heard what they thought was knife torture; that one witness states she heard a terrorist laugh as he asked a victim to lower his trousers; that one police officer’s mother stated to her local paper that her son saw severed heads; and that one witness on Twitter says she saw decapitated heads. Should more contemporary accounts come to light, Heat Street will bring them to the attention of readers.