PARIS: A man who claimed to have survived the 2015 massacre at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, describing his brush with death in vivid detail, was tried for fraud on Friday after it emerged he was nowhere near the scene.
Cedric Rey’s account of the November 13, 2015, attack was used by several French media.
The 29-year-old ambulance driver said he was having a drink with two friends outside the Bataclan when three Islamic State militants stormed the venue during a concert, launching a three-hour bomb and gun attack that left 90 people dead.
Rey claimed that one of the gunmen aimed his rifle at him and fired but that a pregnant woman, who was walking past, “took the bullets meant for me”.
After the attack he sought compensation from a state fund for the victims of terrorism but his application was turned down after he failed to supply documents proving his claim.
He also joined the Life for Paris survivors’ group and, like several of those who escaped death, got a tattoo commemorating the attack — in his case of Marianne, symbol of the French Republic, with the Bataclan in the background.
At least seven people have been found guilty of fraud or attempted fraud over the Paris attacks, which also targeted the Stade de France stadium and several bars and restaurants in eastern Paris, killing 230 people in total.
Police became suspicious about Rey’s story after noting several discrepancies, including the fact that no pregnant woman was killed in the Bataclan assault.
They then traced his whereabouts that night using his mobile phone data — and discovered he was about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the Bataclan when the attack began and showed up outside the theatre around midnight, after it had ended.
Rey, who now lives in the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, has admitted to fabricating the story.
During a return visit to mainland France in October he handed himself in to police. He was remanded in custody pending his trial and ordered to undergo psychological tests.
Charged with attempt fraud over his compensation claim, Rey faces up to five years in prison if convicted. His lawyer has refused to comment on the case and said his client no longer wants to speak to the media.