Visually impaired man ‘stabbed neighbour who disrupted Scrabble game’


A French man has been accused of stabbing his neighbour to death after the student “disturbed” his game of Scrabble by celebrating the end of Covid lockdown with her friends.

In May 2020, five days after France ended strict lockdown, the victim, known as Romane, 21, left her family home in Annecy to return to her student flat in Lyon where she and her flatmate invited a few friends around, a court in Lyon heard on Tuesday.

According to police, the music level was perceptible but not very high and no other neighbours noticed anything problematic.

But shortly before midnight, her upstairs neighbour, known only as Benjamin C, 41, banged on the door. When she opened it, she had the time to shout “you’re mad” before the accused stabbed her with a kitchen knife.

He cut her femoral artery and she collapsed in a pool of blood. She died two days later in hospital.

Hyper-sensitive hearing

Lawyers argued that the defendant violently overreacted to the noise of the gathering made because his poor sight had made his hearing hyper-sensitive.

Her friends chased away the defendant, whose face bore an “empty expression”, by threatening him with a barstool and then phoned emergency services and the police.

When officers knocked on Benjamin C’s door, they found him calmly playing an online game of Scrabble.

“How is she?” he reportedly inquired dispassionately. When questioned further, he said he could not stand the noise, managed to stop it, put the knife away and then returned to his game.

His lawyer, Léa Forest, told Le Parisien he was pleading not guilty to intentional murder as “he approached (the victim) but didn’t realise he had wounded anyone” as he was almost blind.

He merely wanted to “scare” her, she said. Described by his employers as a highly intelligent introvert, the defendant, an accountant, was born in North Korea and adopted by a large Lyon family at the age of six.

'Massive expulsion of pent-up tension'

His manager told Le Parisien that due to his impaired vision, he had a highly-developed sense of hearing and could get irritated by the “mere buzzing of flies or bees in a room”.

He had sent several letters asking for the flat owner to terminate his neighbour’s lease and had phoned the police to complain about the noise a few hours before the fatal attack.

Court psychologists said that while he was not mentally ill, they put his act down to a “massive expulsion of pent-up tension”.

Jean-François Jullien, a lawyer for the victim’s family, said they expected little from the trial.

“What’s horrible about this case is that there is nothing to explain,” he said.

The trial continues.