France church attack: Friends' efforts to save 'brainwashed' Kermiche

By Adam Fleming and Larissa Kennelly in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray
BBC News

image captionLocals remembered Kermiche as a "geek" who loved the internet

The world knows Adel Kermiche as the 19-year old who stormed a church and killed a priest.

In the suburb of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray they remember a younger teenager who would go and buy you a drink or a snack if you tipped him a euro.

He lived with his parents in a neighbourhood called Langevin, which is leafy if a little rough around the edges.

In the corner shop a family friend remembers Kermiche as a child, playing with his son who was the same age. "But they stopped talking when they hit 16," he recalled.

A man, who would only give his name as "John" said Kermiche was a "geek" who loved games consoles and the internet.

image copyrightAP
image captionKermiche was from the Rouen suburb of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray
image captionHe grew up on this street in the leafy Langevin neighbourhood

People in the town knew he had tried to go to Syria, earning him a prison sentence and a place on French intelligence's "S list" of terrorist sympathisers.

After his release he would only be seen in the mornings, when he wasn't under his state-imposed curfew.

"He would go around saying he supported Daesh," says John, using a derogatory name for so-called Islamic State.

'Joined at the hip'

But the fullest account of the killer's life came from a 20-year old friend who gave her name as Harmony Leroux.

She was crying when we met her but launched into a passionate defence of Kermiche.

She said they were "joined at the hip" for much of their lives, but that he started to ignore her in early 2015.

"He would walk by me in the street and blank me, like he'd been brainwashed," she said.

image captionA close friend of Kermiche said they did not know why he killed the priest

Harmony said her friend came out of prison on the day of the terrorist attacks in Brussels in March 2016.

She was surprised that the authorities released him at such a tense and emotionally-charged time.

"He came to see me straight after he got out. He gave me his perspective on things. I told him that you couldn't go round killing people in the name of God, that it says so in the Koran."

She believed that she and her friends had talked him into a more tolerant attitude. A fortnight ago they flicked through old college photos together.

"He seemed his old self again. He was respectful of women and full of life," Harmony said.

"But we just don't know why he then did what he did."

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