Family of French bus driver beaten to death over face masks is 'destroyed'

The widow of a bus driver who died after he was severely beaten in southwestern France for asking passengers to wear face masks has told the government her family is "destroyed", and demanded “exemplary punishment” for his attackers.

Philippe Monguillot was violently assaulted on 5 July in Bayonne when he demanded that four passengers, who boarded without tickets, wear face masks, which is mandatory on French public transport as part of the coronavirus recovery response. 

The driver, in his late 50s, was insulted, pushed off his No. 810 bus and savagely beaten and kicked in the head, leaving him brain dead. 

On Friday his family and care providers decided it was best to take him off life support.

The four male assailants were arrested. Two of them, aged 22 and 23, have been charged with attempted murder, the other two with non-assistance to a person in danger. A fifth person has been charged with attempting to hide a suspect.

'This must never happen again'

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin went to Bayonne on Saturday to visit Monguillot's family and friends.

His widow Véronique told him she and her three daughters were “destroyed” by the attack.

"This is barbaric. It is not normal," she told French media after their meeting. "We must slam our fist on the table so that this never happens again."

“This is an absolutely odious act," Darmanin said. "This bus driver was only doing his job. He left his home in the morning and did not come back, leaving a widow and three girls.

"There is no excuse for such barbarism. We cannot allow gratuitous, inacceptable acts of violence to be trivialised. We must reassert authority. Too often in our society authority is not respected," he added.            

On Wednesday, more than 6,000 people turned out in Bayonne to pay their respects to Monguillot.

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