On July 19, shortly before 9 am, the SNCF’s 3117 alert number received this message: “There’s a terrorist on the Paris-Lille train no. 7015.” Yohann B. and Prisca C. were due to board this TGV high-speed train, which was slated to leave Paris’s Gare du Nord at 8:46 am and arrive at Lille-Flandres at 9:48 am. The couple, who had left Bordeaux at the crack of dawn, had already made several transfers, and a delay on the Orléans-Paris line meant that they would now miss their train to Lille.
After unsuccessfully pleading with the ticket inspector to use his power to delay the departure of the Paris-Lille train, the couple figured that a false terrorist alert would result in a passenger ID check that would keep the TGV at the platform just long enough for them to catch it. “I came up with the idea,” said Prisca C. “And Yohann said, ‘That should work.'” In the metro between Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare du Nord, he sent the message to 3117 and then turned off his phone, “so it wouldn’t be traced.”
The alert created mass chaos: Lille’s two stations (Flandres and Europe) were evacuated, the perimeter was cordoned off for four hours, 15 trains were diverted or delayed, a few others were canceled, and a thousand passengers were affected, not to mention a loss of revenue – €70,000 – for businesses located in the station, and the mobilization of the RAID police unit, the GIGN police unit, the regional police, the city police, soldiers from Operation Sentinelle, the BAC police unit, a canine police unit, the bomb disposal squad, and all of Lille’s firefighters. And it was all for nothing.
‘We didn’t think about the consequences’
In court in Lille on Thursday, August 31, the couple spent a good part of the two-hour hearing weeping, expressing regrets and apologizing. “We’re not terrorists. We’re not monsters. We didn’t think about the consequences,” sobbed Yohann B. “We only thought about ourselves,” said Prisca C., asking forgiveness for this “huge mistake.” “Selfishness taken to the extreme,” said the prosecutor. “Normally, when you miss a train, you look to see what time the next one is. Didn’t you think to do that?” snapped the presiding judge.
Realizing that their plan had failed and that TGV no. 7015 had left without them at 8:46 am, they took the next TGV, on which, thanks to notifications from the regional daily newspaper La Voix du Nord on their phones, they became aware of the chaos their vague idea had created. “It was complete panic,” said Prisca C., sheepishly. “We didn’t know what to do at that point. We went to the café carriage and waited.” Meanwhile, the investigators had identified the owner of the number that had issued the false alarm and saw that this number had reserved two seats on the following TGV. Upon arrival at Lille-Europe at 11:20 am, Yohann B. and Prisca C. were picked up by RAID officers.
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