BEret screwed on the head, straps matching the boots, perfectly fitted tweed jacket… Thibault takes a step back, looks at himself in the mirror, satisfied. Undermined like that, one might think it came straight out of the slums of Birmingham in the 1920s. And that is precisely the goal. Because this evening of December 31, 2020, for Thibault and his friends, there is no question of restricted New Year’s Eve, of small committee and even less of coronavirus. Tonight, it is in gangster clothes that they intend to bury as it should be this depressing year.
The theme of the evening? “Peaky Blinders” (see box). In other words: three-piece suit and “marlou” quickdraw for men, roaring twenties-style evening dresses for girls.
It is almost 7 p.m., Thibault will have to hurry if he wants to get to the party before the curfew. The 27-year-old looks at himself again. It lacks a little something to complete its panoply. Yes that’s it ! Thibault goes down to dig into his father’s belongings and finds what he was looking for: an old collector’s rifle that no one in the family has used for ages. A glance confirms what he thought: the gun is not loaded. With such an accessory in his hand, he’s going to be the king of the party, that’s for sure …
Friends who have known each other since high school
Half an hour later, Thibault joined the rest of the gang in the house of Régis, the host of the evening. After a year and a half of hard work, this small stone house away from the village of Monbazillac, isolated between fields and vineyards, is finally habitable.
To properly celebrate the transition to 2021, Régis invited around twenty of the friends he knows, for the most part, since their high school years in Bergerac. Some still live in the Dordogne, others have gone to live in Agen or Paris. But all are passing through the area to spend the holidays with the family. The perfect opportunity to meet again after this cursed year that everyone is in a hurry to forget.
At 7:30 p.m., Régis’ house is already very busy. As agreed, we played the game at the fancy dress level. The men strut about in their bow ties and their Gavroche caps while the young ladies have taken out their heels and frilly dresses. But the one who is certainly a hit is Thibault. While in the kitchen we are busy opening the oysters by uncorking the first bottles, Thibault is organizing a little photo shoot in the garage with his famous gun.
Two of his oldest friends are with him and ask to have fun with the gun too. Thomas Barnabé is one of them. Thibault checks once again that the gun chamber is empty, pulls the trigger once or twice, nothing happens. So he lends the gun to his friends, we take out the phones and let’s go for the gangster poses in front of the camera …
It’s panic all over the house
7:40 pm In the house, the atmosphere slowly begins to heat up. But neither the laughter nor the music is enough to muffle the explosion that resounds from the garage. Régis is the first to get up, followed by a good number of his guests. And when you arrive in the garage, you discover the unthinkable. Thomas Barnabé lies on the ground, his shirt red with blood. Leaning over him, Thibault is giving him a heart massage. There is panic throughout the house. We take turns trying to revive Thomas who has lost consciousness. The blood that escapes from his wound begins to form a black spot around his body. When firefighters and gendarmes arrive on site, it is not even 8 p.m. but the party is already over. Thomas Barnabé, 27, died, shot dead in the chest by his friend Thibault …
Alas, a bullet got stuck
When the twelve strokes of midnight strike that evening, the guests of the evening are still heard by the gendarmes. In the garage, the atmosphere is no longer “Peaky Blinders”, but “Experts”, while the forensic police scans the place in search of elements. The hypothesis of a voluntary act is quickly ruled out by the investigators. All the witnesses are unanimous: Thibault and Thomas were good friends and no argument broke out before the tragedy.
Many people also attest that Thibault checked more than once that his rifle was not loaded. Unfortunately, a bullet was stuck in the old weapon and fate wanted it to leave when the two friends, deep in their gangster delirium, were having fun “pointing”. As of this writing, Thibault is still free. Indicted for manslaughter, and although presumed innocent, he was placed under judicial supervision pending trial.
A stupid and revolting death
I tried to meet the participants of this tragic evening, but the pain is still too great to speak about it.
I did learn enough about Thomas Barnabas to know what kind of young man he was. Passionate about motocross since childhood, this handsome dark-haired man worked as a “community manager” for a store specializing in this universe that he liked so much. He is described by his employer as a strong-willed, hard-working boy, very comfortable with everyone.
On the various Facebook pages of his relatives, tributes have multiplied in recent days. This death, so stupid, so revolting, causes as much emotion as anger on social networks. And some do not hesitate to wonder how these young people, a priori balanced, could have thought that handling a firearm for “fun” would be a good idea. A gun is not a toy, nor a costume accessory. It is a machine of death …
An investigation by Vincent Sénécal