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World News

Hero with a backpack - the Catholic pilgrim who tackled Annecy knifeman

by Donna Birrell

The man who used his backpack to stop a knifeman who was attacking young children in a park in the French Alps is a Catholic pilgrim.

24 year old Henri had been on a nine-month tour of France's cathedrals when the attack happened in the town of Annecy on Thursday. He’s been hailed a ‘hero’ after he was filmed swinging his bag at the suspect who tried to slash him. Footage also showed Henri chasing the man across the grass.

The management graduate – who has declined to give his surname - told  television station CNews he had followed his instincts :

“All I know is, I was not there by chance. It was unthinkable to do nothing... I followed my instincts and did what I could to protect the weak."

Commenting on the suggestion that the suspect – a 31 year old Syrian man with refugee status in Sweden - also identifies as a Christian, Henri said it was "profoundly unchristian to attack the vulnerable"  and that "something very bad had inhabited him".

Henri has also been praised for his modesty, after pointing out he wasn’t the only person to try to help. He told BFMTV that he had "acted like any French person would. Many other people intervened in whatever way they could. I saw a park employee try to hit the attacker with his big plastic spade."

The phrase #MerciHenri has started to trend online, but Henri posted on social media to say: "Pray for the children, I am doing fine."

President Emmanuel Macron praised Henri for his bravery and said his actions were a ‘source of hope’ when they met in Annecy on Friday.

Four children aged between 22 and 36 months and two pensioners were wounded during the assault. One of the children, a British girl, is now said to be 'awake' while the other three victims are 'stable'.

The suspect remains in custody and is due to undergo a psychiatric assessment.

Police say no terrorist motive is suspected.

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