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Body found in Loire confirmed as missing Fête de la Musique reveller 'Steve'

Sebastien Salom-Gomis, AFP | A man holds a placard reading "Where is Steve" in front of a mural reading "Where is Steve? The police is guilty" during a gathering in homage to missing reveller Steve Canico, in Nantes, western France, on July 20, 2019.

A body found in the River Loire is that of a young techno fan who went missing after the Fête de la Musique last month at an island rave in Nantes, western France, that ended in a controversial police raid, Nantes’ public prosecutor said Tuesday.

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The corpse, spotted by a passing commuter boat, was found several hundred metres from where 24-year-old Steve Maia Caniço was last seen at the all-night event on June 21-22, which saw officers disperse revellers with teargas and allegedly force some into the river. An autopsy was needed to confirm the identity after Caniço’s body had spent 38 days in the water.

Nantes Prosecutor Pierre Sennes said a manslaughter inquiry had been opened. Two investigating magistrates will be designated to identify any criminal liability in the young man’s death.

No railing

Footage shared on social media showed scenes of chaos as police carrying batons moved in on the revellers by the river. Clashes broke out around 4:30am between concert-goers and police officers seeking to silence the music on the Quai Wilson, a site on the Island of Nantes that does not feature a railing along the Loire. Several participants said they were blinded by teargas and some stumbled into the river.

Local authorities said 14 people were rescued from the water after the clashes, with Caniço’s friends fearing he was swept away. Caniço, who worked as an extra-curricular activities’ animator for children at a school outside Nantes, did not know how to swim.

Since his disappearance, posters have been put up around Nantes demanding “Where is Steve?”. Far-left and green party lawmakers have reprised the phrase in parliament, demanding answers and accountability over a case that has become for some a symbol of French police heavy-handedness.

“Where is Steve? Where is Steve and, along with him, where are our public liberties?” La France Insoumise deputy Ugo Bernacilis asked a National Assembly committee this month.

Police say they weathered projectiles when they intervened that night on the Quai Wilson and deny having waged “any charge” against the revellers.

‘Justice for Steve’

On July 20, hundreds of protesters formed a human chain along the Loire observing a minute of silence, hands held aloft, for the missing man. Repeated cries of “Justice for Steve” rose from the gathered crowd.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said an investigation by the National Police Inspectorate – an internal body that oversees the police's work – concluded that "no link can be established" between Steve's death and the actions of the police.

French PM announces 'high level' inquiry

Philippe added that a separate investigation would examine potential failings by the local administration amid questions over why the event was allowed to go ahead at an insecure riverside venue without a barrier.

French police have come under fire for their heavy-handed techniques, including at a recent peaceful climate rally in Paris and at nationwide weekly protests by anti-government “yellow vest” demonstrators.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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