Photographer René Robert falls on the street in Paris. Nobody helps him for nine hours: he died of hypothermia

from Stefano Montefiori, correspondent from Paris

Consternation but also controversy in France over the death of the Swiss photographer Ren Robert, 85, who fell on a busy street in Paris. Killed by indifference the accusation of his friend Michel Mompontet

The funeral of Ren Robert will be held tomorrow in Pantin, just outside Paris. To greet the photographer, author of splendid portraits of flamenco stars, and a great friend of the late Paco de Lucia, there will be the widow and Michel Mompontet, the director and journalist who told the story of his death.

Nine hours of agony on the street in the center of Paris: Ren Robert fell to the ground shortly after being left the house, around 9pm. Nobody stopped to help him all night, in a busy neighborhood near the place de la Rpublique. The alarm was given at dawn by a homeless man, who he knows what it means to spend the night in the cold. The firefighters rushed Robert to the hospital but died, thanks to hypothermia, at the age of 85, shortly after hospitalization.

He was old but he was fine, he didn’t have to die like that. If anyone had stopped I’m sure they would have gone upvato, says the friend. Ren Robert’s death becomes an opportunity to rethink what a city has become like Paris, similar in this to many metropolises around the world, including Italy.

The people who remain lying on the ground, usually homeless people that the aseptic French administrative jargon has renamed SDF (Sans domicile fixe), there are thousands, and their number in growth. According to the Abb Pierre Foundation, there are 300,000 homeless people throughout France, a figure that in ten years doubled. In Paris alone there are three thousand, and if someone is taken to shelters at night, many remain on the streets even in winter, because there is no room for everyone in the structures or because they themselves prefer not to go there.

Parisians have gotten used to seeing a human being lying in the street on the ground, even inanimate. THE many volunteers of the associations approach and bring assistance, but the most common reaction of passers-by is to keep going. Even those who did it in the evening and then in the night between on January 19th and 20th they must have seen Ren Robert on the sidewalk at 89 rue Turbigo, right in front of the Temple subway stop. They thought he was the usual drunk, shunned him and then repressed in an instant, as always, the sense of guilt.

The friend Mompontet refuses to accuse them because I’m not sure if I myself would have ever stopped. But indifference kills, we have to change and stop looking the other way.

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