On August 9, 2021, Emmanuel Abayisenga walked into a gendarmerie (military police station) in Vendee, western France. Abayisenga reported the murder of the priest and “testified” that he was the perpetrator. The gendarmes immediately detained him. Police officers from Mortagne-Sur-Sevre were dispatched to the location to conduct an investigation.
He handed over the keys to the car and the room where he stayed; both were provided by the Community of Montfort when Fr. Maire allowed him to live with the community. When the police officers arrived at the address in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, which was provided by Abayisenga himself, they found the body of Father Olivier Maire in Abayisenga’s room.
The 40-year old Emmanuel Abayisenga is a Rwandan refugee that France denied asylum. He traveled to France as a refugee in 2012 and began working on his asylum application. France denied his permission to stay in the country and has been subjected to expulsion.
Before the murder, Abayisenga was arrested for arson. He started fires in the cathedral where he was volunteering as a warden. The fire destroyed a 400-year old organ. He was arrested and charged with arson. However, he was later released following disciplinary instructions and with the cathedral’s rector not pursuing any legal actions saying that he trusts him like he “trust all the helpers.”
In an interview with a local television network, another head of the Community of Montfort, Santino Brambilla, said that he is not mad with Abayisenga, explaining that “this is a human drama, but the suffering is great.” Francois Jacolin, the Bishop of Lucon, France, called Fr. Maire a “man of the heart,” adding that Fr. Maire and his community that welcomed Emmanuel Abayisenga are “victims of their generosity.”
The killing of Fr. Maire by an asylum seeker has sparked political debates over immigration policies. Marine Le Pen, a right-wing political figure and a member of the National Rally, criticized the government for allowing a denied asylum-seeker to stay in France after being issued an expulsion order.
Details of how the priest was killed or the motive of the killing were not immediately available as of the writing of this article.