2 – Luxiol, France
Just two years after Michael Ryan’s rampage, France would also be hit by a similarly shocking event. It is perhaps a testament to the small town mentality that these events can occur, and perhaps a feature of a small town that leads spree killers to form there more frequently.
Serial killers, for example, who strike in several isolated incidents rather than one long, violent outburst, benefit from an urban and populated location in which they can blend into the background and retreat after their attacks. Conversely, spree killers are facilitated by a more isolated, less suspicious environment where they are less likely to be picked up on the actions and where people are perhaps more understanding of quirks that belie serious mental health problems. It is rare that such killers have given no prior warnings of their actions, but in rural areas, these are often passed off as eccentricities rather than signals.
The isolation of small towns is often contributory to the development of the sick individuals who become perpetrators. Michael Ryan was certainly an example of this, and Christian Dornier is another. He was a farmer for Luxiol, a French town of just 156 people in western France, close to the border with Germany. Dornier was known to have mental health issues: his stint in the French Army in 1981 had left him broken, while a course that he attended in anticipation of taking over the family farm had to be aborted after just a week when he had another breakdown. He had shown previous signs of violent intentions by letting off shots at his father and a neighbour, which prompted the Dornier family to invest in psychiatric help. Christian was prescribed medication but refused to take it and would not countenance the idea of being sent to a mental institution.
It was in July 1989, when he was 31 years old, that Christian Dornier snapped. He had refused to attend his sister Corinne’s wedding several days before and, shortly after lunchtime, he picked up a shotgun. He killed a farm employee – whom he had presumed to be his brother – before killing his sister and his mother and wounding his father. The only member of the family present to escape unharmed was Corinne’s new husband, who slipped out of the house through a bathroom window. Dornier then got in his car and began shooting at random, killing another 13 people in the town of Luxiol. He was eventually halted by police, who shot him in the stomach.
With the town in shock, Dornier was taken to a nearby hospital and then prison. He was guarded around the clock, both to ensure that he did not escape but also to keep out locals, who had made death threats against him. It was discerned that Dernier was mentally ill and suffering from schizophrenia: he was declared insane and transferred to a high-security mental hospital in 1990. Villagers from Luxiol protested that he be allowed to stand trial in a criminal court, but their pleas were rejected in 1994. Dornier is still in a secure psychiatric unit to this day.