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25th Mar 2018

Heroic French policeman who died saving hostage from gunman married on death bed

Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame was planning to marry his partner in June

Oli Dugmore

Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame was planning to marry his partner in June

The policeman who swapped places with a hostage during a terror attack at a French supermarket married his partner while on his death bed.

Arnaud Beltrame voluntarily exchanged himself for a female member of the supermarket’s staff, who the terrorist was using as a human shield.

The officer’s brother, Cedric, said he had given his life “for strangers” and knew he had “almost no chance” of surviving. “He did not hesitate one second,” Mr Beltrame told RTL radio.

Lt Col Beltrame died in hospital from his injuries after being shot three times by radical Islamist Redouane Lakdim in Trebes, southwest France.

It has emerged that the 44-year-old officer married his partner Marielle at the hospital in Carcassone, hours before his death.

The couple were planning a church wedding after meeting in 2016, and spent some 30 hours preparing for the ceremony.

Father Jean-Baptiste said: “I gave him the sacrament of marriage, and the sacrament of the sick.”

French police shot Lakdim, 25, dead after Beltrame left a line open on his mobile phone so his colleagues could hear what was happening inside the supermarket.

Lt Col Beltrame joined France’s elite police special forces in 2003 and served in Iraq in 2005. In 2012 he was knighted in France’s prestigious Legion of Honour. He had reportedly organised a training session last December to prepare for hostage situations.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said he “died a hero” and deserved “the respect and admiration of the whole nation.”

“In giving his life to end the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist, he fell as a hero.”

A national tribute to the fallen policeman will take place at a later date.

Samia Menassi, the manager of the supermarket, said her colleague who was swapped for Lt Col Beltrame during the siege was in a “catastrophic state.”

An investigation into the attack will seek to establish how Morocco-born Lakdim obtained his weapon and how he became radicalised, Mr Macron said.

Lakdim seriously wounded the driver, and killed the passenger, of a car he hijacked in the city of Carcassonne. He then drove toward Trebes, shooting at police officers, before hiding in a branch of SuperU and taking several hostages.

A stand-off with police ensued, during which Lakdim demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam who is the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in 2015.

Lakdim killed two people before giving up most of the hostages. He kept one woman as a human shield, who Lt Col Beltrame traded places with.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Lakdim was known for petty crime and it’s believed he acted alone in the Trebes attack.

He said: “We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalisation. He was known for possession of drugs, we couldn’t have said that he was a radical that would carry out an attack.”