A 24 year old French man who had previously been accused and sentenced for cruelly torturing and killing a cat has committed suicide. According to the narrative as presented by the French media, he was driven to suicide by a constant stream of online hostility and disgust that was pouring into his Facebook on a daily basis.
On May 16th of 2013, brothers Jordany, Senot, and Adrien Bigoin got together with their friend Robin Marcheras for a night of drinking in a local park in the city of Vouziers. As they were imbibing and becoming more and more intoxicated, they were approached by a stray cat.
For reasons unknown to anybody with a shred of humanity, they began kicking the helpless animal, who eventually died from its injuries.
The appalling scene was filmed surreptitiously by a witness whom also posted the video on Facebook. The four men were recognized by a neighbor, who then passed the filmed evidence along to a local Animal rights organization. This organization in turn contacted the authorities.
A criminal investigation ensued, and all four were found guilty. Robin Marcheras received a heavier handed sentence than the brothers due to him being absent at the trial. He received a prison sentence of 6 months and a fine of 700 Euros, whereas his partners in crime received sentences of 3 and 4 months.
It appears, though, that even more justice was meted out by Facebook users who were rightly offended and shocked by what they saw on their Facebook feed.
As for Marchera’s Facebook page, he only has a little over a couple hundred friends, but his profile is public. Evidently all of the condemnation and threats that were posted , of which there were reportedly many on a daily basis, have since been deleted. All that’s left are pictures of him and his friends playing paintball, motorcycle pics and videos, and his last post which reads (translated from the original French) “A desire to leave this shitty world behind, and reach the heaven that will intoxicate me”.
This last message, which reveals a great deal of turmoil and tension leading up to the final decision, was posted on October 13th, and his deceased body was discovered shortly thereafter. He hung himself. According to the same Facebook profile, he had become engaged to his girlfriend only one day before hand.
This story was circulated widely in the French Media, and the leading theory as to the cause of the suicide that they posited was the constant online harassment by contacts and strangers alike. Again, these messages have now been deleted, and it is fair to assume that his would have been fiance had his password and is now managing his page.
However, the general public is still able to freely access the page where the final post is creepily still on display for anyone to see. Furthermore, the publically available online suicide note has been shared by a little over a dozen people. Not all of the sharer’s comments are publically viewable, as this depends on people’s privacy settings. As of October 27th, on Robin Marcheras’ Facebook page there were three threads of messages that were out in the open for anyone to look at. All of the comments are in French.
One Facebook user had this to say:
This was the guy who slaughtered cats. He killed himself because he couldn’t bear the harassment on his facebook from the people who didn’t approve of what no person could… It is wrong to hurt Animals!
Another user was also critical:
Nobody wanted his death, but nobody was able to accept the story about animal abuse. At the end of the day, he was a coward.
Yet another user adds a social observation to his comment:
I will not regret the death of this guy, that’s for sure. Still, it proves that social networks can be very dangerous when there is an outburst of hatred. If the world is so bad today, the internet is partly to blame.
These messages, although critical, are not hyper vitriolic; we can only guess what the content and the tone of the messages were that led up to Marcheras’ suicide.
If you feel the compulsion—no matter how hammered you are—to torture an animal, there is no reason at all to be shocked or surprised if people feel the need to let you know how messed up you are. Still, this story highlights what the effects of cyberbullying can be. One has to wonder why Robin Marcheras chose to have a public Facebook page. After all, the internet is full of easy to follow instructions which show how anyone can protect one’s self from online abuse.