A 66-year-old Irishman who had taught English in France for the past 20 years was stabbed to death by a former student in front of the university where he worked on Wednesday.
The victim has been identified as John Dowling, who taught at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard-de-Vinci, a private, university-level institution in La Défense business district to the west of Paris.
He was stabbed several times as he left the building on his lunch break and died within minutes, French media reported.
A former student, identified as a 37-year old Pakistani who was expelled from the university last year, is in police custody. The knife was found at the scene of the attack, which occurred in front of a well known statue of a thumb by the sculptor César. The judiciary police of the Hauts-de-Seine department are investigating the case.
The motive for the killing, which was witnessed by a number of students, is unknown.
“Everyone liked him. He was a profoundly kind person. No one understands why he was attacked, though some people are talking about ‘revenge’,” a former student identified as Vincent C., told Paris Match .
“You could never imagine this could happen in our school, to one of our teachers,” said another student, Joséphine C. She added that she was “deeply shocked and terrified.”
All classes were cancelled on Wednesday and a “psychological cell” was set up for students traumatised by the killing.
The minister for higher education Frédérique Vidal issued a statement expressing her “intense emotion and profound indignation” over the murder.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance.