Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nice: what happened in front of the Hotel Negresco?

The famous Negresco hotel is situated right in the middle of the two locations I featured in the last two blog entries, the Westend hotel and Point Gambetta. There are contradictory clues about what happened on the street in front of the Negresco when the truck passed by, and this blog post is a compilation of these clues.

The location was mentioned at first by chief prosecutor Francois Molins on July 15th. According to the Telegraph he said
"the terrorists fired several rounds at three police officers, who were outside l'hotel Negresco. The police officers followed the lorry which managed to go another 300metres. They managed to neutralise him by shooting by the Palais de la Medinterranee."
This quote is not 100% correct and omits a detail - Molins said that the officers at the Negresco shot back at Bouhlel before pursuing the truck:
"Le terroriste a tiré à plusieurs reprises sur trois policiers, à hauteur de l'hôtel Negresco. Les policiers ont répliqué et ont poursuivi le camion, qui a cependant réussi à rouler encore sur 300 mètres.
Les policiers sont parvenus à le neutraliser par des tirs à hauteur du Palais de la Méditerranée."  (Source)
More details on the shootout are not available. Just to the contrary, a timeline allegedly compiled by Sandra Bertin of the Nice municipal police and leaked to the media doesn't mention any incident at the Negresco, thereby suggesting that no shootout happened at all: 
Vingt-deux heures trente-quatre minutes et trente-six secondes : visualisons que le véhicule se dirige alors vers la chaussée qui est emplie de piétons, en faisant de nouveau une embardée. Ce décroché survient à hauteur de l’intersection Promenade des Anglais / Rue CRONSTADT---
Visualisons à vingt-deux heures trente-quatre minutes et trente-sept secondes que le véhicule qui a emprunté la chaussée se retrouve parmi une foule très dense et que de nouveau de multiples embardées sont réalisées pour tenter de faucher le maximum de personnes.
Vingt-deux heures trente-quatre minutes et quarante-neuf secondes visualisons que le véhicule emprunte de nouveau le trottoir, en poursuivant toujours sa progression en direction de l’Est et en fauchant au passage des dizaines de piétons ainsi qu’un stand de marchandises ; le véhicule se situe alors face au 27 promenade des Anglais.  
A simple calculation shows that according to this timeline, the truck must have passed the Negresco at 22:34:44 with a speed of at least 45 km/h. Not only is a shootout not mentioned, it seems also unconceivable that Bouhlel steered the truck, running over people with 45 km/h and simultaneously shot at the police.

Moreover, Sandra Bertin, the alleged author of the timeline, seems to contradict herself by saying in an interview to the Journal Du Dimanche:
Le poids-lourd se retrouve finalement face aux policiers nationaux, qui tirent et le neutralisent. Il est 22h34. 
So the truck and its driver were "neutralized" at 22:34 by shots of policemen. This matches Molins' statement that there was a shootout at the Negresco, because the only other shootings happened in front of the Westminster Hotel at 22:35 (according to the said timeline) and at the final position in front of the Hyatt Hotel, which happened not earlier than 22:36.

I have stressed the dubious (Le Monde: confusing) nature of this timeline in the previous blog entries, and the omitted Negresco incident certainly increases this impression. It has still not been confirmed by Sandra Bertin or any other spokesperson of the municipal police, so the conjecture that it was not written by her is absolutely justified.

The title photo is from the intersection with the Rue de Rivoli, right at the Negresco. It shows a demolished street lamp, indicating that some form of accident happened here. A video taken from the sidewalk in front of the Negresco shows a police car with blue light across the street. 

The video and the snaphot are too blurry to say what exactly is going on there, but the footage certainly indicates that something extraordinary did happen at this location. The truck might also have lost its front plate right here.

Evie and Tim Timotheou from Adelaide, Australia, might have witnessed the incident at the Negresco. They resided in the Westend Hotel, which is very close. They heard a "thud" or "big bang" and then, after a few seconds, gun shots.
Then, "I heard an almighty thud and I wondered what it was," retail sales manager Evie tells WHO. "Seconds later I heard gunshots. We saw people running in different directions." (Source)
"We’re probably about 20 metres away and the whole promenade is now in lockdown. We were on the promenade, the fireworks were going for about half an hour and as soon as the fireworks finished, we started walking back to our hotel room and literally there’s a big ‘bang’ — probably about 30 seconds later there were gunshots." (Source)
Which gunshots did the couple refer to? Probably not from the Hyatt scene, which is 250 meters away - the Timotheous claim it was only 20 meters. There was also no "almighty thud" before the police started to shoot at the standing truck. For similar reasons, the two shots from the police at the Westminster hotel, as documented in the Gutjahr video, don't come into consideration. A shootout at the Negresco however makes sense because it is in the direct vicinity of the Westend, and the thud might have been caused by the truck when he rammed the street lamp.

Finally it should be noted that the truck was detected on surveillance footage of July 12th and 13th in front of the Negresco. On both days, Bouhlel stopped there and activated the hazard lights for a while before moving on. This seems to indicate that the Negresco played an important role in his plan.

Bottom line: there is quite a lot of evidence that the truck was stopped by the national police at the Negresco, followed by a shootout - and that it moved on afterwards. But officials are cloaking the incident in secrecy - for how long?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Nice: what happened at Point Gambetta?

"Point Gambetta" is the intersection of the Promenade des Anglais with the Boulevard Gambetta, about 600 meters west of the final position of the truck. Exactly here the street was blocked by barriers and car traffic was diverted. It was the beginning of the "pedestrianized" zone of the Promenade. More than three weeks after the attack, the details of the truck's path are still not clear and in part contradictory. Point Gambetta is one of these problematic details.

According to Le Monde, the street was blocked by the municipal police, with two policemen, one car, metal barriers and plastic elements. Libération published a photo taken minutes before the attack, apparently during the fireworks (people are looking into the sky). There are metal barriers in the foreground blocking the way on the street. The incoming traffic is diverted to the left.

Libération writes:
Au moment où Lahouaiej Bouhlel contourne le barrage de Gambetta en montant sur le trottoir, poursuivant ainsi son carnage, les premiers hommes de la police nationale sont placés au cœur de la zone piétonne, à 370 mètres plus à l’est, près de l’hôtel Westminster.
 "contourne le barrage de Gambetta en montant sur le trottoir" implicates that the truck was driving on the street when he approached Point Gambetta and made a swerve to the right there to continue his ride on the trottoir. Unlike the street, the trottoir was not blocked by any obstacle. Sandra Bertin has confirmed this version to the Journal du Dimanche: "Il contourne le barrage de la police municipale." Bypass, no breakthrough.

Stunningly in an official timeline published by Frédéric Ploquin in Marianne and accredited to - but not confirmed by - Bertin, the swerve isn't mentioned and the truck was driving on the trottoir already when it reached Point Gambetta:
Vingt-deux heures trente-quatre minutes et trente secondes : visualisons que le véhicule circule encore plus vite, toujours dans la même direction ; sa vitesse pourrait être estimée à environ 90km/h. Toujours sur le trottoir de la Chaussée Sud, le camion écrase et percute de très nombreuses victimes, tout en continuant sa course folle.
Vingt-deux heures trente-quatre minutes et trente-six secondes : visualisons que le véhicule se dirige alors vers la chaussée qui est emplie de piétons, en faisant de nouveau une embardée. Ce décroché survient à hauteur de l’intersection Promenade des Anglais / Rue CRONSTADT---
Rue Cronstadt is 100 meters east of Point Gambetta. With a speed of 90 km/h, the truck must have passed Gambetta at 22:34:32, driving on the trottoir the whole time ("toujours"). This blatant contradiction has obviously not escaped Le Monde who expresses confusion about the timeline.

There are also a couple of photos taken at Point Gambetta after the attack - the title photo is one of them, showing the trottoir between Boulevard Gambetta and the Hi Beach club. These pictures are suitable to fuel the confusion because they show some apparently dead victims on the trottoir, covered by blue cloths. They seem to confirm that the truck had mowed down people on the trottoir when he approached Point Gambetta, thus confirming the timeline in Marianne and contradicting Libération, Le Monde, and Sandra Bertin.

A clarification is urgently needed.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Nice: what happened in front of the Westend Hotel?

The Westend Hotel is situated between the Negresco and the Westminster Hotel, just opposite the Blue Beach restaurant. The begin of the Gutjahr video, shot from the Westminster Hotel, shows the truck turning into the street after obviously travelling on the trottoir for some time. The seconds immediately prior to the Gutjahr video - when the truck passes the Westend Hotel - are meticulously covered in a timeline allegedly written by Sandra Bertin and transmitted to the national police who forwarded it to the magazine Marianne:
22:34:49  You can see the vehicle going on the trottoir again, continuing its ride to the east and mowing down tens of people as well as a kiosk; the vehicle is then situated across 27 promenade des Anglais.

22:35:04  You can see that the driver is apparently about 30 years old, has short brown hair and wears dark clothes; the individual is alone in the cabin.

22:35:07  The truck turns back onto the street and continues his course.

22:35:15  You can see an agent of the national police running behind the truck.

22:35:20  You can see an agent of the municipal police running behind the truck; the vehicle is situated at the intersection of the Promenade des Anglais and Rue Meyerbeer.

The last three occurences are covered in the Gutjahr video and thus enable to pinpoint its beginning at 22:35:05. The lights of the allegedly mowed down kiosk are also to see shortly at 0:03, at the right border above the zebra stripes:

Judging from this snapshot, the kiosk seems to be working, not mowed down. There is enough leeway between the kiosk and the quaywall. The truck must have passed behind it.

80 meters further to the west there is a pergola on the trottoir blocking the way. So the truck must have entered the trottoir behind the pergola. These 80 meters are situated exactly in front of the Westend Hotel. The following diagram covers the path of the truck in this phase.

google maps

Each rectangle designates a position of the truck per second. A, C and D are the positions of the truck at the respective times based on the timeline of the alleged Bertin report and, in the case of D, on the Gutjahr video. The speed at the last six seconds is about 15 km/h, corresponding to the Gutjahr video. The time of Position B is extrapolated from C and D. The red rectangles are interpolations per second.

The diagram shows that the truck needed 12 seconds for the 70 meters from A to B, corresponding to a speed of about 20 km/h. This throws doubts on the claim that it "mowed down tens of people" because at this slow speed most people should have been able to run away or go out of its way.

If the driver had accelerated to 50 km/h, a speed certainly sufficient to kill lots of people, he would have bridged the distance between A and B in 6 seconds, as the next diagram shows:

google maps

So the question is not only why so many people were not able to avoid the truck driving with 20 km/h, but also why the driver didn't speed up on the trottoir to cause maximum damage.

At this point, it should be noted that Sandra Bertin told the Journal du Dimanche that the police neutralized the driver at 22:34. This is obviously at odds with the report and justifies the question whether it was really drafted by Bertin herself - or if it is a "redacted" version of the national police.

There are only a few pictures of this crime scene available, the title picture is one of them. It shows the location only seconds after the attack. It has been taken by Evie and Tim Timotheou who resided in the Westend hotel across the street. They recorded a short video, but unfortunately it doesn't run, so we have only this snapshot.

Evie&Tim Timotheou
As blurry as it is, the picture shows people hurrying away, but no bodies or injured people on the ground, let alone "tens of people". It doesn't show any first aiders caring for people on the ground either, as you would expect.

Here is another picture, taken a few minutes after the attack:

Again, there are no dead persons on the ground visible. This is further evidence that the truck driver did not "mow down" people here. It increases the impression that there is something not right with the report - and that it should be taken with a grain of salt until Sandra Bertin confirms that she actually wrote it.