Page last updated at 22:43 GMT, Friday, 4 July 2008 23:43 UK

French village grieves for murdered son

By Robert Hall
BBC News

Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez
Frenchmen Laurent Bonomo (left) and Gabriel Ferez died in London

The murder of two French students in London has shocked both fellow students and local residents.

But how has the news been greeted in the small village in northern France where one of the students, Gabriel Ferez, grew up?

A waterfall tumbling over a weir, a picturesque chateau, tumbledown barns.

Under blue skies, Prouzel dozes. Only a barking dog and the sound of garden shears disturb its tranquillity.

We're a few miles from the busy city of Amiens here, and many of the old farmhouses have been smartened up by those who commute to offices and businesses.

But villagers trudging to and from the tiny baker's shop have only one subject on their minds - the news from London and the horrific death of one of their own.

It's the talk of the village - no one can believe what happened in London
Ghislaine Froissart

Gabriel Ferez grew up here. As a child, he used to walk the length of the village to reach the tiny primary school.

Ghislaine Froissart ran the Post Office in those days. We met her on the main street, and she remembered little Gabriel passing her shop window .

"He came from a family who lived simply," she told us. "He was the spitting image of his dad.

"It's the talk of the village - no one can believe what happened in London."

Pere Noel Kiken, the parish priest, looks after Prouzel and a number of other villages. He said it was too early to speak of memorials. For the present, Gabriel would simply remain in everyone's prayers.

When he reached his teens, Gabriel moved to a lycee - a secondary school - in Amiens. It stands on a campus with two other schools.

When we visited, most pupils had left for the summer break, but some staff remained, including head teacher Guy Le Blanche.

As we strolled past the science block where Gabriel showed so much promise, Monsieur Le Blanche recalled his days here:

"Gabriel was at this school for 10 years," he said. "He shone at maths, physics and chemistry.

"He was a good boy. This was more than a murder... it was horrific.. madness."

Village support

Monsieur Le Blanche told me the deaths had reminded him of another murder- that of British student Caroline Dickinson.

I asked him if he thought the loss of Gabriel and his friend Laurent Bonomo would affect those considering an exchange visit to the UK.

"I don't think so," he said. "The death of Caroline Dickinson did not deter English students from visiting France."

Back in Prouzel we visited the town hall. Staff there recalled seeing Gabriel when he returned from college to visit his family.

He and Laurent have been described as young men with glittering careers ahead of them, now snatched away.

Alongside the River Selle, within earshot of the waterfall, Gabriel's home remains empty - his family have yet to return from the grim task of identifying his body.

At the gate to the house, neighbours have slung a sign between two stone walls. It contains one word - respect.

A reminder, if it was needed, that Gabriel will not be forgotten, and that this community stands ready to offer whatever support they can.

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