Thursday 13 December 2018

'Enthusiastic and captivating' - tributes paid to Irish lecturer killed in Paris as police question suspect

Irish lecturer John Dowling
Irish lecturer John Dowling
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

French police investigating the murder of Irish lecturer John Dowling are continuing to quiz a 37-year-old former student over the killing.

The English language teacher was attacked and stabbed several times at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci on Wednesday.

He had taught at the Parisian campus for almost 20 years and was due to retire in the coming months.

Mr Dowling (66) was killed after allegedly being attacked by a former student at the college who was expelled last year.

A 37-year-old Pakistani national was arrested in relation to the murder on Wednesday, and was being questioned by local police in relation to the killing.

John Dowling had worked in the Paris college since 1999, while also lecturing at the Emerald Cultural Institute in Rathgar, Dublin during the summer. He also had strong links to Donegal.

Police block the access on December 5, 2018 at the main entrance of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris, where a 66-year-old teacher was repeatedly stabbed to death. Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Police block the access on December 5, 2018 at the main entrance of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris, where a 66-year-old teacher was repeatedly stabbed to death. Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Forensic police at the main entrance of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris, where a 66-year-old teacher was repeatedly stabbed to death. Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Police block the access at the main entrance of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris, where a 66-year-old teacher was repeatedly stabbed to death. Photo: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A former student of the victim in Dublin described him as an “enthusiastic and captivating” teacher and “difficult to forget”.

While on a three week English course in Dublin last summer, Italian student Carmen Colantuono was taught by Mr Dowling.

"Last summer I had the lucky chance to know John as my English teacher in Emerald Cultural Institute,” she said.

"He was such a great storyteller, whose amount of funny or bizarre anecdotes about every aspect of life was so huge and impressive.

"I was really shocked by the tragic and so futile circumstances that caused his death, so contrarily small for a big man like he was”.

In a Facebook post, the Dublin-based language school said: “It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of our beloved friend and colleague John Dowling. We will all miss him more than words can say.”

Students and staff at the Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci yesterday held a minutes silence in memory of John Dowling while several locations around the campus- including the scene of the attack- had boards with messages of condolences displayed.

In a statement the college said that the suspect had been  a student there for a number of months last year, but had been expelled in August 2017.

"John was a very friendly man, respected and loved by all students and colleagues. He was also known for his great availability and kindness.

"The community of the Pole Leonard de Vinci is deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy of extreme violence. We express our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Dowling,” a spokesman said.

Ann Bertrand, a former student of John Dowling’s, said that the Irish lecturer was “loved by everyone” who knew him.

"He was someone who was simply pleasant to be around. He had an enormous sense of humour. You could say he was a role model,” she told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1

Ms Bertrand said that he was modest, successful and was loved by everyone both professionally and personally.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it was aware of the tragedy and that it is providing consular assistance .

Sébastien Tran, a director at the university, said he believed the student was “dissatisfied” at his exclusion from the university in 2017, but added that he had not been seen as a particular threat.

"We are very surprised and upset,” Mr Tran added.

The university director general, Pascal Brouaye, spoke to reporters after the incident.

"It’s an incident which has stricken our entire community,” Mr Brouaye said.

"This is a language teacher who gave 20 years’ service here and who was well-liked by everyone.”

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