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Widow condemns 'barbaric' death of Bayonne bus driver beaten in face mask row

The wife of a French bus driver who was beaten to death after he asked four passengers to wear face masks aboard his vehicle has called for “exemplary punishment” for his killers.

The assault on Philippe Monguillot has scandalised France. President Emmanuel Macron dispatched the interior minister to meet the driver's widow on Saturday after his death was announced by his family on Friday.

The 59-year-old was hospitalised after the attack on July 5 but was left brain dead.

Veronique Monguillot said she told the minister, Gérald Darmanin, that she and their three daughters were “destroyed” by the attack on her husband at a bus stop in Bayonne, southwest France.

“We must bang a fist on the table, so this never happens again,” she said. “It's barbaric, not normal. We must stop this massacre."

The Bayonne prosecutor said Monguillot was assaulted after he asked four passengers on his No. 810 bus to wear face masks, which are required aboard French public transport because of the coronavirus pandemic. The driver was insulted, pushed off the bus and violently beaten and kicked in the head, the prosecutor said.

Four people are in custody.

“This bus driver was only doing his job,” Darmanin said. "He left his home in the morning and did not come back, leaving a widow and three orphan girls. It is an absolutely odious act."

France has battled hard to tame its coronavirus outbreak, which saw over 208,000 confirmed infections and over 30,000 virus-related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll is higher, due to testing limitations and missed mild cases.

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