Fears of unrest in Brittany after English-owned homes attacked
English expatriates in Brittany have been targeted in a series of attacks against foreign-owned property.
Darren and Linsey Widd, who moved to France after serving with the Army in Iraq, were one of three families affected on the same night.
The attacks have raised fears of a new wave of unrest in Brittany, where houses prices have risen dramatically in some areas after an influx of foreign residents and Parisian second-home owners.
Two years ago locals from the town of Bourbriac staged a demonstration during which they burnt estate agents’ leaflets and chanted “Brittany for the Bretons”. Graffiti calling for “English out” has appeared in towns around the area.
The Widds fled their home in Callac at 2am, with their two-year-old daughter, Chloe, after they awoke to find diesel fumes pouring into their bedroom. The windows of the couple’s café bar, on the ground floor of their terraced property, were on fire and flames were moving up the walls of the house after their car, parked directly outside, was set on fire.
That night two English-owned homes in the neighbouring hamlet of La Chappelle Neuve were broken into and ransacked. A camper van parked outside one of the houses was also burnt out. Nobody was in the houses.
Mr Widd, 32, told The Times that the couple, who moved to Callac a year ago because they could not afford a house in Britain, had considered moving away from France because of fears about further attacks.
“We are not cowardly people – we have spent time in war zones – but when there are children involved it is different. If it hadn’t been for our neighbours’ support we might have packed up and gone home. Yes, we are insured, but that doesn’t comfort you when you are trying to sleep.”
Mr Widd, originally from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, described how he awoke to see flames rising up the outside of the house and had dashed outside carrying his young daughter before attempting to tackle the blaze.
A rag soaked in petrol had apparently been stuffed into the Renault Espace’s fuel tank before being set alight.
“The handbrake cable on the car snapped and the car rolled down the road in flames, before crashing into a parked car and setting fire to two other houses at the bottom of the hill.
“It was like a firebomb rolling down the road. Luckily they had shutters over the doors and windows, but they were burnt along with the brickwork.”
Like the houses and van in La Neuve Chappelle, the Widds’ car was pelted with eggs before the fire. Mrs Widd, 23, originally from Kidderminster, who along with her husband served in Iraq in 2003, said: “Apparently throwing eggs at cars or houses in France is a way of showing disgust at their owners. What shocked us was that there was no warning”.
Lieutenant Michel Cordon, the senior policeman in Callac, said that the latest three incidents were being investigated: “We are doing all we can to find the perpetrators,” he said.
“I can’t say that it was definitely racist. What we do know is that there are incidents of this kind every now and then and we qualify them as ‘acts of incivility’.
“The victims are not only British. Your compatriots can rest assured that everything is being done.”
— About 300,000 Britons own a property in France
— The figure has doubled in five years
— 80 per cent of property purchased is in rural areas and most require renovation.
— After the French, Britons are the second-most-active buyers of property in Paris.
— Two bedroom apartments in the capital start at about €375,000 (£254,031).
— Waterfront properties in Cannes can be bought for about €330,000
— The usual term for a mortgage is 15 years unlike the usual 25-year term in England.
May we offer our sincere congratulations to the brave Breton Patriots who took part in this active service operation ! You are an inspiration to all the oppressed Celtic peoples !