Jeweller a folk hero after shooting robber

The courthouse in Nice is reflected in the car window as Stephan Turk leaves after being indicted for murder. Turk shot a fleeing robber dead at his jewellery store last week. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
The courthouse in Nice is reflected in the car window as Stephan Turk leaves after being indicted for murder. Turk shot a fleeing robber dead at his jewellery store last week. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A jeweller in the southern French city of Nice who has been charged with murder for killing a robber has become a hero on social networking sites.

More than 1.5 million people have "liked" a Facebook page set up in solidarity with 67-year-old Stephan Turk, who opened fire on two youths who held up his store last week, fatally shooting one of them as they attempted to flee by scooter.

The jeweller said he was acting in self-defence but prosecutor Eric Bedos told reporters he suspected the 67-year-old trader had aimed to kill the youth who so far goes only by the first name Anthony, 19.

The victim and an accomplice held up Turk at gunpoint as he was opening his shop and forced him to hand over the contents of his safe. He opened fire on them as they fled, shooting Anthony in the back.

The victim had 14 previous convictions for petty crime. His brother told Nice Matin newspaper he was trying to raise money to support his pregnant girlfriend.

Turk, whose shop had already been burgled in 2012, was released from custody and placed under house arrest. He was fitted with an electronic bracelet.

The case has triggered an outpouring of support for the shop owner. More than 1.53 million people had "liked" a Facebook page titled "Support for the jeweler in Nice" by Sunday evening.

Thousands of people wrote messages of support for Turk, many of which accused young "scum" of sponging off the hard work of others and accused the government of being soft on crime.

"Unfortunately we live in a country where, if we want justice to be done, we have to do it ourselves. Full support for this jeweller who was defending his living," one man wrote on Facebook.

"My only regret is that he missed the second (attacker)," wrote another.

Hundreds of others, including far right National Front deputy Marion Marechal-Le Pen, tweeted their support for the jeweller, while an online petition demanding his release had garnered nearly 43,000 signatures.

The case comes after a spate of jewelery robberies along the Cote d'Azur in recent months, including a record $136 million diamond heist at a jewelry exhibition in the resort town of Cannes in July.

Jewellery and watch stores have also been frequently targeted in recent years, often by heavily armed youths.

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