A promising teenage professional footballer tipped as a future international was ‘executed by gangsters involved in a drugs war’, French prosecutors believe.
William Gomis, 19 and until recently on the books of Ligue 1 giants St Etienne, ‘died instantly’ while sitting in a car on the notorious Berthe council estate, in the suburbs of Toulon.
An unnamed 14-year-old youth, originally from eastern Europe, was sitting next to him before both succumbed to machine gun fire in the early hours of Monday.
‘It was almost certainly a settling of scores taking place in the context of a drugs war,’ said an investigating source based in the Mediterranean coastal city.
‘A gang of youths wearing black balaclavas and using a variety of weapons including AK-47s got out of another car and then opened fire.
‘Mr Gomis was killed instantly, while the second victim was rushed to hospital by the emergency services where he died a few hours later.’
Some 24 spent gun cartridges were found in the vicinity of the crime scene following the shooting at around 12.25am in La Seyne-sur-Mer, a suburb of Toulon.
The Berthe, where Gomis was brought up in a family originally from Senegal, is one of its most notorious estates.
Rioting is commonplace, and civil servants and police have recently reported a huge increase in crime connected to the drugs trade.
Bernard Marchal, the Toulon Prosecutor, said other members of Gomis’s family, including a younger brother, had been targeted in a similar fashion in recent weeks.
‘Everything is being done to find those responsible,’ said Mr Marchal, who said judicial police from Marseille were assisting with the enquiry.
Marc Vuillemot, the Socialist mayor of Seyne meanwhile said: ‘If I am saddened and full of compassion towards the family and other loved ones of the victims, I’m also mad with rage.’
Like other local officials, Mr Vuillemot described Gomis as a ‘hugely popular’ footballer who might have represented France or Senegal one day.
Gomes, a defender, first signed a contract with St-Etienne when he was 15, and went on to captain their B-team.