The French gendarme who was declared a national hero had his throat slashed and was shot dead by an Isis terrorist after swapping places with a hostage, an autopsy has revealed.
Lieutenant Colonal Arnaud Beltrame, 44, died from his injuries inside the Super U supermarket in Trebes.
He was one of four people who lost their lives when Radouane Lakdim, 26, launched his terror attack in the south western town of Carcassone.
It is believed that the terrorists may have killed him after discovering his handgun which was found close to his body in the supermarket.
Previously it had been believed that Lt Col Beltrame had been unarmed.
He took the place of a 40-year-old checkout assistant called Julie who was being used by Lakdim as a human shield.
The mother of a two-year-old child escaped alive and said that the hero police officer saved her life.
Known for his courage and sang-froid in life, Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame was honoured as a national hero on Saturday after his death the day before.
After agreeing to the hostage swap, Mr Beltrame kept his mobile phone on, allowing authorities outside the Super U market in the southern French town of Trebes to hear what was happening inside.
Thanks to his quick thinking, special police units heard gunshots inside the store on Friday and stormed the building immediately, killing the attacker.
Beyond his job, he gave his life for someone else, for a stranger, his brother Cedric told RTL radio in France.
He was well aware he had almost no chance. He was very aware of what he was doing… if we dont describe him as a hero, I dont know what you need to do to be a hero.
Arnaud Beltrame died in the service of the nation to which he had already given so much, President Emmanuel Macron said.
In giving his life to end the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist, he fell as a hero.
The hostage whose life he saved, an employee named Julie, was in a catastrophic state, her manager said.
Mr Beltrames entire career seemed to lead inexorably to the moment when he responded to the attack Friday in Trebes, a 15-minute drive from the gendarme unit he had led since last August.
He joined Frances elite police special forces in 2003 and served in Iraq in 2005.
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A former member of the presidential guard, he earned one of Frances highest honours, the Order of Merit, in 2012.
In December, Mr Beltrame organised a counter-terrorism training session for just such a hostage situation – down to the location in a supermarket.
At the time, he armed his officers with paintball guns, according to the Depeche du Midi newspaper.
We want to be as close to real conditions as possible, he said then.
In addition to the four people killed by the gunman on Friday, 15 others were injured.
Investigators searched the home of the attacker, Moroccan-born Redouane Lakdim, 25, and found what a judicial official said were notes that alluded to the Islamic State and appeared like a last testament. They also found a computer and a phone.
Inside the market itself, investigators found three homemade explosive devices, a handgun and a hunting knife, the official said.
The weapons suggested an intent to do further damage.
Mr Macron called a special Defence Council meeting with key ministers on Saturday to decide the countrys next steps in combating terror.
Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump tweeted We are with you @EmmanuelMacron! and condemned the violent actions of the attacker and anyone who would provide him support.
French police and soldiers have been a prime target of attacks by extremists, with 10 killed in recent years, including Mr Beltrame. Dozens of others have been wounded.
Mr Beltrames mother told RTL radio that, for her son, to defend the homeland was his reason to live.
He would have said to me, Im doing my job, Mom, nothing more, she said.
Flowers piled up in front of the Gendarmerie headquarters in the French medieval city of Carcassonne to pay tribute to Mr Beltrame. Flags at all gendarmeries were flying at half-staff.
Mr Macron said investigators will focus on finding out how the gunman got his weapon and how he became radicalised.
Two people have been detained in the case, one woman close to Lakdim and a 17-year-old male friend.
Lakdim was known to police for petty crime and drug dealing.
But since 2014, he was also on the Fiche S list, a government register of people suspected of being radicalised but who have yet to perform acts of terror.
Despite this, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said there was no warning sign that Lakdim would carry out an attack.
The four-hour drama began at 10.13am on Friday when Lakdim hijacked a car near Carcassonne, killing the passenger and wounding the driver, the prosecutor said.
Lakdim then fired six shots at police officers who had just finished jogging, hitting one in the shoulder.
Shouting Allahu akbar! – Arabic for God is great and declaring he was a soldier of the Islamic State, he entered the Super U supermarket in Trebes, 60 miles (100 kilometres) south-east of Toulouse, where about 50 people were inside, Mr Molins said.
He killed two people in the market and took an unknown number of hostages.
The supermarkets manager, who would identify herself only as Samia, was in her office when she heard the shots.
Call the gendarmes, she told her employees. Theres a terrorist in the store.
She said she helped evacuate as many people as possible. Other people sought safety in the stores meat locker.
During the standoff, Lakdim requested the release of Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving assailant of the November 13 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.
The interior minister suggested, however, that Abdeslams release was not a key motive.
The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said the attacker was responding to its call to target countries in the US-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
Samia was overcome by emotion when asked about the attack.
Im utterly devastated. This is really a tragedy. I feel deeply for the victims, she said, adding that Mr Beltrame is a hero. He saved our colleague – our Julie.
The mayor of Trebes, Eric Menassi, was equally emotional.
They all looked death in the eye, he said. There will be a before and an after. I think nothing will ever be the same.