news

Alexandra Damien said she survived the Paris terror attacks. But she was never there.

In 2015, Alexandra Damien was the face of bravery.

When the world was searching for answers around the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people in the French capital, Damien stepped forward with a tale of survival and loss.

The young woman had lost her two best friends in the Le Carillon Bar attack, and she had lived to tell the tale.

In the months following, Damien almost became the face of the tragedy.

She told her story of survival to any journalist who would listen. She bravely posed on social media, showing off the scar on her arm which was caused by the gun of one of the attackers.

She turned up to memorials and candlelit vigils wearing a flower crown. She later got the phrase, “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (“she is tossed by the waves but does not sink”), tattooed onto her arm.

ADVERTISEMENT

As an official victim of the attack, Damien received $31,000AUD from funds set up for the victims. According to La Van Guardia, she also attended therapy sessions at a hotel in Normandy paid for by the French Association of Terror Victims.

But slowly cracks started to show in Damien’s story

When the young woman joined the Life for Paris, a group dedicated to victims of the attack, one of the members noticed some inconsistencies in her story.

This member decided to do some digging and quickly discovered that on the morning following the attack, Damien had admitted to the media that she hadn’t been at the Le Carillon Bar the night before.

She was supposed to meet a group of her friends there, but changed her mind at the last minute.

At 3am she woke up to 60 missed calls on her phone and discovered what had happened. She later went down to the site to pay her respects and spoke to the press.

At some point her story changed and she started to tell this epic tale of survival. Soon, she almost believed her own lies.

This week, the 33-year-old was handed an 18-month suspended sentence for her crimes. She will spend six months in prison for fraud and perjury.

According to the Huffington Post, Damien broke down in tears in court while trying to explain her bizarre behaviour. She said she felt an overwhelming sense of guilt because she had survived the attack and her friends hadn’t.

“I come today to tell you that I am guilty,” she said. “I come to explain the reasons, I come to ask for forgiveness. This is the biggest mistake of my life.”

Three years on from the Paris attacks, no one really knows what motivated Damien to tell such an intricate web of lies. Her story is a reminder that we don’t always know what’s really going on behind the headlines and the 10 second TV soundbites.

00:00 / ???