25-year-old classical violinist mugged twice within minutes, on the streets of Paris

7 July 2022, 11:26 | Updated: 7 July 2022, 11:44

Julie Berthollet, 25, was attacked on the road where she currently lives in Paris
Julie Berthollet, 25, was attacked on the road where she currently lives in Paris. Picture: Alamy / Getty Images

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Violinist, Julie Berthollet, has decided to move back to Switzerland after two violent attacks demonstrated an ‘every person for themselves’ mentality in her current hometown of Paris.

Sisters Camille, 23 and Julie Berthollet, 25, are a Franco-Swiss string duo who have performed around the world together since 2008.

The siblings recently made their UK concert debut at Classic FM Live in 2021, and the duo have released six albums together on the label, Warner Classics, in France.

However, the internationally acclaimed duo are considering leaving their home in Paris after two violent attacks in close succession occurred involving the eldest sister, Julie Berthollet, last month.

At a little past 7am on 22 June 2022, Julie Berthollet left the sister’s shared apartment in Paris and began searching for a taxi on her road. It was then that a young man approached her and tried to steal her phone.

Read more: ‘It’s our responsibility to show classical music to everyone,’ say young stars Camille and Julie Berthollet

Berthollet told the French publication L'illustré, “As I have strength in my hands, thanks to my practice of the violin, I resisted. I clutched my iPhone and yelled, ‘Are you okay? You coward!’ The individual left.

“Then, by reflex, I used barrier gestures: I put my phone at the bottom of the bag, my shoulder bag in front of me. Never to the side, never behind.”

The 25-year-old violinist has lived in the French capital for five-and-a-half years, but was disturbed at the reaction from passersby during the assault.

“Around, there was traffic, delivery men, but no one moved,” Berthollet explained to L'illustré, “It's ordinary.”

However, within minutes, Berthollet was subject to a second and more violent encounter.

Julie Berthollet and her younger sister, Camille, perform at Classic FM Live 2021
Julie Berthollet (right) and her younger sister, Camille (left), perform at Classic FM Live 2021. Picture: Matt Crossick

Berthollet had been unable to hail a taxi, and after an Uber cancelled on her, she decided to take the metro. She was not travelling with her violin, but instead had her cat – Hoshi – who she carried in a small bag along with a suitcase.

Once at the bottom of the steps of the metro station, a man passed her by. Berthollet told L’illustré: “He looked at me with an evil look, full of hatred. He said to me: ‘You, with your ornaments!’

“I had two necklaces, a bracelet and three rings, like all girls. He reached out with both hands and abruptly snatched the bracelet and the necklaces from me. I lost my balance and fell.

“I have a scratch on my neck. I had the reflex to get up. I ran up the stairs in an effort to catch up to him. One of the two necklaces is gold. It has sentimental value, I received it from my mother when I was born. At the same time, the guy pulled out a knife.”

Once again, Berthollet was shocked by the attitude of the surrounding commuters and passersby. “Passengers went up and down,” she explained, “They even moved away leaving him enough space to attack me...”

Read more: This orchestra floated on the Seine in Paris, playing Ravel’s Boléro

Despite the knife, Berthollet was not deterred, and in the moment her adrenaline encouraged her to go back for her necklace.

“I was more afraid of his gaze than of the blade visible in his left hand,” Berthollet admitted to L'illustré. “I said, ‘Give me back my necklace!’ and he pushed me very violently and I went backwards, on my back. I collapsed on the ground. I landed on my elbows, my back hit the steps. My head was intact, thankfully, but the shock took my breath away.”

Still, no member of the public came to Berthollet to help. A man passing by Berthollet told her in an explanatory fashion, ‘he had a knife’, as he walked past.

“I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe,” Berthollet explained. “I got up and went to my cat.”

A young woman from the RATP (Régie autonome des transports parisiens) office came out from behind her counter to help, and asked if Berthollet wanted to call the fire department.

“I answered no,” she said. “I took the subway in tears. The trip took half an hour.”

Read more: Classical music comes to Berlin’s underground train stations in sonic makeover

Despite being attacked twice in one day, not a single member of the public stopped to help Berthollet, or ask if she was okay.

“It’s every man for himself,” Berthollet commented on the public’s attitude. “We feel outside of everything. We see a human flow passing by, as if we were living outside of reality.”

This isn’t the first time Berthollet has experienced violence on the streets of Paris – she previously had her phone stolen on the subway, and defended her young sister Camille when a man started harassing her on the train.

Berthollet shared on her Instagram story the day after the attack that she was thinking of moving and returning to Switzerland, due to everything she had experienced in Paris.

“Ideally, I would like to settle in Lavaux,” Berthollet told L'illustré, “and I think my sister will go live in Annecy, where we grew up.

“I no longer want to live in a city where individualism is omnipresent. I have absolutely no shoulders to support all this ambient violence.”