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Briton Held in Stabbing of Frenchman

July 4, 1998

GRENOBLE, France (AP) _ A 43-year-old English fan was jailed early Saturday after admitting to fatally stabbing a Frenchman after a World Cup match between England and Argentina.

Paul Birch confessed to the crime after 10 hours of questioning by an investigating judge that ended in the early hours of Saturday morning, judicial officials said. He was jailed in St-Quentin-Fallavier, in the Isere region.

The judge placed him under formal investigation for murder _ one step short of being formally charged.

Birch, an engineer from London, was not a known soccer hooligan.

He admitted to stabbing actor Eric Frachet, 33, on the train from Lyon to Grenoble on Tuesday night, following England’s loss to Argentina in Saint-Etienne, near Lyon.

He was arrested Wednesday night in a Grenoble hotel, following a dispute with the hotel’s night guard. Police quickly linked him to the stabbing.

According to police officials speaking on customary anonymity, the man was sitting across from Frachet on the train and thought that the smiling actor was an Argentinean fan mocking him.

Across the country in Lille, there was good news from doctors treating the French policeman who has been in a coma since being clubbed in the head by German fans wielding a steel pole.

Daniel Nivel is beginning to respond to certain stimuli, they said, calling it an ``important and encouraging step.″

Meanwhile, authorities stepped up security ahead of Germany’s quarterfinal match against Croatia on Saturday night in Lyon, deploying an extra 500 officers in a 2,000-strong force.

As has been the case in other high-risk matches, there will be a strict alcohol ban Saturday night in Lyon, and all bars and nightclubs are obliged to close at 11:00 p.m.

Police have also banned transmission of the match on giant TV screens in downtown Lyon, although the measure does not affect screenings in the city suburbs.

Authorities say they expect around 10,000 German fans for the match, including an estimated 100-300 known hooligans.

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