Victim of Quebec City Halloween sword attack describes her ordeal: 'He came out of nowhere'
Lisa Mahmoud and her friend Pierre Lagrevol had gone out to take photos in Old Quebec when they were attacked
The two friends had gone to snap a few Halloween photos in the Petit Champlain area of Quebec City, and were making their way homeward at around 10:10 p.m. when they happened upon the costumed man with the sword.
He was emerging on de Buade street from du Trésor street, with its artists' stalls.
Lisa Mahmoud, 24, thought nothing of it. It was Oct. 31. Lots of people were in costume. Even she was wearing Halloween make-up. She recalls smiling at the passerby as their paths crossed.
"And then he attacked Pierre [Lagrevol], blow to the head, then blow to the shoulder. Pierre fell to the ground. I tried to push him away, put him on his back, to defend myself," Mahmoud told Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval at her home in Quebec City Friday. "Then it was my turn."
By then, museum administrator François Duchesne was lying dead on a sidewalk at the other end of du Trésor. Within moments, Mahmoud had gone from staring at her phone as she walked with Lagrevol — "as I usually am," she said — to fighting for her life.
The attacker hurled her to the ground and started slashing, perhaps half a dozen times, Mahmoud said.
"I tried to defend myself, kicks, dodges. I believe I got back up," she said.
"Then he ended up pushing me up against the wall, again more slashes. I tried to defend myself as best I could. I fell to the ground again, and then I thought he was going to deliver the final blow."
The attacker never spoke.
"We didn't hear the sound of his voice even once," Mahmoud said.
WATCH | What happened the night of the Quebec City attack:
But Lagrevol, 26, and also French-born, started shouting at the top of his lungs.
"I've rarely heard a scream that loud," she said.
It was enough to distract the assailant, and Mahmoud bolted — but not to safety.
Instead, she ran into the vestibule of a nearby restaurant to catch a glimpse of the extent of her injuries, until Lagrevol pulled her away.
"A dumb reflex," she said. "Pierre said: 'Run. You run.'"
The pair took off eastward toward the Dufferin Terrace, a wide boardwalk.
Mahmoud said the attacker pursued them, but peeled off when they started yelling and attracted the attention of other pedestrians.
The first people Mahmoud and Lagrevol encountered in the Frontenac staircase, which leads toward the Petit Champlain, didn't think the blood they were covered in was real.
"We asked for help. They didn't believe us. Halloween night, it must be a joke. And so they left," she said. They were more convincing when the next passersby came alone.
"We said, 'There's a killer in the street. You have to call the police, you have to do something,' Mahmoud said.
We promised them it wasn't a joke, that the blood was real."
They waited for an ambulance to arrive as Good Samaritans ministered to them.
A long recovery ahead
Lisa Mahmoud moved to Quebec City from her native France 18 months ago. She's a hairdresser and made a point of saying she adores her life in the provincial capital.
The attack landed her in hospital for five days. She underwent surgery three times to repair her right shoulder, shorn tendons in her forearm, and significant damage to her left hand.
It was a terrifying experience, but one she feels the need to talk about.
"We were the victims of an attempted murder, it's not nothing. Everyone needs to hear about it, and I'm going to shout it from the rooftops," she said.
"What happened is inhuman. I want everyone to hear that it was truly a night of horror, unfortunately for the two people who died, for me and my friend Pierre and the other victims … I'm not ashamed. He's the one who should be ashamed."
Carl Girouard, a 24-year-old from the suburbs north of Montreal, is facing two first-degree murder charges and five counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack.
Mahmoud said it will take months of rehabilitation before she's able to cut hair again, but she plans on going back to work as soon as she's able.
"I'm in good health, I'm young, it will take a while, but I should be styling hair again at some point," she said, her heavily bandaged left arm in a sling.
'I believed it was a joke'
There is still considerable pain, but Mahmoud and Lagrevol's physical injuries have started to heal. It may take a little longer for the psychological wounds to do the same.
The shock is still fresh, and she said she sometimes has trouble believing the attack actually happened.
"For me it was a joke … like there was a hidden camera that was going to show up. Right until the last moment I believed it was a joke. I still have trouble believing [it wasn't]," she said.
At the same time, Mahmoud stressed that she is well supported by her circle of friends, and by her sister, whose arrival was expedited by the French consulate.
"It's hard for me to be far away from my family, but my sister is here. It's a huge relief to me that she's here to take care of me. Like she always has," Mahmoud said, voice cracking with emotion.
WATCH | Remembering the victims of the Quebec City sword attack:
There have also been multiple expressions of support from her adopted community, many of them via social media.
Asked if the attack has altered her perspective on her decision to move across the Atlantic, she answered without hesitation.
"It doesn't change a thing," she said.
with files from Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval