The wife of a French bus driver who was beaten to death after he asked four passengers to wear face masks aboard his vehicle called Saturday for "exemplary punishment" for his killers.

The assault on Philippe Monguillot has scandalised France. President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday dispatched the Interior Minister to meet the driver's widow after his death was announced on Friday. He had been hospitalised in critical condition after the July 5 attack.

Veronique Monguillot said she told the minister, Gerald Darmanin, that she and their three daughters were "destroyed" by the attack on her husband at a bus stop in Bayonne, southwest France.

"We must bang a fist on the table, so this never happens again," she said. "It's barbaric, not normal. We must stop this massacre."

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The Bayonne prosecutor said Monguillot was assaulted after he asked four passengers on his No. 810 bus to wear face masks, which are required aboard French public transport because of the coronavirus pandemic. The driver was insulted, pushed off the bus and violently beaten and kicked in the head, the prosecutor said.

Philippe Monguillot, a bus driver, was attacked in Bayonne on Sunday night. Photo / AP
Philippe Monguillot, a bus driver, was attacked in Bayonne on Sunday night. Photo / AP

Four people are in custody.

"This bus driver was only doing his job," Darmanin said. "He left his home in the morning and did not come back, leaving a widow and three orphan girls. It is an absolutely odious act."

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France has battled hard to tame its coronavirus outbreak, which saw over 208,000 confirmed infections and over 30,000 virus-related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll is higher, due to testing limitations and missed mild cases.

- AP