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By Nancy Ing and Elisha Fieldstadt

The ex-wife of the truck driver who was killed by French police after mowing down Bastille Day revelers only found out that the father of her three children was the attacker when questioned at a police station, her lawyer said.

"She was shocked because she realized she used to live with a man who was a criminal, and that she had three kids ... with a criminal," said Jean-Yves Garino of his client Hajer (NBC News is not publishing her last name), who was once married to the 31-year-old driver, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

Garino said Hajer was detained for two days for questioning after Bouhlel plowed more than through a mile of people, killing at least 84.

Nice truck driver suspect Lahouaiej BouhlelNBC News

Garino said Hajer left Bouhlel because he was abusive with her and with her mother. "He was violent (physically) and violent with the words," Garino said.

"She had to protect herself," Garino said, adding that she had reported Bouhlel to the police before.

But he said she felt "guilty" because she wonders if she had reported the alleged violence to police sooner "maybe lot of people could have been saved and that terrorist act would never have exist."

A friend of Hajer's has suggested that the dissolution of Bouhlel's marriage might have set him off, but he said he doubted the killer had links to any extremist groups.

"He was not Muslim," Walid Hamou told NBC News. "He ate pork, he drank alcohol, he hit his wife," Hamou claimed. "That is not Muslim."