Suspected killer of British schoolgirl ‘has already threatened her family’

Oscillations

Oscillations

A man suspected of fatally shooting an 11-year-old British girl as she played in her garden at a family barbecue in France had previously threatened the family, neighbors have claimed.

The young girl, named Solenne, is said to have been playing on the swings with her younger sister Céleste around 10 p.m. Saturday, when a suspect opened fire in the village of Saint-Herbot, near Brittany.

Their father, locally named Adrian Thornon, was seriously injured and taken to hospital where he remains in critical condition, while their mother Rachel was also injured but her injuries are not believed to be serious.

The girl is unharmed. Neighbor Yannick Valory told the Telegram he heard Céleste shout “My sister is dead, my sister is dead”, moments after the shooting.

The family’s 71-year-old Dutch neighbor was arrested on suspicion of killing the girl, prosecutors said. The attack came amid reports of an acrimonious dispute over land adjoining their two properties in the village.

Neighbors said police had already been called after the suspect apparently threatened the family.

Police in front of the property in Saint-Herbot

Police in front of the property in Saint-Herbot

Previous threat made

Sébastien and Marie-Céline, whose house neighbors are the Dutch couple, described them as “very distant” after settling in the village seven years ago, according to the newspaper Le Télégramme.

“Three years ago he (the suspect) made a fuss of Adrian and Rachel after cleaning up their garden and (what he said) made them not feel at home.

“He (them) threatened with a weapon and the police were called,” says Marie-Céline.

“His wife was more polite but from that day on we lay low and just said hello or good evening to them,” she said.

The family are said to have had a barbecue on Saturday in the garden of their house outside the village of Plonévez-du-Faou in the Finistère department, where they have lived for around four years.

‘My sister is dead, my sister is dead’

At around 10 p.m., their neighbor reportedly rushed out of his home with a gun and fired a volley of shots at the family.

Carine Halley, public prosecutor in Quimper, Brittany, said when police arrived the 11-year-old girl was dead and her father, 52, was seriously injured after being “shot in the head”.

He was taken to hospital where he remains in critical condition, she said.

After the fatal attack, the Dutch pensioner then locked himself in his house with his wife. Police invaded the property and negotiated with the suspect until he surrendered around 11 p.m.

Mr Valory told the Telegram: “We heard the bang and thought it was children playing with firecrackers. Then the child rushed to a neighbor saying: ‘My sister is dead, my sister is dead.”

Neighbors have told how the family are planning to travel to Manchester next month to celebrate the 80th birthday of the girls’ grandmother.

Mayor – ‘incomprehensible to shoot a child’

Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, said: “We knew the family well. There is a village festival every year and they always come. It wasn’t a family that caused problems.

The mayor said she was aware of “neighborhood issues”.

“I intervened with my deputies when we were elected. There was a problem with the terrain, noise problems,” she told BFMTV.

“But it’s incomprehensible to have shot a child.”

Another neighbor said the dispute with the Dutch pensioner started when they “cut down all the trees that bothered them”.

Francoise, who also lives in the hamlet, said the neighbor was a recluse who had complained the British family was making too much noise. “But it was daytime and they weren’t making any more noise than anyone else. No one else was bothered by this.

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