BREST (France) — The suspect accused of shooting dead an 11-year-old British girl in France and gravely wounding her parents has been charged with murder and remanded in custody, a prosecutor said yesterday.
The shooting followed a long-running feud between neighbours in the isolated French hamlet of Saint-Herbot, Plonevez-du-Faou, the prosecutor said.
A 70-year-old Dutch man, named as Dirk R., allegedly opened fire on the British family around 10pm (2000 GMT) on Saturday, killing the girl and leaving her 50-year-old father with a serious head wound.
The father remains in a critical condition in intensive care. His wife is in hospital with less severe injuries, while their youngest daughter, aged eight, managed to escape.
The suspect has also been charged with attempted murder, prosecutor Camille Miansoni told a press conference in Brest, northwestern France.
The Dutch man and his Belgian wife tested “positive for alcohol and cannabis at the time they were taken into custody”, Miansoni said.
She was later released.
Two rifles were seized from their home, including a .22 Long Rifle believed to have been used at the scene.
The prosecutor confirmed there had been a “long-standing neighbourly dispute” between the couple and their British neighbours.
“Over the years, there has been a deep-seated feeling of exasperation which has led to this tragedy”.
The prosecutor said the couple were irked by the “numerous jobs (the British father) was carrying out on his property” such as pruning and clearing undergrowth.
The couple “thought it was disturbing their peace and quiet”, saying the work caused “noise pollution” and revealed “a view of a property that had previously been hidden”.
The dispute had been simmering since the British family moved to the hamlet in 2019.
“At the time, the gendarmerie had been notified of a private dispute and that a legal conciliation procedure had been set up,” said local police chief Charlotte Tournant.
“Subsequently, no other criminal offence was reported”.
The suspect, a former teacher, faces a life sentence if convicted. He had “expressed regret”, the prosecutor said.
The rural community was in shock yesterday.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Kim McKanney, 64, a British pensioner walking her dog a few hundred metres from the scene.
“I’m shocked and upset that a family has been affected like this and a child killed in a little village which is so quiet, peaceful and friendly,” she added, looking close to tears although she did not know the victims.
“You might expect it in a city but not here.” — AFP