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Girl, 4, found alive in murder car
A four-year-old girl was found alive inside a car containing three victims of a fatal shooting spree in the French Alps that is thought to have involved a British family.
Investigators discovered the unharmed youngster among the dead bodies of a man and two women after being called to the massacre in the Haute-Savoie region.
A seven-year-old girl was discovered lying on the road in a critical condition near the BMW people carrier, while a male cyclist, who had also suffered gunshot wounds, was also found dead close by.
French prosecutors said the girl of four was only found when investigators began a forensic examination of the car, with reports suggesting this was eight hours after the initial discovery. It was also reported that she was speaking English and hiding underneath some of the bodies.
The BMW was discovered surrounded by spent bullet cartridges on Wednesday afternoon in a car park on the outskirts of a forest near Lake Annecy, a picturesque region popular with tourists. Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said 15 cartridges were found around the car and that a "very large number" of shots had been fired. The firearm used in the spree is thought to be an automatic pistol, he added.
French officials confirmed the British-registered vehicle was owned by a UK national who was staying at a nearby campsite, believed to be in the Saint-Jorioz area. Mr Maillaud said the man had checked into the site with two women and two young girls, adding:: "The owner of the vehicle was British and he was the person who identified himself to the campsite. He is presumed to be a victim and was accompanied by two women and two little girls. We can assume it's a family although it is yet to be proved. We have been taking evidence, including DNA, which will be sent to the British authorities for confirmation."
Mr Maillaud, who described the scene as being like something seen in a film, said the two dead women were found in the back seat of the car and the dead man was discovered in the front. The prosecutor added: "At the beginning of the investigation when the investigators got into the car they discovered a little (four-year-old) girl, who was frozen still and uninjured." Mr Maillaud said the critically injured seven-year-old was taken to the nearby Grenoble University Hospital where her condition had been stabilised following emergency surgery. Doctors have now said she is now out of danger, he added. "We don't know when we will be able to question her and I would imagine she is in a state of shock," Mr Maillaud said.
Investigators said no weapon has been found and no arrests have been made. It was also unclear if the shootings had been carried out by one killer or a number of people. Mr Maillaud said: "We don't know who could have done this. We have no idea." One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with the dead cyclist being a witness to the crime.
The Foreign Office said it was in close contact with the French authorities and seeking further information. An FCO spokesman said: "We are aware of the reports of the shooting and we are looking into these urgently." He added that British consular staff arrived in Grenoble this morning and were making their way to the scene to liaise with French authorities.
Benoit Vinnemann, who is leading the investigation, told the BBC: "The three bodies found in the car appear to be the father, mother and grandmother. It is in any case a family, according to British people at the Saint-Jorioz camping site who reported their disappearance on Wednesday night."