An 11-year-old British girl has been shot dead and her parents seriously wounded in a gun attack at a family barbecue following an alleged row between neighbours in Brittany, north-western France.
Solenne Thornon was playing in her garden in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot when a neighbour brandishing a gun opened fire ‘several times’ on Saturday night.
Four members of the Thornon family were at home at the time – Solenne, her eight-year-old sister Celeste, and her parents Adrien and Rachel Thornon.
The schoolgirl’s parents were wounded in the shooting, with her father said to be in a critical condition after suffering a head injury while her mother sustained less serious injuries but was also badly hurt.
It was the couple’s eight-year-old daughter who raised the alarm, neighbours said, as she fled from the scene shouting ‘my sister is dead, my sister is dead’.
The little girl managed to escape unharmed and took refuge with a neighbour, but is in a state of ‘shock’ following the ordeal.
The local prosecutor has said that the main suspect, a 71-year-old Dutch man who also lived in the village, is in custody and that a murder investigation is underway.
A neighbour said the two little girls had been playing on the swing in their garden when he saw them earlier on Saturday evening
‘There was a dispute between neighbours, and a gun was produced,’ said an investigating source.
‘They had been arguing for many years over a plot of land adjoining the two properties,’ the source added.
‘Tensions clearly reached boiling point. The older girl was shot dead and her parents seriously wounded,’ he said.
‘The father suffered a head injury and is critical in hospital, while the mother is also very badly hurt.
‘The youngest child is the only one who is unscathed, having managed to flee to another neighbour’s house.’
The Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie tactical unit was called to the scene and a negotiator persuaded the neighbour and his wife to give themselves up before they were arrested, the prosecutor reportedly said.
A source described there as having been a ‘brief siege’ after the shooter’ locked himself in his home’.
The girl’s parents, who both work locally, were taken to La Cavale Blanche hospital in Brest to be treated for their injuries (file image)
‘After some negotiation, the suspect gave himself up without a struggle, and he was arrested, alongside his wife. He had retired to Saint-Herbot around six years ago.’
The shooting took place on Saturday evening in the picturesque village of Saint-Herbot, near Quimper in the departement of Finistere.
The Thornons had lived in the property – a converted sawmill close to the local Catholic Church – for ‘a number of years’, according to a neighbour.
A direct neighbour of the Thornons told La Telegramme that he saw the whole family under the oak tree at the bottom of their garden earlier that evening.
‘The two little girls were playing near the games and on the swing, the parents were sitting on their usual bench and having a barbecue,’ he said.
The incident took place on Saturday evening in Saint-Herbot, a small village near Quimper in in the departement of Finistere (file image shows the chapel in the hamlet)
Solenne was believed to be a pupil at Jean Jaurès College, in the town of Huelgoat.
Her parents, who both work locally, were taken to La Cavale Blanche hospital in Brest to be treated for their injuries.
‘The reasons for this tragedy are not yet known. It would appear that a conflict has been opposing the two neighbours for several years over a plot of land adjoining the two properties,’ prosecutor Carine Halley said on Sunday.
‘An investigation has been opened into the murder of a minor and three attempted murders.’
Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou commune, said: ‘We knew the family well. There is a village fête every year and they always came.
‘It is incomprehensible to have shot a child. No one can understand how that could have happened.’
The Foreign Office said it was providing assistance to a British family following a shooting in France.