British man, Julian Stevenson, appears in court after confessing to slitting children's throats

Authorities have said they are 'not currently' charging Mr Stevenson with premeditated murder

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The Independent Online

A 48-year-old British man has appeared in a French court today after allegedly confessing to killing his two children by slitting their throats.

The man, named by the Foreign Office as Julian Stevenson, was arrested after police discovered the bodies of the girl aged five and a boy of ten in his flat in Saint-Priest, a suburb of Lyons.

According to reports police were called after the children's mother arrived to collect her son and daughter and saw her ex-husband covered in blood and leaving the scene on roller skates.

Unconfirmed reports claim a blood-stained knife was recovered from the scene.

He was later arrested by police in the Montplaisir district of Lyons.

Authorities have said they are "not currently" charging Mr Stevenson with premeditated murder.

A prosecutor told AFP news agency: "We are presently holding back from the charge of premeditated murder but this could always change in the light of (more) testimony."

Mr Stevenson, who is thought to be unemployed, had recently gone through a bitter divorce with his former wife, an assistant accountant.

The children are believed to have lived with their mother in the Isere region after she won custody.

A police source said: "We believe the man was looking after the children for the first time since he divorced his wife.

"He was arrested at the end of yesterday afternoon."

Ahmed Benguedda, a former neighbour of the family, said his seven-year-old daughter used to play with the two victims, whom he described as "well adjusted".

"The people who live here are all in a state of shock," he told the Parisien newspaper.

Stevenson is expected to appear before a judge in Lyon today for a short hearing, when a prosecutor will officially open an investigation.

The session is expected to go ahead on what is a public holiday in France, owing to the significance of the case.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in touch with the French authorities and await the outcome of their investigation.

"We stand ready to provide consular assistance."