Mystery of Briton's death in Lourdes

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The Independent Online

A British woman, aged 45, lay dead for five months in her French home while her elderly mother concealed the death from her 12-year-old daughter, it emerged yesterday.

The deeply religious family had moved to Lourdes in the south of France five years ago, hoping that the younger woman, Marian Therese, would be cured of cancer. When she died in September, her mother, 78, described as a "mystic", hid the fact from the granddaughter. She took her to school every day and told her that mummy was too "tired" to see her.

A teacher became suspicious when the girl stopped mentioning her family. She alerted police who went to the house and found the body.

The girl's father, estranged from the mother for several years, is believed to have flown to France yesterday to bring his daughter back. French authorities plan to bring no legal action against the grandmother. They said she was a deeply religious woman, who "refused conventional medical treatment, took refuge in prayer and awaited the resurrection of Christ". She was said to have been deeply relieved when police came to the house and showed them the body of her daughter.

Lourdes is one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world. A local peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, reported 18 visions of the Virgin Mary in or near the Pyrenean town in 1858. Since then, hundreds of people have claimed miraculous cures after visiting Lourdes.

Neighbours said the British family was quiet and friendly. One said: "The old lady should be pitied more than anything. She must have thought she was doing the right thing."