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As it happenedended

Brittany shooting – latest: British girl killed during Saint Herbot barbecue over reported land dispute

The 11-year-old’s father was also seriously wounded following the attack on Saturday night in village of Saint-Herbot

Tara Cobham
Monday 12 June 2023 16:26 BST
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The girl was reportedly playing on the swings while the family was having a barbecue in their garden in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France, when a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at them
The girl was reportedly playing on the swings while the family was having a barbecue in their garden in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France, when a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at them (TF1)

An 11-year-old girl from a British family has been shot dead in France and her father is fighting for his life following an attack on Saturday night.

The girl was reportedly playing on the swings while the family was having a barbecue in their garden in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France, when a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at them at around 10pm local time.

The suspect – a 71-year-old Dutch national named as Dirk Raats – was arrested along with his wife, prosecutors said.

The child’s father, who was reportedly shot in the head, is in a critical condition at a hospital, while her mother received non-life-threatening injuries.

The girl’s eight-year-old sister managed to escape unhurt but was left in a state of “shock” after witnessing the shooting. According to a local resident, she raised the alarm, shouting: "My sister is dead, my sister is dead".

The killing of the British girl comes just days after another three-year-old British girl was among four children and two adults who were stabbed in a park by a man in Annecy in eastern France.

British girl shot dead during barbecue in France as father fights for life

An 11-year-old girl from a British family has been shot dead in France and her father is fighting for his life following an attack on Saturday night.

The girl was reportedly playing on the swings while the family was having a barbecue in their garden in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France, when a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at them at around 10pm local time.

The suspect – a 71-year-old Dutch national – was arrested along with his wife, prosecutors said.

The child’s father, who was reportedly shot in the head, is in a critical condition at a hospital, while her mother received non-life-threatening injuries.

The girl’s eight-year-old sister managed to escape unhurt but was left in a state of “shock” after witnessing the shooting.

A local resident said that the younger girl raised the alarm after the shooting, shouting: "My sister is dead, my sister is dead".

A British foreign office spokesperson said they were providing assistance to the family.

Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, said the attack was believed to be in connection to a land “dispute between neighbours” from past three years.

The killing of the British girl comes just days after another three-year-old British girl was among four children and two adults who were stabbed in a park by a man in Annecy in eastern France.

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 08:20

A map of where the shooting happened

A map shows where the shooting happened in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France, on Saturday night.

The British family was enjoying a barbecue in their garden when a neighbour fired several shots at them, killing the schoolgirl and seriously injuring the father.

Saint-Herbot in Brittany, where a British schoolgirl has been shot dead
Saint-Herbot in Brittany, where a British schoolgirl has been shot dead (The Independent)
Tara Cobham12 June 2023 08:23

Girl shot dead ‘while playing on the swings'

The 11-year-old girl was reportedly playing on the swings when she was shot dead in her garden in France.

Her family was enjoying a barbecue at their home in Brittany when a neighbour fired several shots at them, killing her and leaving her father seriously wounded.

It was the 11-year-old’s younger sister, 8, who raised the alarm after witnessing the shooting, according to a local resident, shouting: "My sister is dead, my sister is dead.”

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 08:51

Pictures of Brittany scene where British schoolgirl was killed

Forensics seen at the scene where the 11-year-old British girl was shot dead in her garden in Brittany, France
Forensics seen at the scene where the 11-year-old British girl was shot dead in her garden in Brittany, France (TF1)
The scene where a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at the family in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France
The scene where a neighbour allegedly fired several shots at the family in the village of Saint-Herbot in Brittany, western France (TF1)
Tara Cobham12 June 2023 09:01

Attack connected to ‘dispute between neighbours’, suggests mayor

Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, said the attack was believed to be in connection to a land “dispute between neighbours” from past three years.

“We knew the family well. There is a village fete every year and they always came,” she said.

“It’s completely incomprehensible to have shot a child. This happened without any warning,” she added. “Nobody can understand how this could have happened.”

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 09:23

Girl’s younger sister screamed ‘my sister is dead’

The girl’s eight-year-old sister raised the alarm after the shooting, according to a local resident, shouting: “My sister is dead, my sister is dead”.

The younger girl managed to escape unhurt but was left in a state of “shock” after witnessing the shooting.

“We heard noises and thought they – either the children or the parents – were playing with fireworks. Then the youngest girl came running to the neighbours shouting,” the neighbour who was not named said.

“We went and saw the girl was dead and her father and mother were injured.”

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 09:52

Two people were arrested

Two people have been arrested following the shooting that killed the 11-year-old girl in her Saint-Herbot home.

The suspect – a 71-year-old Dutch national – was arrested along with his wife, prosecutors said.

Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, said the attack was believed to be in connection to a land “dispute between neighbours” from the past three years.

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 10:20

Family named by French authorities

The 11-year-old British girl who was shot dead has been named as Solenne Thornton by French authorities.

Her eight-year-old sister has been identified as Celeste, while her parents, who are currently in hospital, have been named as Adrian and Rachel, 52 and 49 respectively.

Sam Rkaina12 June 2023 10:54

Pupils at girl’s school receiving psychological care

Pupils at Solenne Thornton's school were receiving psychological care today, following her death on Saturday.

Classes at the Jean-Jaurès college in Huelgoat resumed as normal on Monday morning, with a “medical monitoring team” in place.

Guylène Esnault, director of education services in the Finistere department, said: “This is a small area, and everyone knows each other. The children will have heard about what happened.

“The college principal will say what is appropriate to her students, and a monitoring team including a doctor, nurses and psychiatrists is in place.”

Solenne was in Year 6 at the college, which has around 150 students.

Mael de Calan, president of Finister's departmental council, said there was “stupor and consternation after the murder of an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Plonévez-du-Faou.

“Such a drama, between neighbours, reminds us that the rise of violence in our society must be fought unanimously.

“I send all my condolences to the girl's family and loved ones, and my most sincere thoughts to the teachers and students of the Huelgoat college.”

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 11:40

‘Dutchman first threatened family with rifle three years ago,’ say neighbours

The Dutchman first threatened the family with a .22 rifle a far back as 2020, according to neighbours in the hamlet.

One said: “That’s what the dispute three years ago was all about – police were called because he was threatening the family with his rifle.

“The two families were always arguing, and the rifle escalated matters, but nobody ever believed that he would use it.”

The weapon was a licensed hunting rifle, and no effort was made to confiscate it by the police, or council officials.

The Dutchman regularly complained about the family cutting down trees to make way for children’s play equipment, including swings.

“He was also regularly upset about the noise the family made, even though it didn’t bother anyone else – it was mainly just kids having a nice time.”

The Dutchman’s wife was said to be a “pleasant neighbour” who “said hello to people”, but her husband was gruff and withdrawn.

Tara Cobham12 June 2023 12:43

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