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SWITZERLAND

Alps murders: Swiss gunman faces probe

French police investigating the murder of a British-Iraqi family in the Alps have asked to question a Swiss gunman who killed three women in his home village, Swiss police said on Friday.

Police in the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie made the request to their colleagues in the Swiss canton of Valais, where on Wednesday the gunman went on a shooting spree, a police spokesman told AFP.

"French police in Haute-Savoie, who are wondering about a possible link between this killing and unsolved homicides in the region in recent years, have made this request," he said.

The gunman, known to have psychiatric and drug problems, killed three women and wounded two men in the tiny village of Daillon.

He was wounded during an exchange of gunfire while being apprehended by police and was taken to a hospital, where he was in intensive care.

Officials said the shooter, whom police did not identify, had spent time in a psychiatric hospital in 2005 and was known to police as a drug user.

Police had previously confiscated weapons from the 33-year-old when he was placed in a psychiatric ward.

Police said he used two weapons in the Valais shooting spree: a historic Swiss military rifle known as a mousqueton and a shotgun.

French police are still investigating the murder last year of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps, on the other side of the border from the Swiss canton.

Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, were all found dead inside their estate car near Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie on September 5, along with a French cyclist who police believe was an innocent bystander.

The couple's two young daughters survived the attack.    

Investigators have so far failed to report any progress in solving the case, but have previously raised the possibility of someone with psychiatric problems being behind the shooting.

The French shootings took place in the town of Chevaline, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Daillon.

Some reports have also suggested the weapon used in the French shooting was a Luger P06, a handgun used by the Swiss army in the 1930s.

Swiss media have quoted former friends of the Daillon shooter as saying he was obsessed with joining the military and that his personality had changed after he was rejected.

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SKI

Franco-Swiss cold war breaks out over ski border car park

Switzerland and France are in a snowball fight over a cross-border car park which serves Swiss ski slopes but has been closed by the French due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Franco-Swiss cold war breaks out over ski border car park
The object of the Franco-Swiss war: parking lot Les Dappes. Photo by AFP

The Battle of Dappes Car Park — for the moment a rather cold war — has been rumbling for weeks, triggered by the different Covid-19 rules on either side of an invisible line in a snow-covered field.

The 650-space car park sits in the valley between the pistes of La Dole on the Swiss side, and Les Tuffes in France. It is 250 metres inside French territory.

In the Jura mountains, the summit of La Dole overlooks Lake Geneva in the west of Switzerland — a country which has kept ski slopes open despite the pandemic, while neighbouring France has closed theirs.

So the chair lifts for La Dole sit empty — because nobody can use the shared car park in France.

“I cannot understand how the French authorities can decide that the Swiss cannot go skiing in their own country. This is a unilateral decision,” fumed Gerard Produit, tourism chief in Switzerland's Nyon region.

“We are being held hostage by the politics of both countries,” he told AFP, deploring the “legal imbroglio”.

The frozen chair lifts are an unwelcome sight for Patrick Freudiger, the boss of the Tele-Dole ski lifts company.

“In mid-December, we organised a meeting between France and Switzerland to present the Covid plan” for La Dole, Freudiger told AFP.

But since the end of December, “we have received three successive orders banning the use of the car park” — the latest one being valid until February 3.

READ MORE: Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread

'They won't listen' 

The prefecture of the Jura local authority in France told AFP the car park is “likely to encourage the gathering of more than six people in a public space in France, the mixing of groups, and therefore the circulation of the virus”.

The wider Bourgogne-Franche-Comte region has the highest intensive care bed occupancy rate in France, while the Jura local authority area has one of the highest Covid-19 incidence rates in the country.

Freudiger is fuming that the French authorities did not try to reach an agreement on access to the car park.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, the site was refurbished last year thanks to Swiss investment, as part of a project to create a cross-border ski destination.

Freudiger also voiced surprise that the car park is shut while car-pooling car parks for French inhabitants who work in Switzerland remain open.

“We tried to get in touch with the prefect; we could not reach him. They do not hear us, they won't even listen to us,” said Produit.

See you in court 

Tele-Dole filed two appeals last Friday to the Besancon administrative court in France over the situation. A hearing is scheduled to take place next Monday.

Switzerland's Nyon region wrote to the Jura authorities on Thursday requesting talks “as soon as possible” on potential solutions and “financial compensation” for Tele-Dole.

According to Freudiger, the ski lifts have already lost 40 working days — almost half the season — and 300,000 Swiss francs (€280,000).

Tele-Dole cannot claim any financial assistance from the Swiss government, because there is nothing to stop ski stations remaining open during the pandemic.

Etienne Bovard, director of La Dole's Swiss Ski School, faces the same headache. The school has around 20 instructors but has had to stop all group lessons.

“In terms of turnover, we are 20 percent down at the moment, and if this continues throughout February… it will amount to an 85 percent loss,” he said.

“What's terrible is that it's the children,” who make up 80 percent of the clientele, “who are victims of this political game”.
 

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