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CRIME

Swiss police: French family leapt off hotel balcony ‘one by one’

A French family gripped by conspiracy theories jumped one by one from their seventh-floor apartment in the Swiss town of Montreux in a "collective suicide", police investigating the mystery said on Tuesday.

Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP
A file photo of a police sign in front of a hotel in the Swiss town of Montreux. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Only a 15-year-old boy survived the tragedy last Thursday near the casino in the plush town on Lake Geneva.

He is in a coma in a stable condition in hospital.

The Vaud regional police announced Tuesday that their findings “make it possible to rule out the intervention of a third party and suggest that all the victims jumped from the balcony one after the other”.

READ MORE: Family of four die after plunging from Swiss balcony

Police and prosecutors are working on the theory of “collective suicide”.

A man aged 40, his 41-year-old wife, her twin sister, the couple’s eight-year-old daughter and their boy plunged more than 20 metres from the apartment, where they all lived “withdrawn from society”, according to police. 

Timeline of events

Investigators said two officers knocked on the apartment door at 6:15 am, wanting to speak with the father about the home-schooling arrangements for his son.

A voice asked who was at the door, but then said nothing further. Unable to enter, the officers left. Shortly before 7:00 am, all five jumped from the balcony within the space of five minutes.

Police detected no trace of a struggle, seemingly confirming that they jumped of their own accord.

A step-ladder was found on the balcony.

“Before or during the events, no witnesses, including the two police officers present on the spot from 6:15 am and the passers-by at the foot of the building, heard the slightest noise or cry coming from the apartment or the balcony,” police said.

“Technical investigations show no warning signs of such an act,” they added, noting however that “since the start of the pandemic, the family was very interested in conspiracy and survivalist theories”.

The family lived in virtual self-sufficiency having amassed a well-organised stockpile of various food, taking up much of their living space but enabling them to see out a major crisis.

Only the mother’s twin sister worked outside the home, while neither the mother nor the eight-year-old girl, who did not attend school, were registered with the local authorities.

“All these elements suggest… fear of the authorities interfering in their lives,” the police statement said. 

EXPLAINED: What are the rules for homeschooling children in Switzerland?

Granddaughters of Algerian writer

France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper said the father, Eric David, grew up in a wealthy part of Marseille and attended the Ecole Polytechnique, one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

The twin sisters, Nasrine and Narjisse Feraoun, grew up in a family of five children who were all educated at the elite Lycee Henri-IV in Paris, the weekly said.

The mother was a dentist and her sister an ophthalmologist.

The newspaper also said the twins were granddaughters of Algerian novelist Mouloud Feraoun.

A close friend of the French philosopher Albert Camus, Feraoun was assassinated in Algiers in 1962 by a far-right French pro-colonial group.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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