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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couple’s eight-year-old daughter and their boy plunged more than 20 metres from the apartment, where they all lived “withdrawn from society”, according to police.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 courts drop rape case against film director Luc Besson

The Paris court of appeal on Tuesday confirmed the dropping of rape accusations against French film director Luc Besson, one of the highest profile controversies of the #MeToo era in the country.

French courts drop rape case against film director Luc Besson

Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy had accused Besson — director of the “Fifth Element” and “Leon” — of raping her over a two-year on-off relationship, and filed a complaint against him in May 2018.

Prosecutors dropped the case in February 2019 citing lack of evidence, but a new investigation was opened later that year after Van Roy brought fresh charges.

A French magistrate then closed the case in December 2021 and prosecutors asked for it to be dropped in April.

Besson had always denied the accusations, describing the case in 2019 as “a lie from A to Z”.

“The court confirmed my client’s innocence… Luc Besson regrets these four lost years,” his lawyer Thierry Marembert said after the verdict.

But Van Roy’s lawyer Antoine Gitton said an appeal would immediately be filed for his client with France’s Court of Cassation.

Besson has admitted having a relationship with Van Roy, who had minor roles in his films “Taxi 5” and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”.

She filed the initial complaint for rape in May 2018 hours after meeting Besson, before filing another complaint two months later for other alleged rapes and sexual assaults.

At least three other women have made allegations of sexual harassment against Besson but he has always denied all the allegations.

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