French police on Friday found the car of a man suspected of murdering his family after tracing his bank card to the South of France, where the vehicle was discovered. The man’s wife and four children were found buried at their home in Nantes.
AFP - Police hunting a father suspected of shooting dead his wife and four children and burying them in the garden turned their attention southwards Friday after his car was found.
Officers made the gruesome discovery of the corpses in the northwestern town of Nantes on Thursday, but switched the hunt to the Riviera, 770 kilometres (480 miles) south after tracing the use of the suspect's bank card.
The suspect withdrew cash in Roquebrune-sur-Argens outside Frejus a week ago, and on Friday police found the missing car, a metallic blue Citroen C5, outside a hotel where he is now thought to have stayed on April 14.
Forensic investigators were at the scene, a small town in the Var region, in which the family had once lived in the 1990s before moving north to Brittany.
Detectives were studying tapes from video surveillance cameras that confirmed he had been at the scene, and conducting a fingerprint search of the room in the Formule 1 budget hotel and of the car.
On Thursday, police in Nantes found five bodies buried in a trench under the terrace of the family's townhouse, around three weeks after the family told their children's school they were emigrating to Australia.
The Nantes prosecutor said that shortly before the disappearance the father, 50-year-old small businessman Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, made bizarre claims to friends to be a US secret agent heading into a witness protection programme.
Autopsies will confirm the identities of the victims and the cause of their death -- believed to be gunshot wounds -- but police are proceeding on the assumption they are the suspect's 49-year-old wife Agnes and four children.
Neighbours described them as an ordinary middle class family with no history of crime or odd behaviour. Agnes worked as a teaching assistant and volunteered in her local Catholic church.
The older sons, 20-year-old Arthur and 18-year-old Thomas, were students, while 16-year-old daughter Anne and 13-year-old Benoit attended a fee-paying private Catholic school, la Perverie Sacre Coeur.
The school headmaster said he had recently received a letter withdrawing the children from the school, settling their fees until the end of the academic year and explaining that the family was moving to Australia.
Police said there was no sign of a struggle in the house, and the family appeared to have prepared a departure. Their clothing was packed and missing, along with three of the family's cars.
The lease on the house expired 10 days previously and all the family's bills were settled, investigators said.
The Dupont de Ligonnes were originally from Versailles, a wealthy suburb of Paris once home to the French kings. The family has aristocratic roots and still lived a comfortable, well-to-do lifestyle.
Some locals said the father ran a small business in the Breton tourist and fishing port of Pornic, but others thought he sold advertising space or had investments in tourism and hospitality.
He was often absent from the family home on business, according to Nantes prosecutor Xavier Ronsin. Police issued a description of the suspect as having short brown hair, a round face and metallic glasses.
Date created : 2011-04-22