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Latest update : 2012-04-10

The killing of a 47-year-old woman south of Paris on Thursday and three similar murders in the same area since late November has raised fears a serial killer is on the loose, prompting the deployment of hundreds more police to the Paris suburbs.

AFP - Hundreds of extra police were drafted into the Paris suburbs Saturday where four murders have been carried out with the same weapon since November, raising fears a serial killer is on the loose.

"The main aim is to check suspicious behaviour," top local official Michel Fuzeau told AFP, saying police would carry out "vehicle checks and identity checks" and respond to any alarms raised by the local population.

He said "several hundred" officers had been mobilised.

The massive boost to the police presence in Essonne came after the latest killing on Thursday of a 47-year-old woman on a working-class housing estate in Grigny, south of the capital.

Around 100 investigators are probing the murders, carried out between November 27 and April 5, within a 10-kilometre (six-mile) radius, of apparently innocent victims, two men and two women, with no known links between them.

All the victims were shot with the same small-calibre semi-automatic 7.65 weapon.

While nothing suggested any political or religious motive for the killings, investigators have not ruled out any hypothesis. They believe it could be the work of a serial killer or a hired hitman, working for one or several persons. The gunman or gunmen could be acting alone, or have accomplices.

Local prosecutor Marie-Suzanne Le Queau told journalists Friday: "The way of killing is not identical in all four cases."

"In the first case, the victim was shot in the body several times while in the other three cases we have deaths caused by a single shot to the head," she said.

The first victim was a 35-year-old laboratory assistant. also shot dead in her building in Grigny, on November 27.

A disabled, unemployed man who said he was her ex-boyfriend turned himself in, was arrested and charged, but has since retracted his confession.

On February 22, one of the first victim's neighbours, a 52-year-old man, was shot dead in their building's car park.

Then, on March 19, an 81-year-old man was killed by a shot to the head in the entrance to a similar block of flats in Grigny's neighbouring suburb of Ris-Orangis.

"No link has been made between the four victims except for the fact that the second lived in the same building as the first," Le Queau said.

Last month, the southern city of Toulouse was shocked by a string of seven killings by Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman from an Algerian family who declared himself to be a supporter of the Al-Qaeda militant network.

Merah killed three off-duty paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a trainee rabbi before he was cornered in his apartment and killed in a shootout with police.


Date created : 2012-04-07


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