Annecy killings: French media hunt for answers in murder case

Journalists broadcast from outside a house believed to be the British home of a family shot dead in their car in the French Alps
Image caption French media are using British press reports to find out more about the victims' background

The deadly shooting of four people in the quiet village of Chevaline has dominated press reports across France.

In particular, journalists were asking why it took the forensics team eight hours to reach the crime scene and what the murder motive could be.

Others have noted the British media's fascination with the case.

The brutality of the murders have shocked commentators, with the regional daily Republicain Lorrain calling the case "an extraordinary murder tale".

"The mystery remains complete... in this savage massacre," according to national newspaper Le Monde, which ran a series of online features all aimed at deconstructing the case.

While one story focused on the "grey areas of the murder", another analysed the psychological impact the killings are likely to have on the "miracle girl" who hid beneath the dead bodies for eight hours.

'Draconian protocol'

In fact, one of French journalists' main questions was whether police could have discovered the four-year-old much more quickly.

Christophe Cornevin, in Le Figaro, wrote that police had to follow "a very draconian protocol" to preserve the crime scene.

"Firefighters could only count three dead people in the car without being able to touch the bodies", he said. It took another eight hours for the forensics team to arrive from Paris.

The journalist said police were still haunted by the botched murder inquiry of four-year-old Gregory Villemin who was killed in 1984. Valuable traces found at the crime scene were contaminated and the case has still not been resolved.

Veteran journalist Alain Hamon, who specialises in policing and terrorism, argued the Annecy murder highlighted an organisational problem within the French national gendarmerie.

"I blame officials at the highest level," he said. "There is a very important regional forensics team based in Lyon, one hour's drive from Chevaline. Why wasn't it send to at least carry out preliminary investigations?"

Media frenzy

Meanwhile, many papers, including national broadsheets, were relying on British press reports to provide more information on the victims' background.

"England is fascinated by this news event", said Le Monde.

"Despite the discretion of prosecutor Eric Maillaud, who refused to formally identify the bodies discovered in Haute-Savoie and confirm whether they were related, the British media has brought out the big guns to identify the victims."

The Mayor of Chevaline, Didier Berthollet, told regional daily Dauphine Libere he was being bombarded with British press enquiries.

"I have received an average of 10 phone calls an hour, and lot of them are from English journalists," he said.

"They don't hesitate to even link the murder to an al-Qaeda or Irish terror attack! I can't provide the slightest bit of information. I am not authorised to attend the crime scene."

Mr Berthollet added that life in the quiet village was slowly picking up again. "People try not to panic, even if they are confronted to many questions."

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