Troadec case: Brother-in-law admits murdering missing family of four

Combination of pictures shows the four members of the Troadec family - Pascal, Brigitte, Sebastien and Charlotte - who have disappeared in France Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Troadec family were last seen on 16 February

A relative of a French family of four who have been missing since mid-February has admitted killing them, a prosecutor said.

Pascal Troadec's former brother-in-law, named as Hubert Caouissin, told investigators he had killed them in a row about the inheritance of gold bars.

He battered them to death with a crowbar at their home in Nantes, local prosecutor Pierre Sennes said.

Mr Caouissin will be charged and jailed on Monday.

He was arrested in Brest on Sunday along with Mr Troadec's sister Lydie Troadec, his ex-wife.

Mystery of vanished French family

Pascal and Brigitte, both aged 49, their son Sebastien, 21, and daughter Charlotte, 18, were last seen on 16 February.

In a press conference, Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said Mr Caouissin had admitted using a crowbar to bludgeon the family.

On 16 February, he spied on the Troadecs' home, using a stethoscope to listen through the windows, Mr Sennes said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hubert Caouissin's DNA was found at the Troadec family's home

That night he broke into the house, apparently with the aim of stealing a key. The family awoke when they heard a noise, and a fight broke out between the intruder and Pascal Troadec.

Mr Caouissin killed Mr Troadec first, and then the rest of the family.

The prosecutor said he dismembered the bodies, burying some parts and burning others.

Police are now scouring a piece of countryside near the city of Brest in search of remains.

Search teams with sniffer dogs have been combing the area, and divers have also taken part because the zone lies between two estuaries.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A police search for the family's remains is under way

According to the prosecutor, Mr Caouissin has no previous criminal record. He is now facing life imprisonment.

The role of Lydie Troadec is not yet clear, but she is accused of helping to clean the vehicle used to dispose of the bodies. Prosecutors have ordered her detention.

'The gold is a myth'

The inheritance argument reportedly centres on gold bars found during works at a building in Brest owned by Mr Troadec's father, who died several years ago.

However Mr Caouissin's mother has told journalists that the existence of the gold bars was a "myth".

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Pascal Troadec's sister and former brother-in-law were questioned in Brest

Mr Caouissin, 46, had already been interviewed by investigators at the beginning of their inquiry into the family's disappearance, but he told them he had not seen the Troadecs for several years, French media reported.

However his DNA was reportedly later found on a glass left in a sink in their home and also on Sebastien's car, which was found last Thursday in the port of St Nazaire.

A day earlier, a social security card and a pair of trousers belonging to Charlotte had been found by a jogger in a forested area near Brest.

In a search of the family's house last week, investigators found bloodstains matching the DNA of the parents and Sebastien, but not of the daughter.

Traces of blood were found on Sebastien's phone, on Brigitte's watch and under the stairs, and it appeared that someone had tried to wipe them away.

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