French police arrest ex-soldier over murder at priests' retirement home
French police last night arrested a 47-year-old former soldier who investigators said was the main suspect in the killing of a female worker at a retirement home for Christian missionaries.
The death near the southern city of Montpellier late on Thursday set nerves jangling in France after a string of recent jihadist atrocities, but local prosecutor Christophe Barret said investigators believed it was not “Islamist terrorism”.
The suspect, who had served in France’s parachute regiment, worked at the missionaries’ home “some years ago” but was now unemployed, a source in the investigation told AFP.
He was arrested in the town where he lives, 15km from Montferrier-sur-Lez where the retirement home is located, and did not put up any resistance.
The prosecutor told reporters earlier that a replica gun that fires pellets had been found in a vehicle parked nearby.
Witnesses had reported that the killer appeared to have been carrying a sawn-off shotgun when he burst into the nursing home on Thursday evening before stabbing a 54-year-old worker to death. Police found her body in the building’s laundry room.
More than 130 police backed by a helicopter mounted the search for the suspect, said policeman Jean-Philippe Lecouffe.
A police official, who asked to remain anonymous, said military decorations were also among items found in the car nearby and that the vehicle was traced to a former member of the military.
He told reporters that a woman who works at the retirement home called police on Thursday night to say she had been attacked.
When the officers arrived, they found the body of another woman, gagged and tied up outside the building with three stab wounds.
The residence is operated by the African Missions Society, and takes in retired priests, nuns and others who have worked on missions in Africa.