A gun-wielding Dutch pensioner who allegedly killed an 11-year-old British girl and her parents was “on drugs” when he carried out the attack on Saturday evening, an investigative source said.
The 71-year-old neighbor allegedly stormed the family barbecue with a .22 rifle, killing young Solenne Thornon and wounding her father Adrien and mother Rachel before barricading himself in his home.
He and his wife were later arrested by elite firearms officers. “After his arrest, tests were taken and he was under the influence of drugs,” said the investigative source.
The attack followed a three-year dispute over noise pollution and a plot of land in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany, the region’s mayor said.
An investigation was underway on Monday morning “for the murder of a child under 15, and two attempted murders.” Adrien is seriously ill in hospital with a head injury while Rachael is also treated. They both underwent surgery. Their youngest daughter, eight-year-old Celeste, escaped unharmed.
News footage showed forensic investigators scouring the crime scene as the family’s belongings – including a picnic bag and a bottle of soda – lay abandoned next to a bench. Yellow numbered labels were placed next to each item.
An 11-year-old British girl shot dead in France was playing on a swing with her sister when their Dutch neighbor allegedly stormed their family barbecue with a gun, shooting her and injuring her parents
News footage showed forensic investigators scouring the crime scene while the family’s belongings – including a picnic bag and a bottle of soda – lay next to a wooden bench. A yellow label with a number was placed next to each item
It was the couple’s eight-year-old daughter Celeste who raised the alarm, neighbors said as she screamed “my sister is dead, my sister is dead” as she ran from the gunfire.
The little girl was unharmed and took shelter with a neighbor, but is in a state of ‘shock’ after the ordeal.
People in the village called them a “cute, friendly and helpful family.”
Mr. Thornon was known in the hamlet and surrounding countryside for helping with DIY jobs.
He remains “critical with life-threatening wounds,” while his wife was also in intensive care at Cavale Blanche Hospital in Brest, where they both underwent surgery.
Marguerite Bleuzen, mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, which covers the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, revealed that since at least 2020, there had been “neighbor dispute” between the two families.
“I intervened with my deputies when we were elected,” she said. “There was a problem with the land around their properties and noise pollution – that’s where it started.”
After the official intervention three years ago, there was ‘no question of an emergency situation’, but Ms Bleuzen realized that the quarrels remained dormant.
“Tongues are going wild this morning,” she said. “I think they all had a little trouble getting along.”
Mrs Bleuzen added: ‘The family was well known and loved. Every year there is a village festival and they always came. It’s incomprehensible that you shot a child. No one can understand how that could have happened.’
An 11-year-old British girl has been shot dead in France while playing on a swing in the garden after a neighbor allegedly stormed a family barbecue and shot at a family of four. Forensic investigations are depicted at the crime scene in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany
Solenne Thornon was playing in her garden in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany, when a neighbor brandishing a gun opened fire “several times” on Saturday night. Investigators are pictured in the yard where the shooting took place
Solenne Thornon was killed in her garden in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany
All the Thornons were in the yard of their property — a converted sawmill — when the shooting occurred around 9 p.m. Saturday.
A local prosecutor said Solenne and Celeste were playing on a yard swing when the gunman suddenly emerged and “shot multiple times.”
Solenne was killed, while their parents were injured.
The gunman then fled and barricaded himself in his house, after which he was arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder.
The suspect is now in custody and a murder investigation is underway.
“There was an argument between neighbors and a gun was pulled out,” says an investigative source. Tensions were clearly reaching boiling point. The older girl was shot dead and her parents were seriously injured,” he said.
“The father suffered a head injury and is in a critical condition in hospital, while the mother is also very seriously injured. The youngest child is the only one who was unharmed and managed to flee to another neighbor’s house.’
The intervention group of the National Gendarmerie tactical unit was called to the scene and a negotiator persuaded the neighbor and his wife to surrender before they were arrested, the prosecutor said.
A source described a “short siege” there after the gunman “locked himself in his house.”
After some negotiation, the suspect surrendered without a fight and was arrested along with his wife. He had retired to Saint-Herbot about six years ago.’
The couple’s eight-year-old daughter, Celeste, raised the alarm, neighbors said, and screamed “my sister is dead, my sister is dead” as she ran from the gunfire
An immediate neighbor of the Thornons told La Telegramme that he had seen the entire family under the oak tree in the back of their garden earlier that evening.
The shooting took place on Saturday evening in the picturesque village of Saint-Herbot, near Quimper in the Finistere department.
The Thornons lived in the property – a converted sawmill close to the local Catholic church – for “a number of years,” according to a neighbor.
A direct neighbor of the Thornons told La Telegramme that he had seen the entire family under the oak tree in the back of their yard earlier that night.
“The two little girls were playing near the games and on the swing, the parents were barbecuing on their usual bench,” he said.
Solenne was believed to be a student at Jean Jaurès College, in the city of Huelgoat.
Her parents, who both work locally, were taken to La Cavale Blanche Hospital in Brest to be treated for their injuries.
“The reasons for this tragedy are not yet known. It appears that there has been a conflict between the two neighbors for years over a piece of land adjacent to the two properties,” prosecutor Carine Halley said on Sunday.
“An investigation has been opened into the murder of a minor and three attempted murders.”
The British Foreign Office said it was providing assistance to a British family following a shooting in France.
The incident took place on Saturday evening in Saint-Herbot, a small village near Quimper (file image shows the chapel in the hamlet)
The girl’s parents, who both work locally, were taken to La Cavale Blanche Hospital in Brest (pictured) to be treated for their injuries (file image)