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France retirement home killing: 47-year-old former soldier arrested

The suspect worked at the missionaries’ home “some years ago”.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

FRENCH POLICE HAVE 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 yesterday set nerves jangling in France after a string of 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, 15 kilometres 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 last 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, local police officer Jean-Philippe Lecouffe said.

Islamist extremists have carried out three large-scale attacks and a series of killings in France since January 2015, including the murder of an elderly priest in his church outside the northern city of Rouen in July.

– © AFP 2016

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