CHEVALINE // French police today defended their handling of a deadly shooting in the Alps in which a four-year-old survivor was left for hours under the corpses of her mother and grandmother.
The girl miraculously emerged unscathed from the family car around midnight (2200 GMT Wednesday), eight hours after three members of her family and another man were found slain.
The girl had been hidden in the backseat of the car by the bodies of her mother and grandmother and was not spotted when police first arrived on the scene shortly after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Wednesday.
As well as the four dead, police discovered the seriously injured sister of the four-year-old lying by the side of the car.
"We had instructions not to enter the car and not to move the bodies," explained Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Vinnemann of the local gendarmerie.
The instructions were issued pending the arrival of an IRCGN team of forensic experts based in the Paris suburbs who are routinely deployed to the scene of major crimes.
The local gendarmes were unable to even open the doors of the family's BMW for fear that bullet-pierced windows would shatter, potentially compromising the work of the forensic experts.
In cases like this one, the IRCGN team calculates the trajectory of all the bullets fired in order to construct a 3D model of what happened.
"Firemen, technicians and doctors all looked into the car through the holes in the windows but none of them saw the girl," Mr Vinnemann told AFP.
"She didn't budge. She stayed under the legs of her mother."
A helicopter equipped with a thermal camera took images of the car to check if there were any other bodies inside but also failed to identify the girl.
"She was so close to her mother they appeared as one mass," Mr Vinnemann added.
After talking to fellow campers on the site where the family was staying, the gendarmes realised around 11:00 pm that one of their two daughters had not been accounted for.
They immediately launched a search of the area around the car with a helicopter and sniffer dogs but it was not until the IRCGN team opened the car around midnight that the girl was finally released from her ordeal.