News Update


Brittany: A French gunshot suspect is being investigated for murder.

Prosecutors say the suspect in the deadly shooting of an 11-year-old British girl in France is being investigated for murder.

On Saturday evening, Solaine Thornton was shot dead while swinging in her garden.

Prosecutors said Dirk Raats, a 71-year-old neighbor, approached the girl’s father and opened shot over a hedge.

He had a falling out with the family over construction work on their land.

Following the event, Mr Raats locked himself in his house in the village of Saint-Herbot, north of Quimper in Brittany, but surrendered to police an hour later.

His wife, who was arrested alongside him, surrendered half an hour later, although she has since been released.

Prosecutor Camille Miansoni stated that the couple had been at odds with their British neighbors for years over construction on their land.

The suspect was “profoundly exasperated” by the works, which he said interfered with his privacy and caused him and his wife distress.

Mr Miansoni stated that the suspect went into his residence to retrieve one of the firearms before returning to the backyard and opened fire three or four times through a hedge. This demonstrated a level of planning, he claimed.

“It appears that he clearly aimed at the father, that he aimed at his wife,” Mr Miansoni said. “However, he appears to be less clear as to a possible admission that he aimed at the girl.”

Solaine Thornton and her eight-year-old sister Celeste were swinging on a swing as their parents tended to the grill when a neighbor opened fire.

The younger girl is believed to be in shock after running to another neighbor’s house to raise the alarm.

According to a neighborhood resident, the younger youngster went to neighbors screaming, “My sister is dead, my sister is dead.”

Adrian and Rachel Thornton, the victim’s parents, were also injured and remain in the hospital.

A search of Mr Raats’ residence turned up two weapons, one of which had not been declared previously. The couple, both Dutch nationals, tested positive for marijuana and alcohol. Prosecutors stated that they had no prior convictions.

Mr Miansoni stated that the suspect expressed regret and that a mental health evaluation revealed nothing significant.

Adrian and Rachel Thornton, both from Oldham, moved to Saint Herbot with their two daughters in 2019. Theirs is the only English household in the neighborhood.

The Thorntons had previously lived in different parts of France. Celeste was born in the Massif Central in central France, whereas Solaine was born in Brittany.

In Saint Herbot, the family’s home is a square, whitewashed, reasonably recent house with a large plot of land behind it and a workhouse that was previously a sawmill.

Adrian, a mechanic, spent a lot of time working on his plot of property while his wife worked in social services and his two children attended local schools.

According to Marguerite Bleuzen, mayor of Plonevez-du-Faou, the area had been abandoned and was reverting to its natural state. Adrian began clearing the property, chopping down vegetation and several trees.

This appears to be the source of his disagreements with his neighbors, whose enormous green-shuttered house stares down on the Thorntons’ land.

“I was called out there three years ago, when there were the first tensions,” Mr Bleuzen explained. “We were able to settle things, but I had never had to intervene since.”

However, following Saturday’s shooting, the mayor learned from neighbors that there had been frequent flare-ups.

“I was told that the Dutch man once pulled out a weapon.” “I wish I or the police had been informed because this could have been avoided,” he said.

According to locals, the English family was well-liked. They provided parking for the hamlet’s annual September celebration honoring the saint after whom it is named. The 14th-century church is 100 meters away from the Thorntons’ home.

In contrast, no one appears to have communicated with Mr Raats or his wife.

On Saturday night, about 22:00 local time, he fired through his hedge into the plot of property where the Thorntons were holding a barbecue.

The shabby children’s play area, complete with a swing and a little trampoline, is immediately close to the hedge that divides the two properties. The females were virtually at point-blank range when the man fired.

Rachel Thornton was cradling her deceased kid in her arms when police arrived, according to Mayor Bleuzen.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that it was assisting a British family.


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