The girl’s parents were seriously wounded in the gun attack. Her 8-year-old-sister escaped and was found “unharmed but in a state of shock,” Quimper prosecutor Carine Halley said in a statement on Sunday.
The family were in their garden when their 71-year-old Dutch neighbor appeared with a firearm and started firing several times in their direction before shutting himself in his house with his wife, authorities say.
Police intervened at 10 p.m. local time. An hour later the Dutch man and his wife surrendered and were taken into custody – he has since been placed under investigation for murder, French prosecutors said.
French prosecutors say the 11-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital, and her father sustained a life-threatening head injury, and is in a critical yet stable condition. The mother, 49, was also wounded in the shooting and remains under care in hospital with the family’s other daughter, 8, who was hospitalized with shock.
The shooting was caused by a disagreement over gardening noise and the cutting down of trees bordering the properties, Régine Guillot, an administrative worker at the town hall of Plonevez-du-Faou, told CNN Monday.
The shooter had been angry at his neighbor, who cut down trees that provided shade to his property, Guillot said, adding that the dispute had been running for at least two years.
The Dutch man is suspected of firing three or four times with a rifle from his own property at his neighbors in their garden, some 10 meters away from him, French prosecutor Camille Miansoni said.
According to the prosecutor, the man is thought to have deliberately targeted the mother and father of the family, adding that the fact that the man went to find his rifle from within his house suggested a level of premeditation in the act.
Miansoni continued to say the pensioner’s wife who has Belgian nationality was placed under investigation on a less serious status for “obstruction of finding the truth.”
The prosecutor said the wife returned the rifle suspected of being the murder weapon to their house following the shooting.
According to the French prosecutor, the suspected shooter expressed “regret” for the killing, after being detained.
“We thought they were playing with firecrackers,” Yannick, a neighbor who heard the gunfire, told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
“The youngest girl came running to the neighbors shouting: ‘My sister is dead, my sister is dead,’” Yannick said.
Halley said Sunday “the motives for the tragedy are not yet known.” But, according to the initial investigation, “it appears there had been a dispute between the two neighbors for several years over a piece of land adjoining the two properties.”
The Quimper prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation on charges of voluntary manslaughter of a minor and attempted murder.
Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou, a town bordering Saint-Herbot, told BFMTV Sunday she had been made aware of a dispute between neighbors several years ago.
“I intervened with my deputies when we were elected. There was a problem with the land, noise complaints,” Bleuzen said.
“I’m dumbfounded,” the mayor added.