Missing Swiss twins' mother in desperate Corsica hunt
The mother of missing Swiss twins, whose father said he murdered them before killing himself, scoured Corisca in a police helicopter Sunday in a desperate, against-the-odds bid to find them alive.
Irina Lucidi and her brother arrived on the French Mediterranean island on a private jet and immediately boarded a police helicopter to overfly areas in the south which the father mentioned in letters he sent before he died.
Matthias Schepp confessed in one of the letters to killing six-year-old Alessia and Livia Schepp before he threw himself under a train in Italy.
But the mother said Saturday she had "not lost hope" of finding her fair-haired daughters alive.
"I am destroyed, desperate, but I must continue to be strong. I will do everything necessary to find Livia and Alessia or at least to discover the truth," ANSA news agency quoted Lucidi, an Italian national, as saying.
"Time is passing, anguish is growing, but despite everything I have not lost hope and I hope to once again see my girls," she said.
Swiss, French and Italian police have been searching for signs of the twins after Schepp, a Canadian-born Swiss national, failed to return the girls to his estranged wife on January 30.
Four days later he threw himself under a train in southern Italy, in apparent desperation at his separation from his wife and a custody dispute over the daughters.
Hope of finding the girls alive faded after ANSA cited relatives describing the chilling contents of a postcard and letters he sent to Lucidi before he took his own life at the end of a dash through Switzerland, France and Italy.
"I have already killed the girls. They did not suffer and now they are resting in a tranquil place," the 43-year-old was quoted as saying in his last letter to Lucidi.
"I wanted to die with my daughters but it didn't happen that way. Now I will be the last to die," he reportedly wrote. "You will not see them again."
Lucidi's family have said Schepp suffered from a split personality.
Swiss newspaper 24 Heures reported he had been receiving psychiatric counselling, although there were no signs he presented a danger for his daughters.
By all accounts Schepp was regarded as a loving and doting father before his fateful trip.
French police were joined by Swiss colleagues on Saturday in Corsica, which Schepp had previously visited both on holidays and on work trips for the Phillip Morris tobacco company that employed him.
They have been scouring the island between Propriano in the southwest, where he arrived with the twins, and Bastia in the northeast, from where he left, apparently alone.
Meanwhile, Italian police were concentrating their hunt on a canal not far from the station at the southern town of Cerignola, where he committed suicide.
Italy's ANSA news agency said they were acting on the assumption that Schepp threw away the satellite navigator from his car before he killed himself.
If found, it could enable them to retrace his route since he left the Swiss village of St-Sulpice on January 28.
Investigators found after examining his computer that Schepp had consulted websites on suicide, poisoning and firearms as well as travel to Corsica before his final turn to look after the girls, whose custody was being shared.
© 2011 AFP