Missing Swiss twins' mother in desperate Corsica hunt
The mother of Swiss twins, whose father said he murdered them before killing himself, scoured Corsica in a police chopper 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 the helicopter to overfly areas which the father mentioned in letters he sent before he died.
Matthias Schepp confessed in one of the letters to his estranged wife 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," the 44-year-old said.
Lucida's family were due to make a media appeal from Ajaccio airport in Corsica later Sunday for witnesses to come forward and help them locate the girls.
Swiss, French and Italian police have been searching for signs of the twins after Schepp, a Canadian-born Swiss, failed to return them to his wife on January 30 after picking them up two days earlier for the weekend.
Four days later he flung himself under a train in southern Italy, in apparent desperation at his separation from his wife and a custody dispute over the daughters.
The parents were a high-flying couple who worked for the tobacco giant Phillip Morris and who had separate homes in the quaint village of Saint-Sulpice on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
Hope of finding the girls alive faded after ANSA cited relatives describing the chilling contents of a postcard and letters Schepp 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."
Investigators discovered after examining his computer that Schepp had consulted websites on suicide, poisoning and firearms before his final turn to look after the girls.
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, a popular tourist destination which Schepp had previously visited both on holidays and on work trips.
He and the girls were last seen on a ferry from mainland France to the island on 31 January but there has been no confirmed trace of the twins since that date.
Police 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 on a ferry, apparently alone in his black Audi 6 car.
Italian police were meanwhile concentrating their hunt on a canal not far from the station at the southern town of Cerignola, where he committed suicide.
They were acting on the assumption that Schepp threw away the satellite navigator from his car before he killed himself, ANSA said.
If found, it could enable them to retrace his route since he left Saint-Sulpice on January 28.
© 2011 AFP