Mother of missing Swiss twins pleads for search to continue
The mother of Swiss six-year-old twins missing for almost two weeks on Friday called for the international search to continue despite receiving a letter in which their father said that he had killed them.
"My heart of a mother feels that my daughters are alive. I beg you, continue to search for Livia and Alessia. Keep looking, it can't be that my little twins are dead," Irina Lucidi was quoted by Italy's ANSA news agency as saying.
ANSA also cited relatives describing the chilling contents of a postcard and two letters sent to Lucidi by her estranged husband in the days before he took his own life at the end of a journey through France, Italy and Switzerland.
"I will be the last to die. I have already killed the girls. They did not suffer and now they are resting in a tranquil place," the father, 43-year-old Matthias Schepp," 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 was quoted as saying. "You will not see them again."
The report also quoted a postcard sent by the man to his wife from Marseille on January 31 referring to a custody dispute over their daughters.
"I can't go on if I can't get custody," he was said to have written.
Swiss police earlier revealed the contents of Schepp's last letter as French and Italian police continued searching for traces of the girls.
Police, who have described the tobacco company employee as a "desperate person" during his three-country dash last week, said that the last letter was post-marked the day he threw himself under a train in southern Italy.
"The last envelope dated February 3 contained a letter in which the father said he killed the two girls, saying he was in Cerignola where he was about to kill himself," said Vaud regional police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel.
"I can confirm that in his letter he also said that they did not suffer and were resting in peace," he added.
"In all likelihood they are in Corsica," said Sauterel.
Investigators on the French island were trying to piece together sightings of the fair-haired twins and their father on February 1, especially in Propriano where they arrived by ferry, sources close to the probe there said.
Police in Switzerland, France and Italy have been engaged in an increasingly gloomy hunt for clues about the fate and whereabouts of the girls after Schepp failed to return them to his estranged wife in Switzerland on January 30.
Schepp killed himself in Cerignola four days later.
Witnesses reported noticing the twins with their father on board a ferry between the southern French port of Marseille and Corsica, while Schepp later returned to the French mainland apparently alone before heading to Italy.
Investigators found after examining his computer that Schepp had consulted websites on suicide, poisoning and firearms as well as travel to Corsica before his turn for custody of the girls.
"We are dealing with someone who was extremely meticulous and who planned a certain number of things, including his trip to Corsica," Sauterel told journalists late Thursday.
The last letter was among eight envelopes from southeastern Italy that Swiss police learned about three days ago but kept under wraps with the family's agreement.
The rest contained 4,400 euros (4,000 dollars) in cash, while another 1,500 euros was found by Italian police in a disused letter box, said Sauterel.
Lucidi's family have said Schepp suffered from a split personality.
Swiss newspaper 24 Heures reported that 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.
Schepp's parents and siblings earlier spoke of their "great distress and worry" at his "terrible" actions in a statement to Swiss news agency ATS.
"We all agree and are persuaded that our brother could have committed in recent times acts that are so terrible due only to a serious mental disorder and the loss of his normal personality," they said.
"We have all suffered because of his death and the terrible and uncertain fate of our two nieces and granddaughters."
© 2011 AFP