Police row erupts over girl's ordeal in murder car
French authorities came under fire Thursday after a four-year-old survivor of a deadly shooting was left for hours under the corpses of her mother and grandmother.
The girl miraculously emerged physically unscathed from the family car around midnight (2200 GMT Wednesday), eight hours after three members of her family and another man were found slain in the French Alps.
The girl had been hidden in the backseat of the car by the bodies of her mother and grandmother and was not spotted when firemen and police first arrived on the scene shortly after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Wednesday.
As well as the four dead, police discovered the seriously injured elder sister of the four-year-old lying by the side of the car.
"We had instructions not to enter the car and not to move the bodies," explained Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Vinnemann of the local gendarmerie.
The instructions were issued pending the arrival of an IRCGN team of forensic experts based in the Paris suburbs who are routinely deployed to the scene of major crimes.
The elite team, which is part of the national hierarchy of the paramilitary gendarmerie, did not arrive until nearly midnight.
In the meantime, the local gendarmes were unable to even open the doors of the family's BMW for fear that bullet-pierced windows would shatter, potentially compromising the work of the forensic experts.
The delay in opening up the car was attacked by a union which represents officers in the national police, the other, often rival, wing of France's domestic security forces.
In a statement, the Synergie union said the IRCGN was incapable of operating in every corner of France and voiced astonishment that a police forensic team based in Lyon had not been called in.
"The ineptitude of a dual and expensive system has been held up to ridicule," the union said.
"Why did the national gendarmerie authorities not call upon the staff of the National Police Scientific Institute (INPS) based in Lyon, one hour from the scene of the crime?"
Vinnemann told AFP that the car had been checked as thoroughly as possible in the circumstances.
"Firemen, technicians and doctors all looked into the car through the (bullet) holes in the windows but none of them saw the girl.
"She didn't budge. She stayed under the legs of her mother."
A helicopter equipped with a thermal camera took images of the car to check if there were any other bodies inside but also failed to identify the girl.
"She was so close to her mother they appeared as one mass," Vinnemann added.
After talking to fellow campers on the site where the family was staying, the gendarmes realised around 11:00 pm that one of their two daughters had not been accounted for.
They immediately launched a search of the area around the car with a helicopter and sniffer dogs but it was not until the IRCGN team opened the car around midnight that the girl was finally released from her ordeal.
© 2012 AFP