Family of missing Swiss twins fear the worst

8th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The uncle of Swiss twin girls who have been missing for a week said Tuesday the family feared "the worst" after they received money the father posted before he committed suicide in Italy.

Matthias Schepp threw himself under a train in southeastern Italy last Thursday, having failed to return six-year-olds Alessia and Livia to his estranged wife in the western Swiss lakeside village of St-Sulpice on January 30.

"We fear for the worst," Valerio Lucidi told journalists outside the mother's home.

"We received several letters from Italy, from the village where he committed suicide, with all the money he took out in Marseille," he explained.

Lucidi said that although the envelopes bore Schepp's handwriting, there was no explanation with the 5,000 euros (6,800 dollars).

"It worries us because the theory that he might have paid someone to keep the children doesn't hold any more."

"The fact that he sent back the money is worrying," he added.

The affair has sparked a hunt by police in Switzerland, France and Italy in an increasingly desperate attempt to find clues of the whereabouts of the twins.

Although the father was sighted by witnesses as he drove more than 500 kilometres to the French Mediterannean port of Marseille, where he bought tickets for a ferry crossing to Corsica, police said no one had reported seeing the blond girls.

Swiss police were keeping up an active search on Tuesday for Alessia and Livia around the sleepy Lake Geneva suburb on the edge of Lausanne, and further afield.

"The search is continuing there are still operations underway with police officers, dogs and a helicopter," Vaud regional plice spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel told AFP.

Sauterel said the helicopter was scouring Lake Geneva along a stretch reaching down to Geneva.

"We are still searching the boats that might have been used," Sauterel added, without giving further details on polices lines of inquiry.

Schepp, a Canadian-born Swiss citizen, was known to be a sailing enthusiast.

The 43 year-old and the mother of the twins, Irina Lucidi, who is Italian, were reportedly going through a fraught separation, with shared custody of the children.

Valerio Lucidi described his brother in law's flight by car as "a moment of complete madness".

Investigators had pointed to the difference betweeen the amount of money the father withdrew in Marseille and "a few hundred euros" found on his body in the Italian village of Cerignola.

The discrepancy had raised slender hopes that he might have paid someone to take care of his daughters.

© 2011 AFP

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