Swiss police comb lakeside area for missing twins

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Police combed the area near the Swiss home of missing twin girls including a nearby lake on Monday, in a desperate three country search more than a week after they vanished with their now dead father.

Father Matthias Schepp threw himself under a train in southern Italy on Thursday, having reportedly failed to return the six-year-olds to his estranged wife in the western Swiss lakeside village of Saint Sulpice on January 30.

Since then investigators have pieced together a trail of his movements through Switzerland, France and Italy, but with no sign of the girls, Alessia and Livia.

"Contrary to information given on Sunday February 6, police have for the moment had no eye witness accounts of the presence of the twins in Switzerland, France or Italy since Sunday, January 30 at 1300, when they were in Saint Sulpice near their father's home," Vaud canton police said.

"About 40 men with dogs are on Monday pursing their search in Switzerland, at Saint Sulpice, the home of the two young girls, and anywhere they might have been," police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel told AFP.

A helicopter was overflying the vast Lake Geneva, while investigators also searched nearby ports and four boats that might have been used by 43-year-old Schepp, the police force said in a statement.

The homes of both parents in Saint Sulpice have also been searched three times while neighbours were questioned, while checks were made on Schlepp's banking and phone records as well as his family in Basel and his workplace.

The car Schepp had been driving was found on Thursday at Cerignola in Italy's southern Puglia region after he committed suicide.

Police said Sunday Schepp was spotted in the southern French port of Marseille as he booked three tickets for a ferry crossing to the island of Corsica

Ferry operator Compagnie meridionale de navigation (CMN) confirmed that the tickets had subsquently been checked.

Sources close to the investigation in France said French police were focusing on the area of Propriano in southern Corsica where the ship was heading on February 1.

Video recordings of the unloading in the port were being screened by police. However the ferry sailed on to Sardinia afterwards.

Schepp, a Swiss citizen, had trouble coping with the separation from the mother of the twins, Irina Lucidi, who is of Italian origin. On January 31 he sent her a postcard from Marseille, saying he was desperate and could not live without her.

© 2011 AFP

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