French fugitives died in murder-suicide bid: SAfrican police

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South African police said Monday that two French fugitives who were killed last month after six days on the run had died in an attempted murder-suicide that ended in a shoot-out with police.

Ballistics tests and an autopsy have concluded that Philippe Pierre Meniere shot and killed his wife, Agnes Jeanne Jardel, then tried unsuccessfully to kill himself before police gunned him down after cornering the couple in an abandoned farmhouse where they were hiding out, said spokesman McIntosh Polela.

"We have established that (Meniere)... shot his wife shortly before police stormed the abandoned building in which they were hiding. He then tried to commit suicide himself," Polela told AFP.

"He shot himself and he was wounded, but that was by the time the police were really storming the building. There was a shootout between him and the police. He died as a result of both shooting himself and the shootout with the police."

Jardel, 55, and Meniere, 60, had been on the run since allegedly killing a policeman and wounding another during a search of their rental home in South Africa's Northern Cape province.

Police said the owner of the property, which the couple had rented for more than 10 years, had contacted them saying he suspected the pair owned illegal weapons.

Guns were seized during the search but as officers sought to take the man into custody his wife opened fire, according to police.

After a six-day man-hunt, police tracked them to an unoccupied farm house about a kilometre away, where the shootout took place.

Police initially reported they had shot the couple dead.

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), which investigates police shootings of civilians, has launched its own inquiry into the incident but has not yet reported on its findings.

© 2011 AFP

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