South Africa probes police killing of French couple

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South African justice officials Friday said they had launched an investigation into the killing of two French fugitives reportedly gunned down in a shootout with police.

The couple, 55-year-old Agnes Jeanne Jardel and 60-year-old Philippe Pierre Meniere, had been on the run since allegedly killing a policeman and wounding another during a search of their rental home last Friday.

South Africa's Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), which investigates allegations of police misconduct, said it had launched an inquiry into the circumstances of the couple's killing after police reported shooting them dead Thursday at a farm house in the Northern Cape province.

"Our main interest in this whole thing is the allegation that civilians were shot and killed by the police," ICD spokesman Tiyani Sambo told AFP.

"By law we are obliged to investigate all cases of deaths as a result of police action."

Sambo said investigators would deliver a report to the director of public prosecutions, who would decide whether any officers should face criminal prosecution on misconduct charges.

Northern Cape police spokesman Hendrik Swart said on Thursday that two civilians had been "shot dead by the police" after opening fire on officers.

Police reiterated Friday that they had not yet formally identified the French pair.

Jardel and Meniere's flight from the law began when police arrived at the farm where they were staying with a search warrant after being contacted by the owner, who suspected them of having illegal weapons.

The couple had rented the farm house for more than 10 years.

Weapons 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 the couple to an unoccupied farm house about a kilometre away and shot them dead.

© 2011 AFP

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