Elderly man investigated for fatally shooting British girl, 11, in France

A 71-year-old man, Dirk Raats, is being investigated for murder after the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old British girl, Solaine Thornton, in France. The incident took place on Saturday evening while Solaine was playing on a swing in her garden. Raats, a neighbour, reportedly opened fire through a hedge after approaching within 10m of the girl’s father. The suspect had been in conflict with the family over building work on their property.

Raats barricaded himself in his house in the village of Saint-Herbot, north of Quimper in Brittany, following the shooting but surrendered to police an hour later. His wife was also arrested but has since been released. According to prosecutor Camille Miansoni, the couple had been in conflict with their British neighbours for years over works taking place on their property. Raats was “profoundly exasperated” by the works, claiming they affected his privacy and caused disturbance to him and his wife.

Miansoni stated that Raats fetched one of his guns from his home and returned to the garden before shooting three or four times through the hedge, indicating a level of premeditation. “It appears that he clearly aimed at the father, that he aimed at his wife, but however he seems less clear as to a possible admission that he aimed at the girl,” said Miansoni.

The victim’s parents, Adrian and Rachel Thornton, were also injured in the incident and are currently in hospital. A search of Raats’ home revealed two rifles, one of which had not been previously declared. The couple, both Dutch nationals, tested positive for alcohol and cannabis. They had no previous convictions.

The Thornton family, originally from Oldham, moved to the hamlet of Saint Herbot in 2019. Adrian Thornton, a mechanic, had been clearing the land and cutting down undergrowth and trees, which appears to have caused friction with Raats and his wife. The mayor of the town of Plonevez-du-Faou, Marguerite Bleuzen, revealed that there had been tensions between the neighbours in the past but had not escalated to this level.

Locals say that the English family were well-liked, while Raats and his wife had limited contact with others in the area. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed that it is providing assistance to the Thornton family.

World News

Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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