A young girl who was mercilessly killed by her angry next-door neighbour after a noise dispute “did not stand a chance” in the face of such disproportionate aggression, her grandfather has said. Solaine Thornton, 11, was innocently playing on the swings when her 71-year-old neighbour, who was “under the influence of drugs”, “fired several shots” at the little girl and her family in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, northwestern France over the weekend.
Solaine’s father, Adrian, has been left in a coma after he was shot in the head while the mother, Rachel, was shot twice in the head and back. Solaine’s younger sister Celeste, 8, meanwhile, managed to flee the garden when it came under attack but has been left indelibly scarred after watching her sibling brutally murdered in front of her. The family grandfather suggested that horrific memory would “live with her forever”.
The shocking sequence of events appears to be the culmination of a three-year dispute over noise and a plot of land, according to the region’s mayor.
But Solaine’s grandfather, Irvine Thornton, questioned how a 71-year-old man can “shoot a little girl” over a land dispute.
The 11-year-old and her family had been enjoying the warm evening in the garden of their home in the small hamlet of Saint-Herbot when the Dutch neighbour shot at them several times, according to French prosecutors.
Solaine’s younger sister Celeste, 8, who was in the garden when the neighbour opened fire, reportedly fled the scene repeatedly screaming “my sister is dead” as her parents, 52-year-old Adrian and 49-year-old Rachel, were subsequently gunned down.
“How is [Celeste] going to get over that? It will live with her forever,” the grandfather told MailOnline.
He said the police had arrived at his home on Sunday night, 24 hours after the attack, to break the devastating news.
“’We don’t know exactly what has gone on,” Mr Thornton said. “We didn’t know anything about a dispute. How can a 71-year-old man shoot a little girl?
“There might have been a dispute over land but you do not do that. She didn’t stand a chance. And in front of her sister. How is she going to get over that? It will live with her forever.”
The Quimper city authorities – Saint-Herbot is located in its northern suburbs – issued an initial statement suggesting the 71-year-old Dutch pensioner “suddenly appeared with a firearm and fired several shots in the direction of the victims … before retreating to his home with his wife”.
He then barricaded himself in his house next door before eventually surrendering when a police negotiator coaxed him out of his property. He and his wife were subsequently arrested by elite firearms officers.
“Tests were taken following his arrest, and he was under the influence of drugs,” an investigating source said.
The attack followed a three-year dispute over noise and a plot of land in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany, according to the region’s mayor.
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Regine Guillot, secretary of the nearest town hall in Plonevez-du-Faou, said the British family had lived in the hamlet for five years and that the Dutch neighbour was a private man.
He told Reuters that the issues leading to the attack were over a “hedge, a field, but nothing more than that”. He added that the “village is in shock”.
The Dutchman first threatened the family with a .22 rifle a far back as 2020, according to neighbours in the hamlet.
One said: “That’s what the dispute three years ago was all about – police were called because he was threatening the family with his rifle. The two families were always arguing, and the rifle escalated matters, but nobody ever believed that he would use it.”
The case has been handed to the public prosecutor in Brest given its gravity.
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