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Brother-in-law admits to murder of missing French family

Police have said the suspect confessed to killing four members of the Troadec family. The man was allegedly motivated by an ongoing row over a sizable inheritance.

Frankreich Ermordete Familie Troadec (picture alliance/dpa/MAXPPP/Le Télégramme/C. Prigent)

The suspect and his wife reside in this house in Plouguerneau

Prosecutors announced on Monday that they had procured a murder confession in the bizarre case of a missing family that has gripped France for weeks. Authorities in the city of Nantes said that Hubert Caoussin, the brother-in-law of Pascal Troadec, had admitted to killing the 49-year-old, his wife, and their two children, likely over an inheritance dispute.

Caoussin, 46, and his partner, Lydie Troadec, reportedly had a long-standing dispute with her brother over a supposed inheritance. The suspects told police that Pascal's family had unfairly acquired a substantial amount of gold that should have been shared with the rest of the family," according to prosecutor Pierre Sennes.

Pascal Troadec, his wife Brigitte and their children Sebastien, 21, and Charlotte, 18, were last seen on February 16. Brigitte's sister became concerned and phoned the police, who headed for the family's home in Orvault, a suburb of Nantes.

Describing the house "as if time froze," investigators said they found dirty dishes in the sink and clothes still in the washing machine. Pascal and Brigitte's cars were still in the driveway.  The only clues were traces of blood on a watch belonging to the mother and the son's cell phone. The family's other mobile devices were nowhere to be found. Police also said there had been clear attempts to clean up the crime scene.

Clues scattered along the coast

The next breaks in the case at first left investigators baffled. Nearly 300 kilometers (175 miles) away in the parents' hometown of Brest, a jogger found a pair of trousers and a health insurance card belonging to Charlotte Troadec. The next day Sebastien's car was found at a third location on the western coast of France, the port of Saint-Nazaire.

At first, Sebastien was considered a major suspect by authorities, having been prosecuted as a minor for making death threats online and allegedly suffering from mental illness. After finding his uncle's DNA at the house and in the car, however, police swiftly detained the man and his wife in Brest on Sunday.

They now believe that the scattered evidence may have been part of a larger plan to lead investigators on a wild goose chase.

After being questioned for 21 hours, Pascal Troadec's brother-in-law was set to be charged with murder and jailed  on Monday.

'Great violence'

Prosecutor Sennes told the press that Hubert Caoussin had admitted to entering the Troadec house uninvited for the purpose of "obtaining information." When the couple heard the noise, they came downstairs, with Pascal wielding a crowbar. "A scene of great violence," ensued, which ended in Caoussin killing the pair with the instrument. He then killed their children, who were at home for school holidays.

In his confession, he said that he then went home and told Lydie Troadec what had happened. On February 17, he returned to the house to clean up the crime scene and remove the bodies, which he said he and Lydie took away in Sebastien's car. 

"It appears the bodies were dismembered, some buried and others burned,"  according to Sennes. He added that authorities were still not sure where the pair had dumped the corpses.

Lydie Troadec, whose was conflictingly described by French media as Caoussin's partner, wife, and ex-wife, will reportedly be charged with abetting a crime and tampering with evidence. 

es/msh (AFP, AP)

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