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New clues discovered in case of vanished French family

Police are one step closer to cracking the mystery of what happened to the Troadec family. The discovery of the son's car abandoned by a shipyard has backed up a police theory that the man killed his parents and sister.

The case of a missing family of four in western France took another strange turn on Thursday, when the son's car was found an hour away from their home in the city of Nantes, which is itself 300 kilometers (186 miles) away from where some of the daughter's possessions were found on Wednesday.

A Peugot belonging to Sebastien Troadec, 21, was discovered in the coastal town of Saint Nazaire. The car was found sitting in a church parking lot near the navy shipyards. Le Monde newspaper reported that bits of blood were found inside the vehicle. A source inside the investigation told the daily that the car appeared to have been "cleaned inside and out" and that the carpeting had been torn out of the trunk.

'Macabre plan'

Nantes Prosecutor Pierre Sennes told French media that the investigation had progressed rapidly in the past day, but that "it is still very premature to imagine any scenario with certainty."

Police have indicated that Sebastien was the main suspect in the crime. According to a statement, authorities believe the young man had carried a "a macabre plan aimed at snuffing out the members of his family and maybe himself."

The last time anyone saw or heard from Sebastien, his 18-year-old sister Charlotte, and their 49-year-old parents Pascal and Brigitte was February 16, the same day the mother and daughter called to report the fraudulent use of Charlotte's bank card to pay for online video games.

After a relative alerted the police, authorities entered the house. The Troadecs were nowhere to be found, but the house did not appear as if anyone had planned to leave. There were wet clothes in the washing machine and dirty dishes in the sink. Automobiles belonging to the parents were still sitting in the driveway.

Forensic investigators found traces of blood belonging to the elder three family members, including Sebastien's bloody cell phone and his mother's blood-stained watch.

Authorities said there had been clear attempts to clean up the crime scene.

Familie Troadec vermisst in Frankreich (picture alliance/AP Photo/L. Notarianni)

Police said it looked like "time froze" inside the house

Jogger finds evidence three hours away

Pascal, Brigitte and Charlotte's cell phones have not been found. On Wednesday, however, a jogger in the town of Dirinon, near Brest, found Charlotte's national insurance card and a pair of trousers that belonged to the young woman.

Neighbors have said that Sebastien suffered from mental illness, and he was once sentenced to complete some community service after making death threats online.

Investigators announced on Thursday that they had widened their search area in light of the new discovery, and would also employ the use of divers and helicopters, as both Charlotte's belongings and Sebastien's car were found near water.

The case was a troubling reminder of a similar crime carried out just four kilometers from the Troadec family home. In April 2011, the six members of the Dupont de Ligonnes disappeared. The wife, Agnes, and her four children were later found buried underneath their porch. Police suspect that her husband Xavier killed his family and either fled abroad or killed himself. The crime had recently received renewed attention in France after a documentary about the incident was broadcast on national television in January.

es/bw (AFP, AP)

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