Brittany shooting: Mother of British schoolgirl Solaine Thornton shot dead in France ‘cradled dying daughter in her arms’

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The mother of a British schoolgirl cradled her dying daughter in her arms after she was shot dead while playing in the garden of her home in France.

Solaine Thornton, 11, was shot along with her parents by their neighbour outside their home in Saint-Herbot, near Brittany at around 10pm local time on Saturday.

The victim’s father Adrien Thornton, from Oldham, Manchester, remains in critical condition while her mother Rachel Thornton, is now stable after being wounded.

Solaine Thornton was shot dead while she was playing in her garden during a quiet family barbecue

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Dirk Raats, a 71-year-old Dutch pensioner, was charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday night. His wife, Marlene Van Hoof, has been charged with attempting to hide two weapons.

Solaine’s younger sister, eight-year-old Celeste, was the only member of the family who was not shot and managed to raise the alarm.

Celeste ran into the house of family friend, Pierre Leroy, screaming: “They’ve killed my sister and shot my dad.”

Mr Leroy said he then ran straight to the Thornton’s and saw the mother “cradling” Solaine in her arms and “screaming”.

He told The Telegraph: “Adrian was shouting as well- injured but conscious- but the mother understood it was too late for her daughter. There were no words, just screams.”

The Thornton family were shot at during a family barbecue at around 10pm local time on Saturday night


Prosecutor Camille Miansoni said Raats and his wife “tested positive for alcohol and cannabis” at the time of their arrest.

Ms Miansoni said: “The couple in question blamed their British neighbours for work on the garden, and for repeated and increasingly unbearable noise pollution.

“On the afternoon of June 10 (Last Saturday), the day of the tragedy, the father of the victim’s family had carried out gardening work on his hedge.”

Local mayor said there had been a dispute between the neighbours leading up to the tragic shooting

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This prompted “the exasperated Dutch man to grab a grab a.22 long rifle and to fire three to four shots”, it is alleged.

However, the prosecutor added that it seemed Raats was “not aiming at the little girl.”

Local residents claimed that the neighbour had previously threatened the family with a rifle.

“That’s what the dispute three years ago was all about – police were called because he was threatening the family with his rifle,” one unnamed resident said.

“The two families were always arguing, and the rifle escalated matters, but nobody ever believed that he would use it.”

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are providing consular assistance to a British family following a shooting in France and are in contact with the local authorities.”

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