France kidnapping: Girl found with mother accused of ordering abduction

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image caption The girl was found with her mother in an abandoned factory in Sainte-Croix

An eight-year-old girl who was kidnapped in eastern France on Tuesday has been found with her mother in Switzerland, officials say.

The girl was in good health after being found in an abandoned factory in the border village of Sainte-Croix, French prosecutor François Pérain said.

Her mother, Lola Montemaggi, was taken into Swiss police custody.

Officials say she ordered the abduction of the girl, of whom she no longer had custody, from her grandmother’s home.

Authorities previously said the girl had been abducted in Poulières, in the Vosges area, by three men who handed her over to her mother 20 minutes later. No violence was used.

On Sunday, Mr Pérain said investigators determined that mother and daughter entered Switzerland on the day of the kidnapping and spent the night in a hotel in Estavayer-le-Lac, near the border with France.

They then went to the nearby town of Neuchâtel, where a woman hosted them for another night. On the following day, Mr Pérain added, they were taken to the factory.

The girl will now be reunited with her grandmother.

Five men had already been arrested accused of involvement in the case, including three who allegedly carried out the kidnapping. Local prosecutor Nicolas Heitz said while one suspect waited in the car, two approached the grandmother pretending to be child protection officers.

A search of the home of one of the suspects in Paris revealed a prepared script to be read to the grandmother, as well as a Citroën C15 minivan said to have been identified by witnesses.

Three of the arrested are described as known survivalists – a type of anti-state individual living on the fringe and often linked to the far right.

Mr Heitz said one of those involved in the abduction considered himself a “dissident” in the style of fictional gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. Another believed he had saved the child’s life, although he admitted he might have been manipulated by the girl’s mother.

The suspects allege they were asked over the internet to carry out the plot.

Custody of the girl was given to her maternal grandmother last January after her mother reportedly told a family judge she wanted to “live on the margins of society”. Prosecutors said she had previously expressed the desire to sell up and live in a motor home “under the radar”.

 

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