British girl, 11, who was shot dead in France 'didn't stand a chance' and her sister 'will have to live with it forever'

12 June 2023, 18:00 | Updated: 12 June 2023, 21:15

Solaine Thornton was shot dead while playing on the swings
Solaine Thornton was shot dead while playing on the swings. Picture: Facebook

By Emma Soteriou

A British schoolgirl who was shot dead in France "didn't stand a chance", her grandfather has said.

Solaine Thornton, 11, was playing on a swing in the garden of her family home in Brittany when a neighbour allegedly stormed in and opened fire.

Her father Adrien and mother Rachel were also injured in the attack, with Adrien struggling to survive in hospital with a head wound.

The 11-year-old's grandfather, Irvin Thornton, said police arrived at his house on Sunday night to break the news of his granddaughter's death.

"We don't know exactly what has gone on," he told MailOnline.

"We didn't know anything about a dispute. How can a 71-year-old man shoot a little girl?

"There might have been 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."

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Solaine Thornton
Solaine Thornton. Picture: Facebook

A Dutch man and his wife have been arrested in connection with the attack. The couple are thought to be retirees who moved to France six years ago.

The two families had been arguing for many years over a plot of land adjoining the two properties, according to the publication, citing a source close to the investigation.

Investigators at the Thornton property after the shooting
Investigators at the Thornton property after the shooting. Picture: TF1

The family had been enjoying a barbecue at home when the gunman emerged and shot several times, before running back to his house and barricading himself in.

Residents in the village of Saint-Herbot described Solaine's eight-year-old younger sister Celeste shouting: "My sister is dead, my sister is dead". Celeste, who was unhurt, took refuge in a neighbour's house and is said to be in a state of shock.

A source close to the investigation said: "There was a dispute between neighbours, and a gun was produced. Tensions clearly reached boiling point.

"The older girl was shot dead and her parents seriously wounded.

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Investigators at the scene
Investigators at the scene. Picture: TF1

"The father suffered a head injury and is critical in hospital, while the mother is also very badly hurt.

"The youngest child is the only one who is unscathed, having managed to flee to another neighbour's house."

There was a brief siege at the neighbour's house after he locked himself in. After some negotiation with police, he gave himself up and was arrested, along with his wife.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was providing assistance to a British family following the shooting.

The family lived in France, with the parents both working locally. Solaine was a pupil at the local school.

Prosecutors at the scene
Prosecutors at the scene. Picture: TF1

A neighbour said: "The two little girls were playing near the games and on the swing, the parents were sitting on their usual bench and having a barbecue."

Marguerite Bleuzen, the mayor of Plonévez-du-Faou commune, said: "We knew the family well. There is a village fête every year and they always came.

"It is incomprehensible to have shot a child. No one can understand how that could have happened."

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