Mon, Aug 08, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Murder weapon found in Argentina tourist killings

EVIDENCE:Police found a .22 caliber gun, a camera and the cellphones of the two French students whose bodies were found on a Salta nature preserve last week

AFP, SALTA, Argentina

Police found on Saturday the murder weapon with which two French tourists were killed in northwestern Argentina and arrested six people, the judge working the case said.

“The .22 caliber weapon was found in the home of a neighbor of one of those arrested today, who had confessed to where it was hidden,” said Marcelo Baez, a spokesman for the Salta justice department.

The latest arrests, including that of the daughter of a former police officer and a police cadet, brought to seven the total number of people detained in the case, Judge Martin Perez said.

Construction worker Daniel Vilte was arrested early last week for his links to the purchase or sale of the weapon.

During an early morning raid, police found a camera and the cellphones of French university students Houria Moumni, 24, and Cassandre Bouvier, 29, whose bodies were found last week on a trail in an area overlooking the provincial capital of Salta.

“The camera had pictures of them,” a source close to the investigation said, noting that testimony from a rental-car driver who was the last person to see the women had led to the arrests.

Two witnesses have told investigators they heard gunshots on July 16 in the part of the nature preserve where the bodies were found.

One of the women was shot in the head and apparently sexually abused. The other was shot in the back.

Investigators have taken DNA evidence from the bodies, including hair samples thought to be of the culprit and traces of semen from the body of the victim who is believed to have been sexually abused.

Sources close to the investigation said they expected to determine the exact time of death in 10 days, data considered key to determining whether they were held captive before being killed.

The women had arrived at the nature preserve on July 15 and their bodies were found two weeks later.

Their bodies were taken to Buenos Aires for repatriation to France and the Paris flight due to take them home departed on Saturday, though without any official confirmation that the women’s remains were onboard.

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