The father of missing Swiss twins trawled the Internet for information on firearms, poisons and suicide days before he apparently killed himself in Italy, Swiss police said Thursday.
An international search for the blonde 6-year-olds, Alessia and Livia, has been under way since Jan. 30, when their Swiss mother reported them missing.
Police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel told reporters Thursday night that analysis of the father's work computer had turned up the new leads and the investigation is also now focussing on his behavior before he disappeared.
"Before leaving Switzerland he researched sites on the Internet for information on firearms and various methods of suicide, different poisoning techniques and ferry timetables," Sauterel told reporters. "Investigations continue in Switzerland and in Italy, but are now revolving around Corsica."
Matthias Kaspar Schepp, 43, was found dead on Feb. 3 in the Italian city of Cerignola, east of Naples. Police believe he threw himself under a train. His Audi A6 was found parked near the station, with no child car seats or children's clothing inside.
Schepp picked up his daughters at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 30, but did not return them to their mother, Irina Lucidi, that night, or to school the next morning, as planned. The parents, who had separated, lived in St. Sulpice, an affluent lakefront community in Lausanne.
Police tracked his movement from Lausanne to France using his cell phone.
He left Lausanne with the girls in the afternoon, crossed from Geneva into France in early evening, Sauterel said. He was in Lyon, France around 7:30 p.m. that night, and the next day withdrew 7,500 euros ($10,200) in cash in Marseille before buying three tickets for the French island of Corsica, which he then stamped at the check-in point, .
Sauterel said they then boarded an overnight ferry for Propriano, on Corsica on the evening of Jan. 31.
Several witnesses have come forward to say they saw the twins with their father on the boat, notably in the children's play area. One witness has formally recognized the father at the port in Propriano on the morning of Feb. 1.
Alfredo Fabbrocini, a Foggia police official in charge of the probe of the Cerignola angle of the mystery, said late Thursday in a telephone interview with the AP that the father sailed alone back to the port city of Toulon in mainland France on Feb. 1.
He said Schepp then drove into Italy from France, but couldn't confirm Italian news reports that a camera had photographed the father's car license plate as he drove through the Italian coastal town of Ventimiglia, near the French border.
Schepp also sent his wife a note from Marseille, saying he could not live without her.
Sauterel said the father looked at sites about firearms on Jan. 27 _ the day he wrote a will police later found in his home and three days before he disappeared with the girls.
"Two days before he fled he looked up information about different poisoning techniques and timetables for ferries between Marseille and Corsica," Sauterel said. "The information shows that the father had planned the trip in detail."
Sauterel said Swiss police are now "focusing on the family environment, and the private and professional life of the father, in order to provide support and new information to French investigators" who are trying to establish Schepp's movements beyond Corsica, where the father and the twins would have arrived early on the morning of Feb 1.
Police added that they "are not aware of any extramarital relations on the part of the father" that could have influenced his behavior.
Sauterel did not specify if there was any indication that the research into the poisons was self-directed, or aimed at the children.
"These factors show that the father had carefully planned his journey," Sauterel said. "The investigation is now focusing on trying to establish more precisely the movements of the father from Tuesday noon, when he arrived in Corsica with the girls, until Thursday noon, when he was in the region of Naples."
The next place investigators suspect Schepp turned up was at a restaurant in Naples on Feb. 3 around noon. That would have been 11 hours before he was found dead in Cerignola.
A coffee bar owner in Cerignola said in interviews a few days ago that she saw a man and two girls who fitted the description of Alessia and Livia sometime last week.
Fabbrocini said police and the woman had viewed closed circuit video footage from the cafe "over and over," but no glimpse of the family was seen.
He said that days of searching the Cerignola area with sniffer dogs had failed to turn up any trace of the girls. Schepp had parked his car in the train station parking lot, a few hundred meters (yards) from where his body was found, the police official added.
The twins' mother appealed for assistance before television cameras outside her home Wednesday and expressed hope they might be found alive, based on fresh evidence that they had boarded the ferry.
That was a day after her brother, the girls' uncle, stood before reporters outside her home and said the family was losing hope because Schepp withdrew thousands of euros from ATMs and mailed much of it to his wife from Italy, rather than use it to provide care for the girls.
Alessia was dressed in blue jeans, a striped T-shirt and a white jacket; Livia wore a purple ski jacket with white and pink sneakers.
AP reporter Frances D'Emilio contributed to this report from Rome.