Argentina nabs 7 suspects in French tourist deaths

AP News
Posted: Aug 07, 2011 9:45 AM
Argentina nabs 7 suspects in French tourist deaths

Argentine authorities have detained seven people, including the son and daughter of a high-ranking local police official, for questioning in the rape and slaying of two French tourists whose bodies were being flown back to Paris on Sunday.

Investigative Judge Martin Perez didn't identify the suspects, but Argentine news media are reporting that they include a police commissioner's adult children, who were arrested after they were found with the victims' camera and cell phone.

Salta's judicial authority announced on its website that all the suspects were arrested Saturday and will be formally questioned by the judge on Monday.

Along with semen, hair and skin from the victim's fingernails that is now being examined in Buenos Aires by Argentine and French experts to extract DNA, police also recovered a gun that appears to match the .22-caliber bullets that killed 29-year-old Cassandre Bouvier and 20-year-old Moumni Houria, the judicial authority announced.

It was the cell phone that led investigators to the latest suspects, El Tribuno, the local newspaper, cited unidentified police sources as saying in its Sunday edition.

When someone put in a new chip and turned on the phone Friday, detectives traced the signal to the home of the police official. Detectives then raided the home overnight and arrested the son _ himself a police cadet _ and daughter. Many digital images and phone records remain in both devices, the paper reported.

The paper reported that the daughter said her boyfriend, who works as a part-time tour guide, had given her the phone; the son said his cousin sold him the camera. Police followed the leads and arrested the other men, who include a caretaker of a gated community of weekend homes near the trail where the women had gone hiking, and several tour guides.

Bouvier and Houria had studied in the Sorbonne's Latin America program and had come to Argentina for an academic conference before their side trip to provincial Salta. Police now believe the guides led the women to an isolated spot where they and some of the others could rob and rape them, El Tribuno reported.

By the time a hiker came across their bodies on July 29, two weeks had passed since they had last been seen alive.