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 underway 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 websites, which also included ferry schedules.
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 had been given custody of his daughters for the weekend, but did not return them to their mother, Irina Lucidi, as planned. The parents, who had separated, lived in St. Sulpice, a wealthy lakefront community in Lausanne.
The search for the girls spread to Corsica and southern Italy on Wednesday, after authorities confirmed that Schepp had driven them as far as the French port of Marseille where they boarded an overnight ferry for the island of Corsica on the evening of Jan. 31.
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.
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 over the next two days he researched "various means of suicide, different techniques of poisoning and ferry schedules between Marseille and Corsica."
Sauterel did not specify if there was any indication that the research into 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."
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.