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French police find body in missing teenager case

French police on Thursday discovered a body as they investigated the disappearance of an 18-year-old girl after the main suspect confessed to killing her during a lovers’ argument, a prosecutor said.

Prosecutor Cecile Gensac said the 39-year-old man led police to a location in the woods near the southern town of La Grand-Combe where the girl lived after pleading guilty Wednesday night .

He said he “killed the young woman during a fight related to their romantic relationship,” she said.

Investigators have found “the body of a girl who fits the description of the missing person in every way,” she added, although a forensic examination is still needed to confirm her identity.

A source close to the investigation said the body showed signs of a “violent death”.

Sihem, whose surname has been withheld, disappeared after leaving her home in La Grand-Combe late at night on January 25, “probably to meet people she knew”, the investigating judge said earlier.

Police deployed helicopters and sniffer dogs to try and locate her, but were unsuccessful.

On Tuesday, police detained the suspect, a man convicted of previous offenses including theft with a weapon, and his ex-girlfriend, who is herself a cousin of the missing girl.

The cousin has been released.

His lawyer, Jean-Marc Darrigade, said the suspect “decided to face up to his weighty responsibility in Sihem’s disappearance and to end the unbearable suspense for her relatives by directing investigators”.

“He knew his crime was unforgivable, but his silence only made it worse.”

Investigators initially suspected kidnapping.

France is increasingly concerned about the number of women killed each year.

As many as 122 women will be killed by partners or ex-partners in France in 2021, up from 102 the year before, the interior ministry said.

The country recorded some 146 cases of femicide in 2019.

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