NANTES, France — French police have exhumed five bodies from a freshly dug grave at a house in the northwestern city of Nantes – believed to be a family who went missing almost three weeks ago.
The gruesome discoveries began earlier Thursday when investigators dug up a human leg believed to belong to one of the sons from under a porch overlooking the family's back yard.
By evening, they had exhumed four more bodies. Nantes public prosecutor Xavier Ronsin said they are believed to be those of Agnes Dupont de Ligonnes, 49, and her four children: Arthur, 21; Thomas, 18; Anne, 16; and Benoit, 13.
The father, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnes, remains unaccounted for, the prosecutor said.
Bullet wounds were found on the bodies. Formal identification and the cause of death will be determined through autopsies planned for Friday, Ronsin added.
The entire family disappeared without trace on April 3 or 4, and Ronsin said police are now working under the hypothesis they were kidnapped and killed.
Carcasses of the family's two dogs were also found in the pit, Ronsin said.
Bizarre notes and emails obtained by the investigators have only confused the situation.
A letter found in the house suggested the family wanted to move to Australia, while an email sent by the father to someone close to the family said he was a secret U.S. agent and that he was to testify in a drug case, Ronsin said.
The family home showed no signs of struggle, Nantes police official Laurent Chavannes told journalists. Clean – with just a few brown-colored stains that are being analyzed to determine whether they could be blood, the house had apparently been emptied of much of its contents, he said.