ANNECY, France — French authorities struggled Thursday to explain why no one found a 4-year-old girl for eight hours at a blood-strewn crime scene as she huddled in a car under the skirt of a corpse — apparently her dead mother or grandmother.
The stunning discovery Thursday of the girl, apparently unharmed, heightened the drama around a mysterious shooting rampage in the French Alps that left four adults dead and a 7-year-old girl hospitalized after being shot and brutally beaten.
The reason for the slayings remained unclear a day after a cyclist came across the corpses in a wooded area near the mountain village of Chevaline. It took on increasingly international ramifications, with links emerging Thursday tying the slain family to Britain, Iraq and Sweden.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said investigators were searching for possible perpetrators and studying all possibilities, including a score-settling attack or simply that the family was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The bodies of a man and two women were found shot to death in a BMW and the body of an unrelated male French cyclist was found on the ground nearby. Maillaud said three victims were shot in the head.
The two girls, who police said were sisters, were put under police care. The prosecutor warned there may still be a killer or killers on the loose seeking to "get rid of" witnesses to the "scene of immense savagery."
At a news conference, authorities tried to explain how the 4-year-old went unnoticed.