UK

British Man Accused Of Killing Children In France Appears In Court

20/05/2013 18:34 BST | Updated 20/05/2013 18:36 BST

A British man accused of killing his two children in France has appeared in court but has not yet been charged with murder, according to reports.

Julian Stevenson, 47, who appeared in court in Lyon on Monday, is alleged to have cut the throats of his daughter, five, and son, 10, during a custody battle with his French ex-wife.

"We are presently holding back from the charge of premeditated murder but this could always change in the light of (more) testimony," a prosecutor told the AFP news agency.

It reported that Stevenson had visitation rights but only in the presence of another person and he had taken the children home for the first time without a third party being present.

It is thought the children's mother arrived at his flat on Saturday afternoon and found her former husband standing on the stairway in bloodstained clothes.

Reports suggested she had gone to his home, in Saint-Priest, to the south east of Lyon, after he failed to return the children following the visit.

Stevenson was held after witnesses reportedly spotted him fleeing the area on roller skates, and he was taken into custody on Saturday evening.

The Briton, who was said to be unemployed, had been living in France for some time, possibly around 10 years.

According to local reports, he and his former wife, an assistant accountant, had gone through a bitter divorce in the past couple of years.

She was awarded custody of the children following their separation and moved to live in Isere, a region to the south east of Lyon, while he continued to live in the flat in the four-storey building.

Ahmed Benguedda, a former neighbour of the family, said his seven-year-old daughter used to play with the two victims, whom he described as "well adjusted".

"The people who live here are all in a state of shock," he told the Parisien newspaper.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in touch with the French authorities and await the outcome of their investigation. We stand ready to provide consular assistance."