Police detain suspect after woman murdered in French retirement home

MONTPELLIER, France (Reuters) - A 47-year-old former soldier was arrested on Friday on suspicion of killing a woman in a retirement home in southern France where about 60 Roman Catholic missionaries live, a source close to the investigation said.

The man, who was arrested near his house, is a former employee of the retirement home, the source said.

French police launched a manhunt on Thursday after finding the woman dead in the home near the town of Montpellier.

France has been under a state of emergency since a wave of Islamist attacks last year, but police ruled out any terrorism link in the death of the woman.

“At this stage we can’t say exactly what the perpetrator’s motive was, but what we can say is that there is no link, none at all, with Islamist terrorism,” Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret told reporters.

Security forces were called to the home in Montferrier-sur-Lez, about 10 km (6 miles) north of Montpellier, late on Thursday, after a woman who had been bound and gagged freed herself and escaped.

On entering the building, police found the body of a 54-year-old linen maid who had been stabbed several times, Barret said.

He said investigators had found a car near the scene of the crime that contained a replica firearm and other materials that enabled them to identify a suspect.

Retired missionaries with past service in Africa and several nuns live in the home.

Reporting by Jean-Paul Pelissier, Chine Labbe, Gerard Bon and Emmanuel Jarry; writing by John Irish and Bate Felix; Editing by Richard Balmforth