Girl, 11, shot dead in her family’s garden by her neighbor

A long-standing disagreement over garden boundaries took a tragic turn in France this past Saturday. An 11-year-old girl was fatally shot, and her parents were gravely injured during a violent altercation with a neighboring retiree, law enforcement confirmed.

Solaine Thornton, the young victim, was allegedly targeted by 70-year-old Dirk Raats during a family barbecue in the disputed garden space, according to sources. Solaine’s father, Adrian, aged 52, has been left comatose, while her mother, Rachel, aged 49, sustained serious injuries to her back and head.

Miraculously, Solaine’s 8-year-old sister, Celeste, managed to escape the chaos and seek assistance.

Despite the grim circumstances, Raats, who has been accused of both murder and attempted murder, claimed he did not intend to harm Solaine. He has spent the last four years opposing the family’s efforts to clean up the inherited, overgrown garden attached to their property.

During a court appearance, Raats expressed his bewilderment at the situation, referring to the incident as “horrible”.

However, prosecutors hold that Raats intentionally targeted the girl’s parents, having shot them from less than 30 feet away.

Prosecutor Camille Miansoni suggested that Solaine, who was playing on a swing at the time of the attack, was not the primary target.

The incident unfolded in Saint-Herbot, Western France.

Before the shooting, Rachel had previously shared with friends that Raats had once brandished a gun at them over the very same garden dispute. On the day of the tragic event, Adrian was reportedly trimming the hedge separating their properties.

According to reports, Raats and his wife had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the Thorntons’ gardening activities, claiming it exposed them to unwanted attention.

The hostility reached its peak when the Thorntons felled an oak tree whose branches encroached on the Raats’ property. The Dutch couple sued for damages but were unsuccessful.

Two years prior, Raats attempted to reach a resolution through mediation at a local town hall, but the Thorntons did not engage in the process.

Following the horrifying incident, it was revealed that both Raats and his wife had been under the influence of drugs, and an illegal .22 caliber rifle was identified as the weapon used. A search of their residence also uncovered a substantial amount of cannabis and another illicit firearm.