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MISSING PERSON

French skier lost in 1954 in Italy finally identified

A French skier who went missing more than 60 years ago has finally been identified after details of a probe into his disappearance were posted on social media, Italian police said Sunday.

French skier lost in 1954 in Italy finally identified
Henri Le Masne, born in 1919, went missing after skiing in a storm near the Matterhorn in 1954. Photo: AFP PHOTO / ITALIAN POLICE

Human remains and ski equipment were found in 2005 more than 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) up the Cime Bianche in the Valtournenche valley of the Aosta region near the Swiss border in northern Italy.

The man appeared to be well off given his top-line wooden skis, said Marinella Laporta of the forensic police unit in Turin.

Investigators estimated the man to have been about 1.75 metres tall and aged about 30, with his death likely occurring in the spring.

They also found glasses, a watch and pieces of his shirt with embroidered initials.

Having made no progress with identification, the Aosta valley prosecutor decided in late June to post the investigation's findings on his Facebook page, asking readers to spread the information, especially in France and Switzerland.

Frenchwoman Emma Nassem heard the story on the radio and said the missing man could be her uncle, Henri Le Masne, born in 1919, who went missing after skiing in a storm near the Matterhorn in 1954.

Roger Le Masne, Henri's younger brother and now 94, also came forward.

“I am the brother of Henri Le Masne … who is likely the skier who disappeared 64 years ago. He was a bachelor and quite independent. He worked in the finance ministry in Paris,” Roger said in an email made available by the police.

Roger said he had gone to the hotel where his brother had taken a room for two weeks and where he found some personal effects, including money, after he went missing on March 26, 1954.

The police said a photograph provided by the family showed glasses matching those found by the investigators.

A subsequent DNA test confirmed the identification, they said.

READ ALSO: Tiny French village celebrates first birth in 50 years after baby was born in garden

MYSTERY

Mystery of poisoned babies at German hospital deepens after probe blunder

Fresh questions emerged Tuesday in the mysterious case of five newborn babies who were drugged with morphine at a German hospital, after police said they made "a mistake" when they arrested a nurse on suspicion of attempted manslaughter.

Mystery of poisoned babies at German hospital deepens after probe blunder
Ulm's University Hospital. Photo: DPA

The five babies, aged between one day and five weeks at the time, all survived the attempted poisoning on December 20th and are not expected to suffer lasting harm.

The nurse was detained on Wednesday after investigators searching her locker at Ulm University Hospital discovered a feeding syringe containing breast milk and traces of what initial testing determined was morphine.

READ ALSO: German nurse 'poisoned babies with morphine'

But Ulm prosecutor Christof Lehr told reporters that the first test was now known to be wrong, after further analysis showed the syringe did not contain morphine after all.

The woman was released from custody on Sunday, with an apology from the prosecutor.

The decision to act based on the preliminary test result, which had not been checked against a control sample, “was in hindsight a mistake”, said Ralf Michelfelder, head of the state police of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, at a press conference.

The error became clear after the mother whose breast milk was in the syringe volunteered to give a control sample, which also inexplicably tested positive for the heavy painkiller.

The lab in Baden-W├╝rttemberg carrying out the analysis then discovered it was their own solvent used in the tests that had been contaminated with a tiny amount of morphine.

Follow-up tests by a lab in the neighbouring state of Bavaria confirmed that neither the syringe nor the control sample contained any morphine.

“I'm very sorry for the woman in question,” Lehr said. But given the urgent need to keep infants at the hospital safe, he said he had had to make a quick decision.

Night shift staff

The nurse remains a suspect in the case, however, along with two doctors and three other nurses who were on duty that night.

“There remains an initial suspicion against these six people because of their close proximity to the infants at the time of the act,” Michael Bischofberger, a spokesman for the Ulm prosecutor's office, told AFP.

The investigation is continuing “in all directions”, he said.

The December 20th incident saw all five babies, some of them born prematurely, develop breathing problems at roughly the same time.

It was only thanks to “the immediate action taken by the staff” that the babies' lives were saved, Lehr said.

Ulm University Hospital initially suspected the infants had caught an infection.

READ ALSO: German nurse under investigation for murdering patients

But this was ruled out by urine tests whose results came back on January 16th.

The tests did however show traces of morphine — although none of the infants had been due to receive the drug at that particular time.

The hospital notified the police the following day.

Often administered to treat severe pain, morphine is also used to treat withdrawal symptoms in babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

A morphine overdose can lead to life-threatening respiratory failure.

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