River drownings in France similar to Austin Bice case - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

River drownings in France similar to Austin Bice case

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By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif.  (CBS 8) -- A series of river drownings in northern France is raising questions in the death of San Diego State University student Austin Bice in Madrid, Spain.

Bice's death is strangely similar to three recent, mysterious disappearances and deaths in Lille, France.

In the French cases, the victims were young men, whose bodies were found days later in the Deule River.

Like Bice, the three young victims had been drinking and were last known to be walking home alone through the city.

Bice, 22, disappeared last month after being refused entry to the La Riviera nightclub in Madrid. He told a friend he would walk home alone. His body was found ten days later in the nearby Manzanares River.

In Lille, France, 33-year-old John Ani disappeared Oct. 7, 2010 after a night of drinking. His body was found Oct. 11, 2010 in the Deule River.  Toxicology testing confirmed alcohol and drugs in his system, according to French media reports.

On Feb. 5, Thomas Ducroo, age 26, disappeared while walking home and turned up dead in the same river Feb. 23.  Toxicology tests also confirmed drugs and alcohol in body tissues, media reports said.

And, on Feb. 21, Jean-Meriadec Le Tarnec, 22, also went missing. Scuba divers located his body in the Deule River on Feb. 25.  Toxicology results are not yet in.

Last week, an estimated 800 protesters marched along the river banks in Lille demanding answers in the mysterious deaths.

Autopsies concluded the deaths were accidental drownings but family members do not believe it.

Posters in the town of Lille now warn students to watch out for a killer nicknamed "Jack the Pusher."

San Diego journalist Joel Siegfried wrote a series of reports for the online Examiner web site, in which he compared the drownings in France to the death of Austin Bice.

"It is highly unusual to have so many accidental drownings turn up that are not related to people who have been out on the water boating or swimming," Siegfried said.

Siegfried said the cold weather in Lille, France in the fall and winter makes it unlikely the young men who died there went into the water voluntarily.

A fourth body pulled out of a different stretch of the Deule River last week was a female who has not been identified.

Another young man, Charles Quemin, 19, went missing Sept. 2, 2009 after arguing with friends at a bar in Lille.  He left by himself and was found dead in the Deule River four days later, according to the La Voix Du Nord news web site.

Madrid is more than 900 miles south of Lille by road; about a 14-hour drive.

Austin Bice went missing on Feb. 26, during a week-long "ski holiday" in Lille, when many residents travel out of the city, said Siegfried.

"It just adds to the suspicion because during this time there might have been movement of people from Lille to Spain or elsewhere in Europe," Siegfried said.

Over the past two years, the bodies of several other young males have been found in various waterways throughout France, according to Siegfried.

So far, police have made no connection between any of the cases, as they continue to wait for toxicology tests to come back on the body of Austin Bice.

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