A nationwide alert had been issued and a photograph circulated of killer Abdelmalik Petitjean. Despite the manhunt Petitjean and accomplice Adel Kermiche, both 19, went on to slaughter Father Jacques Hamel, 85, during morning mass at a church in Saint-Etiennedu-Rouvray, Normandy, on Tuesday.
Petitjean’s photo was distributed to police after a foreign intelligence service warned France’s counterterrorism unit on July 22 that he was “preparing to take part in an attack”.
The warning – which did not include his name – went on: “He’s already in France and is preparing to act alone or with others.”
A source close to the investigation said: “Officers across the country were engaged in the race to find this suspect, but he evaded capture.”