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Manhunt for missing husband of Swiss ski champion

Written by: Staff

GENEVA, May 2 (Reuters) Swiss police today continued a huge manhunt for the missing husband of former Swiss World Cup skier Corinne Rey-Bellet, the lone suspect in her murder, but admitted they had lost his trail in a high-speed chase.

Investigating judge Philippe Medico issued an arrest warrant for Gerold Stadler after the 33-year-old champion and her brother Alain were shot dead in their parents' flat on Sunday night.

Their mother Vreni remained hospitalised in serious but stable condition after being shot five times in the attack which stunned the quiet Alpine hamlet of Les Crosets in Valais canton.

After Stadler was seen leaving the flat with a gun late on Sunday, and Vreni Rey-Bellet had raised the alarm, police were setting up a roadblock in a tunnel when Stadler's car sped wildly past them, a police statement said late today.

Police admitted they had then lost him in a high-speed race of 235 kms per hour on the motorway. The private banker's abandoned car, containing spent munitions, was later found.

''If he is alive, it is only a matter of time before he is caught,'' said Valais police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet.

The couple, married four years ago, had separated 10 days ago.

Their son Kevin was sleeping in the building during the family tragedy, which Swiss media said now occur monthly.

Rey-Bellet, who was training to be a physical therapist after retiring three years ago, had just begun teaching her 2-1/2 year old son to ski, the daily Le Matin reported.

Swiss Television showed film of Rey-Bellet at the same age, skiing behind her burly father Adrien, a real estate developer known locally as ''The Sherif'', at Les Crosets. ''It was hard to stay at home, I always wanted to go ski,'' she recalled later.

The village links the Swiss resort of Champery and other resorts in the vast Portes du Soleil ski domain, including Avoriaz in France, which together boast 650 kms of ski runs.

Rey-Bellet went on to win five World Cup races during her long career, including a rare feat of two wins on the same day in January 1999. A photograph of her racing that day in St. Anton hangs prominently at the cable car lift in Champery.

Battling injuries, she retired after clinching a silver medial in downhill at the 2003 world championships in St Moritz.

Rey-Bellet and her brother Alain, 32, ran a cafe-bar on the slopes of Les Crosets, popular with young skiers, which also displayed her many souvenirs and trophies in a special room.

''I feel very bizarre. I won't be able to drop by and visit her at her bar when going thorugh Les Crosets,'' Swiss World Cup skier Didier Defago, from the nextdoor village, told Le Matin.


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