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A card distributed by the family depicts Romy, right, and Norah Carpentier, at the funeral home in Levis, Que., Monday, July 20, 2020. Romy and Norah Carpentier were found dead in Saint-Apollinaire, Quebec.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The Quebec father who was wanted in connection with the death of his young daughters last week and the subject of an intensive manhunt until Monday did kill the girls, before killing himself, in the forest near where they were last seen, provincial police confirmed Wednesday.

Martin Carpentier and his daughters Romy, 6, and Norah, 11, were already dead by the morning of July 9, just 12 hours after they disappeared in the wake of a serious car crash on a highway near their hometown of Lévis, near Quebec City, police said. That would mean the girls were no longer alive when an Amber Alert was issued for them that afternoon.

Mr. Carpentier killed his daughters with a blunt object about two kilometres from where his vehicle was found, Chief Inspector Guy Lapointe of the Sûreté du Québec said. The 44-year-old killed himself soon after, another three kilometres away.

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The behaviour of the Scout leader and house-painter appears to have been normal until after his car jumped the highway median on the evening of July 8, shortly after he had bought his daughters ice cream. Investigators found evidence that Mr. Carpentier tried to regain control of the Volkswagen Passat as the accident was taking place, leading them to believe the crash was not deliberate.

“It wasn’t something premeditated,” Chief Insp. Lapointe said. “This accident was a tipping point – it’s from there that the abnormal behaviour begins.”

Mr. Carpentier and his daughters then disappeared into the forest. Police believe the girls were injured in the crash. When police arrived at the scene there was no one in the car, although they did find Mr. Carpentier’s phone, one of his sandals and a melting ice cream.

Nearly two kilometres into the woods, the father and the girls stopped at a trailer, which Mr. Carpentier broke into, police said. Norah and Romy’s bodies were found a few hundred metres away, close to one another.

Police say Quebec sisters found dead after an Amber Alert were killed by their father, Martin Carpentier, less than 12 hours after they were last seen. The Canadian Press

When the family went missing, police did not immediately suspect a kidnapping and contacted taxi companies to try to find evidence of the family leaving the scene of the accident. They also sent dog teams to the area. But pressed by reporters about why the Amber Alert was not issued until the following day, Chief Insp. Lapointe said they had no evidence Mr. Carpentier intended to harm his daughters.

“The elements that we had at the time did not lead us to believe that the father was a danger to the girls, and that was corroborated by discussions we had with the family,” the chief inspector said.

Family friends have described Mr. Carpentier as a good father who maintained an amicable relationship with the girls’ mother, Amélie Lemieux, after the couple broke up about four years ago.

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For 10 days, provincial police searched intensively for signs of Mr. Carpentier in the dense woods around Saint-Apollinaire, near where the accident happened. The force marshalled dozens of officers, dog teams, ATVs and even a Transport Canada airplane, hoping to find him alive.

“Everything that could have been done, was done,” Chief Insp. Lapointe said.

Police finally found Mr. Carpentier’s body near a house they had visited twice before during the search. It appears he stole a ladder from the property, which the owner did not notice.

A coroner’s inquest will now look into the circumstances of the deaths, although police acknowledged that some mystery will always surround what happened to Norah and Romy.

“The suspect has died, so there are some things that we will never truly know,” Chief Insp. Lapointe said.

While the facts of this case are still unclear, it’s rare for a father to commit such a terrible crime completely out of the blue, said Simon Lapierre, professor of social work at the University of Ottawa, who specializes in the subject of violence against women and children.

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“What research tells us about this kind of situation, where kids have been killed by their dad, is it usually happens in the post-separation context,” said Dr. Lapierre. “It happens when the man doesn’t really accept the separation or doesn’t accept that their ex has a new partner. It often happens when there’s a history of domestic violence or attempts at control.”

Amelie Lemieux, right, is comforted by family members as she holds pictures of her two daughters, Romy and Norah Carpentier, at a memorial in Levis, Que. on July 13, 2020.

Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The girls’ mother has spoken emotionally about the brutal toll of losing her children. At their funeral on Monday, which was broadcast on a screen in the parking lot for the hundreds of Quebeckers who attended, Ms. Lemieux told her daughters, “I love you madly.”

“Thank you for choosing me to be your mother, a privilege that was priceless,” she said, reading from a letter she wrote to her girls. “Even if I didn’t have enough time by your side, I will continue to cherish, one by one, each memory, photo, video and continue to hear your soft voices call me ‘maman.’ ”

With reports from Mugoli Samba and The Canadian Press

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