May 20 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Police have started searching the home of a couple shot dead with two other victims in the French Alps.
Four French officers have travelled to the UK to work with British detectives at the house of Saad al-Hilli in Claygate, south west London, close to Twickenham.
Iraqi-born Mr al-Hilli, 50, was gunned down in his car alongside his dentist wife, named by neighbours as Iqbal, on Wednesday.
An older Swedish woman travelling in the car was also killed, along with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack in Chevaline.
The couple’s four-year-old daughter Zeena lay undiscovered under her mother’s corpse for eight hours after the murders. Her seven-year-old sister Zainab, who was found near the car, remains in a medically induced coma after being shot and beaten.
Two relatives of the al-Hilli family have travelled to France, alongside a British social worker. They will visit the girls who are under police supervision, according to reports.
However it was unclear when they would be able to see Zainab, as she continues to be treated in hospital.
Officers from Surrey Police erected a tent at the front of the al-Hillis’ house today as they prepare to conduct a search of the property with the French police team, led by officer Marc de Tarle.
Friends and neighbours in the shocked community have been leaving floral tributes near the home.
Police plan to look at aspects of Mr al-Hilli’s life to try to find a motive for the murders and also speak with his brother, named in reports as Zaid Hilli.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said investigators were told of a possible feud between Mr al-Hilli and his brother over money, but the sibling had gone to a police station to deny the row.
“The brother spontaneously went to see the police in Britain first to find out how his brother was because through the British media he had heard about the death of his brother,” Mr Maillaud said yesterday.
“He turned up again because he heard about the conflict, the dispute between himself and his brother and he said, ‘no, I don’t have a conflict with my brother’.”
He added: “Up until now the police in Britain were guaranteeing the safety of the house, but now it’s a Franco-British inquiry that is starting and we can now enter the house of Mr al-Hilli.
“His life, his job - I heard that he was the owner of three companies - all of that is the sort of thing that we have to find out about in England.”
The four-year-old girl has spoken to police and confirmed that two of the victims were her parents, but said she did not know the Swedish woman very well.
Mr Maillaud said the girl remained under the care of psychiatric teams and had spoken about what he described as the “terror” of what happened, but did not see anything because she was hiding.
He said: “The witness statement of the four-year-old girl, she just talked about a fury, a terror. She explained that from the beginning of the murder she was already between her mother and that other woman and she rushed under her mother’s legs, her mother’s skirt.
“I imagine she’ll go back to Britain in a short timescale. We have to be able to identify members of her family, we have to make sure that they are people that can be trusted. You can imagine that we cannot entrust that little girl to the first person that turns up.”
Her sister is not yet well enough to be interviewed but it is hoped she will be able to provide vital details of the attackers.
Witnesses have said they saw a green four-wheel-drive vehicle in the area at the time of the killings, and possibly a motorbike.
All the victims were shot at least three times and investigators have found 25 spent bullet cartridges at the scene on the outskirts of a forest near Lake Annecy.
Mr Maillaud said the family had visited France a number of times before and it was not the first time they had been to Le Solitaire du Lac campsite in Saint-Jorioz, which was where they were staying when they died.
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with Mr Mollier being a witness to the crime.
But speculation about other possible motives, including a pre-planned attack by professional hitmen, remained rife.
Surrey Police said it was assisting the French authorities as they carry out a “complex” investigation.
A spokesman said: “As part of this, the force is facilitating a visit by French investigators to conduct inquiries in the UK. We are unable to confirm any details around the investigation and it is inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.”