French Alps shooting: Single pistol used to massacre family
THE massacre in the French Alps, which claimed the lives of three members of a British family and a French cyclist, was carried out with a single weapon, police have revealed.
• Bomb disposal experts were called to house following concern over items found at the address
• Streets around property were cordoned off and neighbours evacuated
• Surrey police helping French counterparts search the al-Hilli’s home
Detectives said that a semi-automatic pistol was the only weapon used, suggesting that a lone gunman may have been responsible.
Last night, police confirmed they had spoken to the dead couple’s seven-year-old daughter, Zainab al-Hilli, who was brought out of a medically
induced coma on Sunday.
She was shot and beaten during the attack last week, which left Saad al-Hilli, 50, and his dentist wife, Iqbal, dead in a remote spot close to Lake Annecy.
Mrs al-Hilli’s mother, Suhaila al-Saffar, 74, also died, along with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a cyclist who apparently stumbled across the shootings.
Zainab’s sister, Zeena, four, who survived by cowering behind her mother, has flown back to Britain with carers.
Zainab is the key witness to the attack. A source said: “They have been able to speak to her, but this was just an initial meeting. They could not go into any detail and the child was very tired. It was not permitted for the discussion to go any further.”
Police must now wait for permission from doctors before they can engage the girl in a more lengthy discussion, when she is expected to be asked about her memories of the attack.
French prosecutors have refused to be drawn on speculation that the murders were the work of a professional hitman.But they have contacted Swiss and Italian police in case the killer fled across either border.
French state prosecutor Eric Maillaud confirmed reports that a 7.65-millimetre automatic
pistol was the only weapon used in the massacre at Chevaline.
A French builder, one of the last people to see the al-Hilli family alive, has said they arrived at the isolated car park at least an hour before they were killed.
Laurent Fillion-Robin, 38, also said there was no sign of any vehicle following their BMW.
Two mobile phones discovered in the car are being examined by detectives.
Mr al-Hilli, the Iraqi-born British driver, was shot twice in the head in his car, along with his wife, her mother and the passing French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45.
About 25 gun shells were retrieved from the area and the corpses of the four victims suggesting that there could have been more than one gunman.
Mr Maillaud has refused to say whether police are searching for one assailant or more.
Police have been searching the al-Hillis’ £1 million mock-Tudor home in Claygate, Surrey. They ordered an evacuation of the surrounding area and erected a cordon around the home yesterday after becoming concerned about some “items”.
A bomb disposal squad was called, but left two hours later after establishing there was no danger.
A police spokesman said yesterday: “Surrey Police can confirm that items found this morning at an address in Oaken Lane, Claygate, are not hazardous.
“The bomb disposal unit was called to carry out an assessment as a precautionary measure.”
Neighbour Jack Saltman, whose property backs on to the al-Hillis’, described a shed, which was the subject of bomb-squad attention, as a “summer house”.
“I know his wife was using it to study for her dentistry exams,” he added. “She could have had some of her equipment in there. [Mr al-Hilli] had run a power cable and I think a telephone line down there. He was a great engineer and was always making things and helping people fix things.”
Police continued to search the home yesterday, with officers taking a sledgehammer, extension cables and a transformer into the back garden.
They are also planning to speak to Mr al-Hilli’s brother, Zaid, 53, for a second time. An alleged family dispute over money or business is one of a number of leads being considered.
There have been reports that the two brothers were in dispute prior to the death. There have also been reports of an e-mail from Saad describing tensions between the two brothers over their late father’s assets.
However, Zaid is understood to have denied there was any conflict between the two, and relatives say he is “devastated” by the murders.
Police are also looking into the possibility that the murders were the result of an armed robbery, or that it had something to do with Mr al-Hilli’s work.
He is believed to have moved from Iraq as a teenager in the 1970s, reportedly after the family’s mechanical engineering business was looked upon “unfavourably” by Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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