British girl out of coma and set to be questioned


THE SEVEN-year-old British girl who survived a gun attack in the French Alps last week that saw her father and mother shot dead in their car is out of her coma and will be questioned by police as soon as she is able, the French prosecutor has said.

French and British police continued their search of the family house yesterday of Saad al-Hilli, the Iraqi-born British driver who was shot twice in the head along with his wife, an older woman and a passing cyclist on Wednesday.

“She [Zainab] has come out of her artificial coma and she is now sedated,” state prosecutor Eric Maillaud said. He said an aunt and uncle were by her side at the hospital in Grenoble.

Mr Maillaud said her sister, Zeena (4), who survived after the shootings on a remote forest road near the village of Chevaline, had returned to Britain.

French investigators have widened their inquiry into the shooting by initiating the search at the Hilli home and calling for help from police in Italy and Switzerland.

The family were on a camping holiday in the region with their two daughters and the woman (74), believed to be Mr Hilli’s mother-in-law.

Postmortem results showed all four victims were shot multiple times and each was shot twice in the head. Police increasingly suspected that more than one person may have been involved in the attack, Mr Maillaud said.

As efforts continued to establish a motive for the killings, five French investigators were in England at the weekend to take part in the search at the Hilli family home in the village of Claygate, southwest of London.

Police also examined the caravan in which the family had been staying at the Solitaire du Lac campsite in Saint-Jorioz.

In London, senior French officer Col Marc de Tarle said French and British police were co-operating closely, but that the investigation was likely to be “long and complex”.

“The co-operation is working well and the British police are putting in place all necessary means on a human and a technical level.”

Zeena spent eight hours hiding in the maroon BMW car in which her parents died before she was found by officers.

Zainab remained in a medically induced coma in Grenoble until yesterday, after being shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head.

Their aunt and uncle travelled to France at the weekend, accompanied by a British social worker and family liaison officers from Surrey police.

Mr Maillaud told journalists that Zeena had been interviewed, but he did not see a need to speak to her again as she “did not see anything”. .

Amid speculation over possible motives for the murders, Mr Maillaud said the 40-strong inquiry team was not excluding any hypotheses.

“No scenario, no path is closed until you are sure,” he said.

A British cyclist who discovered the crime scene has told police he saw a green 4x4 and a motorbike driving away from the area but did not hear any shots as he approached the spot.

At a press briefing, Mr Maillaud said ballistics test provided police with useful information, but the results would not be disclosed.

“I cannot say if the killer or killers were professional,” he said.

“All I can say is there was an absolute determination to kill. To put two bullets in the head of each person shows that whoever was responsible for the terrible drama was determined to kill.”

He added the postmortem and ballistic reports had pushed the idea of the victims being targeted by a lone gunman “further down the list of hypotheses”.