Police think British man may have been target
FRENCH POLICE investigating the shooting dead of four people in a suspected ambush in the Alps believe Saad al-Hilli, an Iraqi-born British citizen, may have been the target.
He was shot dead in a BMW car with his wife and mother-in-law on Wednesday in the incident, which occurred in a remote car park near Lake Annecy.
A local cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, who apparently stumbled across the attack, was also killed.
Preliminary forensic examinations showed all four victims were shot at least three times, and all four bodies had one bullet wound to the head.
“This case looks more and more like an ambush, even if we are not sure if it is the work of a professional,” prosecutor Eric Maillaud said.
Two girls, Zainab (7) and Zeena (4), survived the attack and were under police protection in hospital.
Mr Maillaud said investigators had gleaned little from a conversation yesterday with the four year old, who spent eight hours hiding under bodies in the car, apparently too scared to move, while police kept it sealed to await a forensics team.
“She is only four so what she has been able to tell us is more about the ambiance. She has spoken of hearing noises and cries and told us she was afraid so she hid,” Mr Maillaud said.
The elder girl, believed to be her sister, was badly beaten and underwent a second operation in Grenoble for severe head injuries. Mr Maillaud said investigators were anxious to speak to her but had to respect doctors’ advice. He said that her condition was improving but she was unable to speak.
With police increasingly of the view that the family may have been targeted, their attention turned to Mr Hilli’s private and professional life as they searched for clues to any motive for the killings.
Mr Maillaud said the inquiry team had received information from their British counterparts about a financial dispute between two brothers in the family.
The prosecutor told a news conference that one of Mr Hilli’s brothers went to see British police on Thursday to ask for news about him. The brother returned yesterday after hearing reports of a family conflict and told police there was no such disagreement.
French investigators have stressed that even if there was a family dispute, it would be a considerable leap to link it to the killing of three adults and the violent beating of a young girl.
There was no reason the brother should be considered the “number one witness”, the prosecutor said.