Single automatic pistol used in Alps killings


FRENCH POLICE believe a single automatic pistol was used in the attack that killed three tourists and a local man in the Alps last week.

The revelation came as investigators continued their search of the home in southern England of Saad al-Hilli, the 50-year-old Iraqi-born engineer who was shot dead near Lake Annecy with his wife and mother-in-law last week. A French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, who apparently stumbled across the scene, was also shot dead.

Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said a 7.65-millimetre automatic pistol was the only weapon used in the multiple murder on a remote mountain road near the border with Switzerland and Italy. Some 25 gun shells were found at the crime scene, and postmortems showed all of the victims were shot twice in the head.

A British cyclist who was the first to arrive on the scene after the killings has told police he saw a green 4x4 and a motorcycle driving away from the area as he approached, but French officials have declined to say whether police are searching for one assailant or more.

In England yesterday, officers sealed off the road in the village of Claygate in Surrey, southwest of London, and began removing neighbours living close to the Hillis’ house after finding suspicious substances in the back garden.

A bomb disposal unit carried out an assessment, but local police said the items found were not hazardous. Mr Hilli, a mechanical engineer who worked with Surrey Satellite Technology, a subsidiary of aerospace and defence firm EADS, and the other victims were shot in what appeared to be execution-style killings.

His older daughter Zainab (7) who suffered serious skull fractures, came out of a medically induced coma on Sunday and will be questioned as to what happened as soon as she is able, Mr Maillaud said. Her younger sister Zeena (4) survived the shooting physically unharmed and returned to Britain on Sunday.

Five French officers travelled to England at the weekend, and the news agency AFP reported that two judges overseeing the investigation may join them there in the coming days.