Survivor (4) speaks to police
The four-year-old girl who survived a multiple shooting in which her parents were killed has spoken to French police about the attack, prosecutor Eric Maillaud said today.
Saad al-Hilli, an Iraqi-born Briton, was holidaying in the picturesque Annecy region with his wife and two daughters and their grandmother when their car was attacked. Iraqi-born Mr al-Hilli (50) was gunned down in his car alongside his dentist wife, named by neighbours as Iqbal, and a woman believed to be her mother.
The prosecutor said Mr al-Saad’s daughter Zeena (4), who survived by hiding under her mother, had spoken to police about the attack, describing what Mr Maillaud said was the “fury” and “terror” of a massacre during which 25 bullets were fired at the victims.
Mr al-Hilli and one of the women were shot in the head along with a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack. The couple’s children - Zeena and her sister Zainab (7), who is seriously ill - are apparently the only witnesses to the shootings on an isolated road and are now under police protection.
Mr Maillaud said Zeena had told police she was with her mother and father when the attack happened but she did not see anything because she “dived under her mother’s legs” when the shooting began. Police are waiting for the green light from medical staff at Grenoble University Hospital to talk to Zainab as the motive behind the killings remained a mystery.
Investigators are looking into a British police tip-off that the shooting was related to an inheritance row. However, Mr al-Hilli's brother has denied he was in dispute with the dead man over financial matters, investigators revealed today.
Asked again today whether he thought it was a professional killing, Mr Maillaud would only say: “They were people who certainly wanted to kill people and they were not scared of taking a life.”
He refused to identify the weapon used. But he did tell reporters that 25 bullet cartridges had now been recovered from the scene. Earlier the police had only referred to 15.
Speaking earlier today Mr Maillaud said detectives hoped Zainab, who is in a stable condition, will recover sufficiently from the trauma to speak to them and that her memory had not been damaged.
“We are waiting for the ballistic team’s report and, when possible, a hearing with the eldest girl,” said Mr Maillaud. “Maybe she can give us information on the number of people present for example, or the colour of their skin, and other elements of description that might allow us to consider a bit more seriously a first lead.
“Medical staff have not yet given us access to the girl, we are waiting for their decision.”
Zainab was beaten repeatedly around the head and shot in the shoulder in the attack on the Surrey family, which took place on Wednesday. She was hit with “tremendous ferocity”, said the prosecutor.
Her younger sister was found alive in the family’s BMW underneath the bodies of her relatives around eight hours after the massacre, which also saw passing French cyclist, Sylvain
Mollier (45) shot dead. It is unclear if the shootings were carried out by one killer or a number of people.
A British cyclist, a former RAF serviceman who had been overtaken by the French rider, who came across the scene. He put injured Zainab in the recovery position and immediately called emergency services.
Today, French gendarmes lifted a road block nearly two miles away from where the murder took place. At the scene, a few pebbles spotted with blood, small shards of glass and tyre marks could be seen on the ground. There was a dent in a bank of dirt and vegetation at the back of the car park which the family’s BMW estate hit during the attack.
At Le Solitaire du Lac campsite in Saint-Jorioz, a caravan thought to belong to the family was cordoned off and its windows taped up.