Victims described as 'a nice, happy family'

Fri, Sep 7, 2012, 01:00

NOTHING IN the details emerging of the life of Saad al-Hilli points to any reason for him being the victim of a targeted killing, friends and neighbours say. He lived in Claygate, Surrey, southern England, in a mock tudor house.

James Matthews said the two had met through their children who had gone to playgroup together. He said he had spoken to the police: “I think if there had been something bubbling up like that [a conspiracy] I would have known about it.”

Hilli, a keen cyclist, lived in the well-heeled village for more than 20 years. Hilli would holiday in France or sometimes at a nearby campsite. “He’d just get in the caravan and go 10 miles down the road,” said Matthews. “He’d have an idea and then design it. He designed a trailer for his tandem so he could tow both his kids.” He described Hilli as a very loving and tactile father, and his wife as quiet and a good cook.

Another neighbour, Lorna Davey, said Hilli’s wife had been planning to return to work as a dentist with her youngest daughter due to start school. She had spent the summer studying for dentistry exams. Davey knew the family from the local school, Claygate primary, where the Hillis’ eldest child, now recovering from the attack on her, was a pupil. “They were very pretty, smiley little girls and a very nice, happy family.”

Yesterday, the picturesque corner of France where the cows outnumber local people by two to one was in a state of profound shock at its transformation from rural idyll to international crime scene.

“Nothing happens here. Nothing,” said one local woman, holding her face in her hands, before turning away visibly upset.

Nobody knows what drew the British family to this particular spot on that particular day. Police say they were wearing “city clothes” and certainly were not dressed for serious walking. Perhaps, police officers suggested, they had fancied the idea of a “pleasant stroll” in the woods. – (Guardian service)