Alps victims shot in the head


Three of the four people killed in a deadly attack near Lake Annecy in the French Alps were shot in the head, a public prosecutor has revealed.

Two girls, apparently on a camping holiday with their parents and grandmother, survived the mysterious attack on a car in a remote spot near the village of Chevaline yesterday afternoon.

A four-year-old girl was found alive and unhurt on the floor of the BMW car when a forensic examination began eight hours after police first arrived at the scene.

A second girl, aged seven, was brought to hospital in the city of Grenoble with serious head injuries and was in a stable condition today.

The owner of the car has been identified as Saad al-Hilli, from Claygate, in Surrey. The 50-year-old naturalised British citizen was born in Iraq.

Mr al-Hilli's wife was named by neighbours in Claygate as Iqbal, and the couple's daughters as Zainab, seven, and Zeena, four.

The bodies of the man and two women were found inside the car, while the body of a local cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, lay on the ground in front of the car. He apparently stumbled across the scene of the attack and had no known ties to the other victims, police said.

Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said three of the four victims - the driver, an elderly woman and the cyclist - were shot in the middle of the head.

Some 15 bullet casings were found at the scene, but police do not yet know how many weapons were used or what the motive may have been.

Mr Maillaud said the health of the seven-year-old girl was "improving". She suffered head injuries in a "very violent" attack and had been put into an artificial coma.

The prosecutor said the four-year-old had emerged from the car without any injury. "She stayed, curled up under the bodies for eight hours and didn't move in all that time," he said.

The first police officers to arrive on the scene did not spot the girl and, with the car being left untouched and the area sealed off pending the arrival of forensic experts, she was only discovered around midnight.

"It was only once we had access to the scene of the crime that we found her," Mr Maillaud said. "The little girl spoke English. She heard noises, shouts, but she can't tell us any more than that. She is only four years old.

"She is being looked after and we are doing everything we possibly can to care for her."

Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Vinnemann, head of the local Chambéry police, said the family had been staying at the nearby Saint-Jorioz camp site, where fellow campers reported their disappearance on Wednesday evening.

British consular officials were at the scene but the Foreign Office in London said it could not immediately confirm the identity of the victims or their nationality.

Around 15 bullet casings from an automatic weapon were found at the scene, local media reported.

Police who arrived at the crime scene at about 4pm (1400 GMT) yesterday did not spot the little girl at first because they were awaiting the arrival of forensic experts from Paris before opening the car doors.

Neighbour Lorna Davey said her daughter attended Claygate Primary School with Zainab, while Zeena was due to start at the school this year.

She said: “They were very pretty, smiley little girls and a very nice, happy family.

“I’m shocked. They’ve obviously been extremely unlucky.”

Ms Davey said the family would often go on holiday in their caravan and had been away on their latest trip for at least three weeks.

Mrs al-Hilli took denistry exams in the last few months, she added.

Additional reporting - Reuters/PA.