The brother of a British computer engineer shot dead in the French Alps has denied being in dispute with the dead man, police said. Saad al Hilli, 50, was slumped over the wheel of his bullet-riddled BMW in an isolated woodland car park near Lake Annecy.
The bodies of his dentist wife Iqbal, 47, and an older Swedish woman were found in the back.
The couple’s four-year-old daughter Zeena laid undiscovered under her mother’s body for eight hours, while her seven-year-old sister Zainab is in an induced coma after being shot and beaten. The body of a French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45, who apparently stumbled across the attack, was found nearby.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud told a news conference information had come from a police source about a “possible conflict with regard to money matters” between Mr al Hilli and his brother. But he said the brother had told British officers this was not case. He learned of the murders on TV and went to see police to get more information.
He then returned to a police station after reports emerged of a fraternal dispute, telling them: “I have no conflict, no feud, with my brother.” Mr Maillaud said a French detective had flown to the UK to interview him as a witness.
Mr Maillaud also confirmed the identities of the murdered British family, from Claygate, Surrey. He said the information had come from Zeena, who was able to give the first names of her dead parents and her sister. But the little girl did not know the identity of the elderly woman found dead in the car. It was initially reported she was Mr al Hilli’s mother-in-law.
He said Zeena had not seen the attackers. “She didn’t bring anything to the inquiry,” he added. “The little girl was terrorised. She rushed under her mother’s legs. She heard, but she didn’t see anything.”
He also said detectives would get the DNA of the victims in the next few hours. All of the bodies had been shot at least three times – contradicting earlier reports – and 25 bullet cartridges were found at the scene. Earlier, police said 15 were found.
Mr Maillaud said the British cyclist who discovered the bodies did not hear any shots, but saw a green 4X4 car and a motorbike leaving the scene. Police could not confirm whether the killer used a silencer or the type of weapon used. “It’s absolutely useless to tell the killers everything they used, or everything we know,” Mr Maillaud added.
Meanwhile, officers are searching for a driver seen speeding away from the scene, according to Sky sources. Detectives are trying to track down the man, who was wearing a black shirt and driving a white Peugeot 4×4. It is understood the car had to swerve to avoid a woman in another car travelling in the other direction on Wednesday afternoon.
A witness told Sky News: “It was a white car, a small one with a man inside … and I think he was alone. Brown hair, I believe. “No one takes that turn that fast, because there is no visibility, you have to slow down and that was really too fast.” The bodies were found just off the country road.
The British cyclist, a former RAF officer on holiday, also found Zainab, who collapsed in front of him near the car. She had been beaten around the head and shot in the shoulder. She had been fighting for her life in an induced coma at a hospital in the city of Grenoble, but is now in a stable condition. Detectives hope she will recover sufficiently from the trauma to give clues to the killing.
Her sister has been admitted to another Grenoble hospital in “distress” and is receiving psychiatric care. Both girls, who go to school in Claygate, are being guarded by armed police. Mr al Hilli had been working as a freelance engineer for Guildford-based Surrey Satellite Technology after fleeing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
He and his family had been staying in a caravan at a campsite popular with UK tourists called Le Solitaire du Lac, in Saint Jorioz, since Monday.No weapons were found at the scene of the shooting, which happened at around 3.40pm on Wednesday.
Police have now re-opened the car park where the attack happened, but despite a lengthy clean-up operation, glass, tyre marks and blood can still be seen at the site. Sky News