Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Alps gun murders 'act of savagery'

CLAYGATE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Journalists gather at a house believed to be owned by a British family murdered in a shooting in the French Alps France on September 6, 2012 in Claygate, England. French police are investigating a multiple murder after the bodies of three members of a British family were found in a bullet-riddled car in the French resort of Annecy. A 4-year-old girl, who had remained hidden for hours, was also found alive after investigators eventually entered the car. Local news agencies have named the male victim as Saad al-Hilli. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
A gendarme blocks access to the site where four people were shot dead near Chevaline in the French Alps (AP)
Cameras are seen in front of Gendarmes who blocks access to a site where people were shot to death near Chevaline, French Alps, Thursday Sept. 6, 2012. A 4-year-old British girl hid for eight hours beneath the bodies of slain family members in the back of their car before she was discovered by French investigators who had been guarding the vehicle, a prosecutor said Thursday. Three people - a man and two women - had been shot to death, as was a French cyclist whose body was found nearby
Gendarmes guard the camp where the British family were holidaying at Saint Jorioz, near Annecy (AP)
A general view of Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France near where the bodies of four people were found, three family members in their car and another cyclist who also suffered gunshot wounds and was found lying close to the vehicle. A four-year-old British girl was found alive underneath the bodies of her parents around eight hours after a brutal massacre in the Alps, French authorities said today
A car drives through the entrance of the campground where the British family were holidaying in Saint Jorioz, near Annecy (AP)
A general view of Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France near where the bodies of four people were found, three family members in their car and another cyclist who also suffered gunshot wounds and was found lying close to the vehicle. A four-year-old British girl was found alive underneath the bodies of her parents around eight hours after a brutal massacre in the Alps, French authorities said today
A general view of Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France near where the bodies of four people were found, three family members in their car and another cyclist who also suffered gunshot wounds and was found lying close to the vehicle. A four-year-old British girl was found alive underneath the bodies of her parents around eight hours after a brutal massacre in the Alps, French authorities said today
A gendarme blocks access to site where people were shot to death near Chevaline, French Alps, Thursday Sept. 6, 2012. A 4-year-old British girl hid for eight hours beneath the bodies of slain family members in the back of their car before she was discovered by French investigators who had been guarding the vehicle, a prosecutor said Thursday. Three people - a man and two women - had been shot to death, as was a French cyclist whose body was found nearby. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps. An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo / Alexis Moro)
Gendarmerie Col. FranÁois, left, and Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud answer reporter near a killing site, near Chevaline, French Alps
A Gendarme's car heads to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept.5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps. An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps. An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps.An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps. An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo / Alexis Moro)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps.An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)
A road sign is seen while a Gendarme blocks access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps. An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)
Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps, Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. French authorities say at least four people have been shot to death in a forest in the Alps.An official with the regional administration for the Haute-Savoie region says three of the bodies were found in a BMW registered in Britain. (AP Photo/Alexis Moro)

Three members of a British family have been gunned down in an act of "savagery" in their car in the French Alps, police have revealed.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, who was originally from Iraq, was shot in the head alongside his dentist wife, named by neighbours as Iqbal, and a woman believed to be her mother.

The couple's four-year-old daughter, named locally as Zeena, was found alive in the BMW estate underneath the bodies of her relatives around eight hours after the massacre, which also saw a passing French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45, shot dead.

The al-Hillis' seven-year-old daughter, believed to be called Zainab, was in a medically induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital after being repeatedly beaten around the head and shot in the shoulder in the attack.

Three of the four who were killed were shot in the middle of the head, but the man investigating the spree played down suggestions of "professionalism" in the attack. Public prosecutor Eric Maillaud told a press conference: "I won't say it was professional, what I will say is it was tremendous savagery. And what is certain is that somebody wanted to kill."

But one of the family's neighbours in the upmarket village of Claygate in Surrey said he was going to alert police to something Mr al-Hilli said to him before travelling to the Le Solitaire du Lac campsite in Saint-Jorioz, close to the Swiss border.

Jack Saltman said: "I know one little thing which I am not prepared to speak (about) at the moment. I will tell the police about it. It was something Saad said to me before he went, but at this stage I do not feel I can disclose that, but I will tell the police exactly what he told me before he left."

The powerful BMW was discovered surrounded by spent bullet cartridges in a car park near footpaths on the outskirts of a forest near Lake Annecy, a picturesque region popular with tourists. A British cyclist, a former RAF serviceman who had been overtaken by the French rider, discovered the grisly scene in a quiet car park, said Mr Maillaud.

The four-year-old lay undiscovered as police waited for forensic experts to arrive at the scene from Paris. She was found "terrorised, motionless, in the midst of the bodies" after fellow campers at a nearby site told officers the family had two children, said Mr Maillaud.

Mr al-Hilli was known to the security services and was put under Metropolitan Police Special Branch surveillance during the second Gulf war, it was reported in the Daily Mail. A Scotland Yard spokesman said they could not comment because Mr al-Hilli had not yet been formally identified.

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