The brother of the engineer murdered with three members of his family during a holiday in France has dismissed suggestions of a family feud and has told investigators he had no part in their violent deaths.
French police were heading to England last night to speak to Zaid al-Hilli (53) after receiving information from Surrey police about an apparent dispute between the two brothers over a multi-million pound inheritance following their father's death.
Iraqi-born Saad al-Hilli (50) was gunned down in his car alongside his dentist wife Ikbal, and another woman, aged 75, believed to be her mother.
They were shot at least three times in the attack on their car off a peaceful forest track. A French cyclist, believed to have witnessed the shooting, was also killed.
Investigators have spoken to the couple's four-year-old |daughter Zeena — who was unharmed in the attack — and hope to speak to their other daughter, Zainab, who is in an induced coma in hospital.
Investigators are hoping the seven-year-old will provide the key to solving the killings.
The children are apparently the only witnesses to the shootings on an isolated French Alpine road and are under police protection.
Investigators 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.
Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said detectives hope the youngster, who is in a stable condition, will recover sufficiently from the trauma to speak to them and that her memory was not damaged.
“We are waiting for the ballistic team's report and, when possible, a hearing with the eldest girl,” said Mr Maillaud.
Zainab was beaten repeatedly around the head and shot in the shoulder in the attack on the Surrey family, which took place on Wednesday.
Her younger sister was found alive in the BMW estate underneath the bodies of her relatives around eight hours after the massacre.
A passing French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier (45) was shot dead.
Mr Maillaud said he did not expect the four-year-old to be able to help police.
“She is a little girl who was hidden.
“It's not her who will help us progress the inquiry.”
Police have revealed there were signs of a vehicle braking at the scene but no weapon had been found and no arrests had been
made. It was also unclear if the shootings were carried out by one killer or a number of people.
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery.
Mr Mollier may have been a witness to the crime.
But speculation about other possible motives, including a pre-planned attack by professional hitmen, remained rife.
Mr Maillaud said British police had reported that the girls' father was in dispute with his brother over money.
He said: “It's an important piece of information that we will investigate.”
He added: “But all other lines remain open.”
Saad al-Hilli and his family lived in affluent commuter-belt Surrey, a far cry from his Iraqi roots. The mechanical engineer (50) is believed to have come to the UK in the 1970s, eventually settling in Claygate. He and his dentist wife Iqbal, who worked at a local surgery, were described as a lovely couple, whose children went to a local school.