French and British police officers search for clues at the Surrey home of the couple gunned down in the French Alps, as relatives fly to France to be with the couples' orphaned daughters.
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The French have sent four officers to the UK to help British police investigate, starting with searching the house of victim Saad al-Hilli in Claygate, Surrey.
Officer Marc de Tarle was first to land at Heathrow, and three colleagues were arriving last night and today. The French have assigned 40 investigators to the case in the Alps and have enlisted the help of Italian and Swiss police.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud praised the "excellent Franco-British operation" at a press conference today. "I hope with all my heart we find the authors of this crime," he added.
Iraqi-born Mr al-Hilli, 50, was gunned down in his car alongside his dentist wife, named by neighbours as Iqbal, while on holiday in the French Alps.
An older Swedish woman, who was travelling in the car, was also killed, along with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack in Chevaline.
The couple's four-year-old daughter Zeena lay undiscovered under her mother's corpse for eight hours after the murders, while her seven-year-old sister Zainab remains in a medically induced coma after being shot and beaten.
I hope with all my heart we find the authors of this crime. French Prosecutor Eric Maillaud
Investigators also disclosed that Mr al-Hilli's brother has approached UK police to deny any feud with his sibling over money.
However, Mr Maillaud confirmed the brother will still be interviewed: "Of course he (the brother) will be interviewed - just as all the al-Hilli family will be over the next few days."
Police plan to look at aspects of Mr al-Hilli's life to try to find a motive for the murders and also speak with his brother, named in reports as Zaid Hilli.
"Up until now the police in Britain were guaranteeing the safety of the house but now it's a Franco-British inquiry that is starting and we can now enter the house of Mr al-Hilli," Mr Maillaud said.
"His life, his job - I heard that he was the owner of three companies - all of that is the sort of thing that we have to find out about in England."
Surrey Police erected a tent at the front of the al-Hillis' home today as they prepared to conduct a search of the property with the French police team, led by officer Marc de Tarle.
Two French detectives entered the house earlier with British officers, while scenes of crimes officers in full protective suits are continuing the search this afternoon.
Families have been visiting the home throughout the day to leave floral tributes outside the front of the house. Along with bouquets of flowers, teddy bears had been left and a Mr Men 'Little Miss Trouble' book.
The head of operations for Surrey police said: "This is a French-led investigation. Surrey police will do all we can in the support of the effective investigation on behalf of our French colleagues.
"Throughout that support I want to place the emphasis on the victims of this tragic incident and Surrey police, again working with our French colleagues, will be ensuring all those who need support will get the support.
"Specifically, Surrey police have deployed specially trained family liaison officers both here in the UK and abroad in France."
Colonel Marc de Tarle of the Gendarmerie said cooperation "both on the human level and the technical level" between the British and French authorities was going smoothly.
The four-year-old girl has spoken to police and confirmed that two of the victims were her parents, but said she did not know the Swedish woman very well.
Mr Maillaud said the girl remained under the care of psychiatric teams and had spoken about what he described as the "terror" of what happened, but did not see anything because she was hiding.
"The witness statement of the four-year-old girl, she just talked about a fury, a terror. She explained that from the beginning of the murder she was already between her mother and that other woman and she rushed under her mother's legs, her mother's skirt," Mr Maillaud said.
"I imagine she'll go back to Britain in a short timescale. We have to be able to identify members of her family, we have to make sure that they are people that can be trusted. You can imagine that we cannot entrust that little girl to the first person that turns up."
Her sister is not yet well enough to be interviewed but it is hoped she will be able to provide vital details of the attackers. Witnesses have said they saw a green four-wheel-drive vehicle in the area at the time of the killings, and possibly a motorbike.
The four victims were each shot twice in the head, Mr Maillaud confirmed today, while investigators found 25 spent bullet cartridges at the scene on the outskirts of a forest near Lake Annecy.
Mr Maillaud said the family had visited France a number of times before and it was not the first time they had been to Le Solitaire du Lac campsite in Saint-Jorioz, which was where they were staying when they died.
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with Mr Mollier being a witness to the crime.
But speculation about other possible motives, including a pre-planned attack by professional hitmen, remained rife.
Some media reports have suggested that Mr al-Hilli, an engineer who left Saddam Hussein's Iraq several years ago, was known to the security services and was put under surveillance by Metropolitan Police Special Branch during the second Gulf war.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said they could not comment. But it is understood there is no link between the deaths and any national security issues.
Surrey Police said it was assisting the French authorities as they carry out a "complex" investigation.
"As part of this, the force is facilitating a visit by French investigators to conduct inquiries in the UK," a spokesman said.
"We are unable to confirm any details around the investigation and it is inappropriate to make any further comment at this time."
07 September 2012
06 September 2012