9 Sep 2012

French Alps shooting: girl returns to UK

The four-year-old girl who witnessed the killing of her parents in the French Alps returns to the UK, as her sister wakes from her coma and police continue to search the family home for clues.

French Alps shooting: police continue to search Surrey family home (Image: Reuters)

It is understood that Zeena al Hilli will fly into the UK after two relatives travelled to France alongside a British social worker and family liaison officers from Surrey Police.

French officials said that her seven year old sister Zainab is now out of a coma, but remains under sedation in hospital.

British and French police officers meanwhile continued their examination of their parents’ home in Surrey as part of the investigation into the murders that saw each of the four victims shot twice in the head.

Officers returned to the property in Claygate, Surrey, at around 7am on Sunday. The family home continues to be guarded by Surrey Police, who are assisting French police. Crime officers in full protective clothing moved between the house and a forensic tent erected outside the front door of the home.

Mr al-Hilli, 50, was killed in his car alongside his dentist wife, Iqbal, on Wednesday. An older Swedish woman travelling in the car also died in the shooting, along with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack in Chevaline. Zeena lay undiscovered under her mother’s corpse for eight hours.

Investigators entered the al-Hillis’ family home yesterday after a team of four French officers, led by Colonel Marc de Tarle, arrived in the UK.

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.

Investigators said Mr al-Hilli’s sibling approached UK police to deny any feud with his sibling over money.

Public prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the brother would be interviewed along with the rest of the al-Hilli family as witnesses as part of the investigation.

Investigation widens

It is also believed detectives will look into Mr al-Hilli’s profession, with reports emerging that he was working as a contractor for a satellites technology company in Surrey.

Zeena 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 they were working with Swedish authorities as they try to confirm the woman’s relationship to the family.

French authorities have also asked their Italian and Swiss counterparts to help them in their hunt for the killer or killers.

Witnesses have said they saw a green four-wheel-drive vehicle in the area at the time of the killings, and possibly a motorbike.

Investigators have found 25 spent bullet cartridges at the scene on the outskirts of a forest near Lake Annecy, while two mobile phones found in the al-Hilli’s bullet-ridden BMW are being analysed by police.

Post-mortem examinations revealed each of the victims killed in the attack had been shot a number of times, including two hits to the head, Mr Maillaud said.

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.