A former policeman has been arrested in connection with the brutal murders of three members of a British-Iraqi family and a French cyclist near Lake Annecy in the Alps nearly a year and a half ago, a source close to the inquiry said Tuesday.
The Annecy prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Eric Maillaud, said the 48-year-old suspect is from the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps.
The man was described as a quiet "mountain man" and a gun enthusiast.
Mayor Antoine de Menthon of the town of Menthon-Saint-Bernard told AFP that the suspect had been "dismissed in June last year" but did not specify the misdemeanor for which he was let go. He said the man had been forced to quit his quarters after the sacking.
Prosecutor Maillaud said there was no apparent "direct link" between the man and the victims, and sources close to the case expressed caution, saying the arrest may only be for questioning.
A source close to the investigation said police searched the man's home, in the village of Lathuile near the scene of the crime, in the presence of his girlfriend.
The arrest comes nearly three months after the authorities released an identikit image of a mysterious motorcyclist seen at the scene of the crime.
"This arrest, which may not be the only one, was the result of witness statements" that emerged after the image was released in November, Maillaud said.
On September 5, 2012, three members of the British-Iraqi al-Hilli family were shot dead in their BMW station wagon, in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy. A French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also found shot dead at the scene.
French and British cooperation
The two al-Hilli daughters, then aged four and seven, survived the attack, in which more than 20 bullets were fired. The oldest daughter, Zainab, 7, was shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head, leaving her with a fractured skull, while her 4-year-old sister, Zeena, hid for eight hours under the skirt of her dead mother in the back of the family's car and survived without any injuries.
French police have struggled to make any progress in the case despite a major investigation carried out in coordination with British officers.
Saad al-Hilli's brother Zaid was arrested last year in Britain as the main suspect in the case, but police said last month there was insufficient evidence to press charges.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-18