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French prosecutor still seeking Alps murderer

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-19

A French prosecutor said on Wednesday that the mystery surrounding the murder of three members of a British-Iraqi family and a local cyclist in the French Alps in 2012 had still not been solved, despite the arrest of two men the previous day.

One man was arrested on Tuesday morning in connection with the killings in 2012 near Lake Annecy and taken for interrogation. One of his friends was arrested trying to flee on Tuesday evening.

Éric Maillaud, the Annecy prosecutor, told a press conference on Wednesday he thought it “hard to envisage” that the man in custody would be charged in connection with the killings. He said that no link had been established between the suspect and any of the victims.

In September 2012, Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old Iraqi-born British tourist, was gunned down along with his wife Iqbal, 47, and her  mother,74, in a woodland car park. Each was shot multiple times in their British-registered BMW estate car and more than two dozen spent bullet casings were found near the vehicle.

The couple's two daughters, aged seven and four at the time, survived the gruesome attack but the older girl was shot and badly beaten.

The younger girl was physically unscathed because she hid under her mother's skirts for hours after the killings, initially escaping the notice of police.

A 45-year-old French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also killed after apparently stumbling upon the scene.

Passionate about weapons

Maillaud said the first suspect “was, in all likelihood, implicated in arms dealing”.

He said that both men were “passionate about weapons” and particularly those from the Second World War and Lugers.

Earlier in the investigation, Maillaud said the murder weapon was a Luger P06, Parabellum 7.65 issued by the Swiss army in the 1920s and 1930s.

On Tuesday, Maillaud had said the man arrested bore “a strong resemblance” to an identikit picture issued in November in connection with the shootings.

The man in custody, a 48-year-old father of three and former policeman, was arrested as he left his house in Talloires, a village on the east shore of Lake Annecy, at around 10am on Tuesday morning.

Locals said that the suspect had been teased in a local café over his resemblance to the identikit picture.

The police searched the house, some 10 kilometres from where the killings took place at Chevaline, as well as two other houses much closer to the scene of the crime, which the suspect reportedly owns and plans to rent out.

They seized numerous weapons, including Lugers, and took them for ballistic tests. They also removed a motorcycle and crash helmets.

On Wednesday, Maillaud said that none of the items had matched those used in the crime.

French police have struggled to make any progress in the case despite a major investigation carried out in coordination with British officers and which stretched across 23 countries.

Maillaud described the killer as "seasoned," pointing out that he had reloaded three times during the attack and had finished off his victims with a bullet between the eyes.

Saad al-Hilli's estranged brother Zaid was arrested last year in Britain but English police said last month there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-02-19

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