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Cyclist tells of horror at finding murder scene

In his first public account of his discovery of the French Alps massacre last week, British cyclist William Brett Martin described on Thursday finding "heads with bullet holes in them", in a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood film.


The British cyclist who discovered the four victims of a grisly murder in the French Alps last week told on Thursday how the scene resembled that of a Hollywood movie.

'I started to think, is that a bullet hole?'

William Brett Martin, a former RAF pilot, was climbing a hill near the town of Chevaline around 4pm last Wednesday, when he noticed seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli stumble into the road, bloody and barely conscious.

Moments later Martin found the bullet-ridden bodies of her parents and grandmother in a parked car, and of a French cyclist nearby.

Zainab survived the attack, as did her younger sister Zeena, four, who was found eight hours later hiding under her mother's body in the car.

“Unfortunately it was real life,” Martin said in an interview with the BBC, where he spoke in detail about his first impressions, the probably life-saving care he provided to Zainab, and his own fears during the experience.

Not a car accident

Martin said he first thought he had come across a “terrible car accident between a cyclist and a car” when he noticed a fallen cyclist whom he had previously spotted riding ahead of him. “The cyclist was on the ground more or less in front of the car,” he said.

“But there were things that didn’t match because the cyclist's bike was not beside him. He wasn’t grazed like you’d think… so things didn’t quite work. As the minutes went on I started changing my opinion about whether it was a car accident or something else.”

In and out of consciousness

The former pilot said his first impressions about Zainab also proved to be tragically wrong. “As I got a little bit closer a very young child stumbled out into the road and first I actually just thought she was playing with her sibling, because she was just sort of falling over, larking about like a child would,” Martin explained.

While the media have focussed on the murdered British couple killed in their car whilst on holiday, little attention has been given to the French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier who was also shot dead in a hail of bullets.

Family and friends of the 45-year-old father of three, who police believe was in the wrong place at the wrong time, have so far refused to speak to the media. Local newspaper Le Dauphiné Liberé managed to speak to some of Mollier’s colleagues on Saturday.

“He was a really kind father, a really nice man, who was very caring with his three children,” said one. “He had no trouble with anyone,” said Michel Chevallier the deputy mayor of the town of Ugine, who had the task of informing the victim’s partner of the horrific murder. “He spent his life with his family,” he added.

The local community are mystified as to the events that led to the cyclist being gunned down but some believe his presence may have distracted the killer or killers and inadvertently saved the life of the seven-year-old girl.

“However as I approached her it was obvious she was quite badly injured and there was a lot of blood on her,” he remembered. “She was prone on the road, moaning, sort of semi-conscious.”

Martin said he first moved her body from where it lay in front of the car, fearing the vehicle could lurch forward and crush her.

“She was breathing well enough. I put her in what people commonly call the recovery position. I sort of checked that she wasn’t profusely breathing and needed to be stopped, then moved to the other people.”

Engine revving, wheels spinning

When he turned his attention to the BMW, he noticed the car engine was revving and the wheels were spinning. He pushed through the driver's window to turn off the car engine and quickly realised there was nothing he could do for the occupants.

“There was a lot of blood and heads with bullets in them,” he said, adding that he had not spotted Zeena was alive in the car.

“The thing that struck me was their complete inanimate nature, which was how I assessed really, without breaking into the car and physically handling them, that they were dead,” he recalled.

“I became a little anxious,” Martin recalled. “I then started scanning the woods to see if there was some nutter or who knows what with a gun and I was going to be the next person shot.”

He tried calling emergency services but found he had no reception on his mobile phone.

At that moment he decided to go and get help, but was worried about leaving Zainab alone. “She was light so I could have done a fireman's lift and taken her on my bike,” Martin said.

Eventually he decided against taking her with him for fear of causing her further injury, “dragging her along like a ragdoll over my shoulder might have killed her.”

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