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French police hope sketch will revive Alps murder probe

A French gendarmerie car is parked on September 8, 2012, at the place where three members of a British-Iraqi family and a local man were shot dead in the French Alpine village of Chevaline
A French gendarmerie car is parked on September 8, 2012, at the place where three members of a British-Iraqi family and a local man were shot dead in the French Alpine village of Chevaline

French police are hoping to revive their probe into the killing of a British-Iraqi family in the Alps with the release Monday of an identikit image of a mysterious motorcyclist.

The black-and-white image features a man sporting a goatee and wearing a rare type of motorcycle helmet that opens at the mouth.

"More than the identikit photo itself, it is the type of helmet that is interesting," said Benoit Vinnemann, the head of investigations for the local gendarmerie.

Saad al-Hilli was gunned down in September 2012 along with his wife and her mother in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy.

His two daughters survived the gruesome attack but French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, apparently an innocent bystander, was also killed.

Investigators have struggled to find any leads in the case and are now focusing on the presence of a motorcyclist seen by witnesses near the scene of the shooting.

Witnesses gave a description to police of the motorcyclist from early on in the case but it was not initially released for fear he would go into hiding.

Investigators said the helmet he was described as wearing is a rare model, with only 8,000 made in the dark colour seen by witnesses.

A band across the front of the helmet opens from the chin to allow conversations without removing it.

"The only helmet on the market that matches this description is the ISR-type GPA helmet," police said in a statement released with the sketch.

Despite checking with distributors, police have so far been unable to track down the helmet's owner.

"This is someone who was close to the scene during a time period that interests us and who may have done or seen something," Vinnemann said. "He is potentially the perpetrator, but above all a witness."

Police are also searching for a right-hand drive BMW 4x4 spotted close to the scene.

This handout picture released by French police on November 4, 2013 shows an identikit image of a motorcycle rider who was seen close to the site where four people were shot dead near the French Alpine village of Chevaline on September 5, 2012
This handout picture released by French police on November 4, 2013 shows an identikit image of a motorcycle rider who was seen close to the site where four people were shot dead near the French Alpine village of Chevaline on September 5, 2012

Police have put forward a number of theories for the killing, in particular the possibility of an inheritance dispute involving Hilli's brother Zaid, who was arrested by British police in June.

He was subsequently released and has protested his innocence.

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