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Passports of two victims in French Alps murder missing

British police stand outside the home of Saad and Iqbal al-Hilli in Claygate, in Surrey, south-east England, on September 14, 2012
British police stand outside the home of Saad and Iqbal al-Hilli in Claygate, in Surrey, south-east England, on September 14, 2012

French prosecutors said Thursday they had still not found the British passports of two victims of a brutal Alps murder last year, adding to the mystery surrounding the case.

Saad al-Hilli, a British-Iraqi man, was gunned down in September 2012 along with his wife and her mother in their parked car. His two daughters survived the gruesome attack in which more than 20 bullets were fired and a passing French cyclist was also killed.

"We never found the British passports of the Hilli couple. Investigators searched absolutely everywhere, on the bodies, in the family caravan, in the house in Claygate (in Britain)," said Eric Maillaud, a prosecutor in charge of the case in the eastern city of Annecy, in the Alps.

"Given the timing (of the killings), it's not impossible that the killer took the two passports... but that would have been tight," he told AFP.

Investigators also looked for the passports in police stations, lost-and-found offices and hotels along the route that the Hilli family took on their holiday from the northern French city of Calais to the Annecy lake.

"It only adds to the complexity of the investigation," Maillaud said, adding that surprisingly, Saad al-Hilli had ID papers on him belonging to his late father.

A BBC Panorama programme investigating the tragedy aired Monday and talked to two key witnesses, who both described seeing a motorbike and a BMW 4x4 close to the murder scene.

The programme pinpointed the motorcyclist as the likely killer, and French authorities have since announced they will release an identikit image of the man.

The Panorama programme also carried an interview with Hilli's brother Zaid, who was arrested by British police in June on suspicion of masterminding the killings.

The 54-year-old protested his innocence but admitted the pair had fallen out over their father's inheritance.

Zaid al-Hilli suggested that the passing cyclist Sylvain Mollier could actually have been the target for the attack and claimed French investigators were covering up the real motive for the murders to protect "very powerful local people".

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