Man held in France over family gun deaths

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French police have arrested a 48-year-old man in connection with the killings of a British engineer and his family.

Saad al-Hilli and his wife Ikbal, from Claygate in Surrey, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, who lived in Sweden, were all fatally shot on a remote forest road in Chevaline near Annecy on September 5 2012. Local cyclist Sylvain Mollier was also murdered.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said it followed the release in November of an artist’s impression of a motorcyclist seen near the scene of the murders.

Mr Maillaud said: “As part of the inquiry into the Chevaline killings in which four people were shot dead and a little girl was seriously injured, a 48-year-old man living in Haute-Savoie was brought in for questioning by Chambery police this morning and placed in police custody.

“This questioning, which may not be the only one, is the result of witness statements collected after the release on November 4 of an artist’s impression of a motocyclist seen near the scene of the crime who investigators were actively looking for.”

Surrey Police said the arrest came from a line of inquiry in France and not as a result of the investigation in the UK.

The scene of the murders in 2012 was discovered by cyclist Brett Martin, who found Iraqi-born Mr al-Hilli, 50, his 47-year-old dentist wife and her elderly mother blasted to death in their BMW.

The al-Hillis’ first-born daughter Zainab was shot in the shoulder and beaten, but survived. Her then-four-year-old sister Zeena lay hidden under her mother’s body and was only discovered eight hours after the murders.

Speculation has surrounded whether the shooting was linked to the al-Hillis’ native Iraq, or Saad al-Hilli’s work as a satellite engineer. Mr al-Hilli’s brother Zaid al-Hilli was arrested in connection with the shooting, but Surrey Police decided there was not enough evidence to charge him. The al-Hilli brothers were alleged to have been locked in a bitter inheritance dispute.