Did family feud lead to grisly Alps massacre?

Sep 08, 2012, 10:29 IST | Agencies

Cops suspect a possible inheritance row about wealthy father's properties behind the murders; will question the brother

Police are to question the brother of a British engineer murdered alongside his family in the French Alps about an ‘inheritance dispute’.

Mourning their loss: A policeman places a lit candle outside the home of a British family shot dead in their car in the French Alps. Pic/AFP.

Speculation is mounting that the killings, which also left a French cyclist dead, were carried out by a hired gun after it emerged three victims of the
Al-Hilli family were shot execution-style with bullets to their heads.

French prosecutor Eric Maillaud said, “It seems that there was a dispute between the two brothers about money. This seems to be credible information coming from the British police. The brother will have to be questioned at length. Every lead will be meticulously followed.” But Maillaud warned against jumping to conclusions, adding it was hard to imagine how a feud could “pass from financial dispute to a quadruple murder”.

Other theories are that the family may have stumbled on a drug deal or that it was a botched robbery. Yesterday, it emerged the father had confided to a neighbour that something was troubling him before he went on holiday. Jack Saltman revealed that Iraqi-born Saad begged him to keep an eye on his empty house.

Jack said, “He told me something about a problem he had. I told the police that I knew what this problem was. The only thing I have said is that it is definitely not political.” It was also claimed that Al-Hilli and his family, from Surrey, were under surveillance by Special Branch who followed him and his brother. Neighbour Philip Murphy said police asked if they could use his driveway to spy on the massacre victims’ house.

Meanwhile, shattered friends and neighbours battled back tears over the ‘beautiful family’ targeted in the Alps bloodbath. George Aicolina said, “They were a very close, very loving family.” Aicolina said he had no idea why the dad and his family should have been slain. He said, “It’s not like he is Mr Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

Aicolina said the girls’ mum Ikbal al-Hilli had been working as a dentist in the Middle East when their dad Saad met her. He said, “Saad went there on holiday. It was a great love affair.” Hi-tech engineer Saad popped the question and the couple wed in Surrey in 2003.

Praise for cyclist

A cyclist was praised for his calm response after discovering the French Alps murder scene where four members of the al-Hilli family were found dead. He also told detectives he saw a ‘green 4x4’ and motorbike speeding towards the murder scene before his arrival. A detective said, “He has a keen sense of observation. This could help us greatly.”

Girl keeps mum

A postmortem on the bodies is expected to take place later. Zeena had been questioned by detectives but has been unable to give any clues. The prosecutor said: “She was questioned, but without giving more details. We have to be careful about the declarations of a traumatised little girl.”

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