Family feud becomes focus in grisly killings in French Alps; child survivors under protection

  • Article by: JAMEY KEATEN , Associated Press
  • Updated: September 7, 2012 - 6:57 AM
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French Gendarme Lt. Col. Benoit Vinneman, left, answers a question during a news conference in Annecy, France, Thursday Sept. 6, 2012. French investigators said Friday they still don�t know the reason for the killings of what appears to be a family of British vacationers found in a car in the French Alps.

Photo: Lionel Cironneau, Associated Press - Ap

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ANNECY, France - French prosecutors focused Friday on a feud between brothers as they searched for a motive in the slayings of a British-Iraqi family vacationing in the French Alps.

Two young sisters survived the deaths of their parents and an older woman in the family car late Wednesday, as well as a French cyclist whose body was found nearby. The children, apparently the only witnesses to the shootings on an isolated Alpine road, were under police protection Friday.

Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said British police have reported that the girls' father was feuding with his brother over money.

The younger child, a 4-year-old, was found hiding beneath the skirts of her dead mother in the backseat of the car early Thursday eight hours after the crime scene was discovered.

Her sister was found bloodied and battered outside the vehicle and 15 bullet casings were scattered around the car.

The dead cyclist, officials say, had no links to the family killed in a wooded area up a mountain road from the village of Chevaline, near bucolic Lake Annecy.

The case has taken international ramifications with links tying the slain family to Britain, Iraq and Sweden.

Maillaud said the BMW station wagon that three of the bodies were found in was registered to a British man born in Baghdad in 1962. The man, identified as Saad al Hilli, had lived in Britain since at least 2002, and his family had been in France since August.

Public records identified al Hilli as a mechanical engineer and his LinkedIn page described him as an aerospace consultant.

Sky News, citing neighbors in the British village of Claygate, identified al Hilli's wife as Iqbal, the 7-year-old as Zehab and the 4-year-old as Zeinab. Maillaud has declined to confirm any identities, pending results of DNA and fingerprint tests.

Sweden confirmed one of the victims was Swedish. French authorities found a Swedish passport that apparently belonged to the older woman, born in 1938, as well as an Iraqi passport.

The father of Saad and his brother Zaid died recently in Spain, family friend Mae Faisal El-wailly told The Associated Press.

The French cyclist was identified as Sylvain Mollier, 45, from nearby Grenoble. His wife had called police after Mollier failed to return from a ride.

Autopsies were planned on Friday at the nearby Grenoble Medical-Legal Institute.

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