Quadruple Killing In French Alps Yields Few Leads

On Monday, bomb squad investigators investigated the home of an Iraqi-British couple that was murdered while on vacation in the French Alps. Also killed were the man's mother-in-law and a French cyclist. Police say that extreme violence was used in the slayings, but the perpetrators are unknown.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. French police investigating the murder of a British family in the French Alps last week now say all of the bullets came from just one semi-automatic weapon. The attack took the life of a husband and wife, a grandmother and a passing cyclist. Both the killer and the motive remain a mystery and the case has been drawing huge media coverage on both sides of the English Channel. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The chilling crime scene was discovered last Wednesday afternoon in the Alps. A BMW station wagon pulled over on a mountain road. Inside, with two bullet holes to their heads, was a man, in the driver's seat, and two women sitting behind. Outside the car was a seven-year-old girl, gravely wounded but alive, and a French cyclist, also shot in the head, who had had the misfortune of passing by at the time of the attack. Police said they found 25 spent cartridges around the site that all came from a single gun.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: The murders are receiving non-stop coverage in the French and British media. The family had spent several days camping at Lake Annecy. Police thought they had found all the dead until campers told them the family had two girls, not just one. The investigators returned to the sealed crime scene some eight hours later, around midnight. On the floor of the car, hiding under the legs and skirts of the slain mother and grandmother, they found a four-year-old girl, physically unharmed, but in a state of shock. Peter Ricketts, the British Ambassador to France, came quickly to the scene.

PETER RICKETTS: Clearly this is a terrible, tragic event. A brutal murder. But also, this traumatic experience for these two young girls.

BEARDSLEY: Ricketts said French and British police were cooperating fully, and following every possible lead. The dead couple has been identified. Saad al-Hilli, a mechanical engineer and his wife, Ikbal. They emigrated to Britain from Iraq 10 years ago. The al-Hilli's lived in the small, well-off community of Claygate, south of London.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Very dramatic morning here in Claygate. Day three of the search of the al-Hilli home. Pretty early on this morning, the police suddenly, very quickly and very dramatically, said there was a cordon. They moved all the media away.

BEARDSLEY: Today, a bomb squad evacuated the houses surrounding the al-Hilli residence after finding a suspicious substance in an outdoor shed on their property. It turned out to be a false alert. So far, there doesn't seem to be much to go on. Authorities are probing whether an alleged financial dispute between Saad al-Hilli and his brother over their father's assets played a role. Eric Maillaud is the head French prosecutor on the case.

ERIC MAILLAUD: (Through Translator) There is no question that whoever did this was absolutely determined to leave no one alive on that mountain road, and had no problem killing children.

BEARDSLEY: Maillaud said he would not communicate regularly with the press and was at the limits of what he could reveal if police hoped to solve the case. This weekend the traumatized four-year-old was flown back to Britain and her seven-year-old sister emerged from her coma. She has not yet spoken to police, but is thought to be the only real witness to the crime. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.