Annecy murders ‘were political assassination’ by hit squad
French investigators believe at least two assassins were responsible for murders – and expert says it was probably state-sponsored
AT LEAST two assassins were responsible for the murder of a British family and French cyclist near Lake Annecy in France last week, investigators believe, while a former head of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad has said the killings were likely to have been a “political assassination”.
“We know the number of weapons that were used and the kinds that were used,” one investigator said, according to The Sunday Times. “Examination of the grooves on the cartridges and of the system for firing the bullet shows there was more than one killer.”
Saad al-Hilli, a mechanical engineer who lived in Claygate in Surrey, was shot dead in his BMW family car along with his wife Iqbal and his Swedish mother-in-law. A French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also gunned down. Al-Hilli’s four-year-old daughter Zeena was found alive and unharmed under the body of her mother, and her elder sister Zainab was found near the car. She had been shot in the shoulder and bludgeoned over the head, possibly with the butt of a rifle.
“We’ve established how the attack began,” said the investigator. “Zainab was already outside the car when it started.” The 45-year-old cyclist had been shot seven times, possibly because he was trying to flee.
All the dead had been shot twice in the head.
The details have fuelled speculation that the killings were a professional hit. French police have been investigating claims that Saad al-Hilli and his brother Zaid had fallen out over money.
But John O’Connor, former head of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, told The Sunday Times that the facts point to a state-sponsored assassination rather than a family dispute.
“These murders were carried out by killers with the precision and planning that comes with military training, which normally points to a political assassination,” he said.
The Mail on Sunday reports that investigators are likely to question work colleagues of Saad, who had been working for Surrey Satellites Technology Limited on a project for EADS, one of Europe’s biggest defence companies.
The paper suggests police will determine whether his work might have made him a target for assassination. “One line of inquiry is that Mr Al-Hilli had access to information that would have been valuable to a commercial competitor – or that he had become a victim of blackmail,” says the paper.
Meanwhile, French police are expected to spend a second day searching the Surrey home of Saad al-Hilli today after spending an hour inside it yesterday.
Zaid al-Hilli, who has already told police there was no feud between him and his brother, is reported to be inconsolable over the murders.
Zaid’s cousin, Ali al-Hilli, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, told The Sunday Telegraph there was no disagreement between the two brothers. Ali said he had spoken to Zaid since the killings over the phone: “He kept saying: ‘Why, why, why? How did this happen?’ I don’t think Zaid is coping with the pressure. He is really in very deep shock,” he said.
He added that Zaid is likely to look after the two orphaned girls.
"As far as I know, Zaid is intending to go to France to look after the children,” he said. “The young girl is in shock and doesn’t know anybody around her, but she does know Zaid because he lived with the family… He had a room in the house with the family. He knows the family. He knows the girls."