New witness: Frenchman tells how he found al-Hillis dead

Annecy police

There was not one sign of life, says man known only as Philippe D, of moment he found the family

LAST UPDATED AT 14:46 ON Tue 11 Sep 2012

THE DEATHS of the al-Hilli family, found shot in the woods near Lake Annecy last week, were not reported to the police by a former RAF cyclist, it transpires. In fact, the tragedy was reported by a Frenchman, identified only as Philippe D, who has told Le Parisien of the carnage he found.

Philippe D was driving up the road into the woods with two friends, aiming to go hiking, when the RAF man came cycling down the hill, just before 4pm last Wednesday, and waved them down.

The Englishman - still not named - told Philippe D "in bad French" that there had been a tragedy a little higher up the road and that he was looking to alert the emergency services.

Philippe D, unclear whether the Englishman had no mobile phone or was unable to find a network, got the cyclist to take him up to the scene of the crime.

“I understood straightaway,” Philippe D told Le Parisien. “I approached the car. I didn’t touch anything but I realised there was nothing more to do. There was not one sign of life.”

He then went over to the body of the young girl – now known to be seven-year-old girl Zainab – who was on the ground outside the car. He tried to get a reaction from her by clapping his hands. Realising that the family was English from the BMW’s UK licence plates, he tried saying a few words to her in English. “But nothing happened. To me she was dead.”

Philippe D then hurried back down the road and phoned the emergency services. Unsure whether the killer or killers were still in the vicinity, they waited anxiously for the emergency services to arrive. "We did not know whether we were alone or not – whether we were in danger."

Philippe D and his companions were taken along with the former RAF man to the police station where they gave witness statements. French police chose not to mention their involvement until now.

Philippe D has one explanation for how the culprits might have escaped unseen. He said they could have run away via a narrow, tortuous path called the Moulin, which leads from the parking area to a local main road.

Meanwhile, Zainab has awoken from her medically induced coma in a hospital in Grenoble and police hope she will be able to give crucial details about the attack. · 

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