No suspect in Al-Hilli murder: solution 'could be years away'

Sep 13, 2012

'Heartbroken' family asks for 'swift justice' but Annecy police admit they are nowhere near finding the killers

ONE WEEK after the killing in the French Alps of the al-Hilli family from Claygate made headlines across Europe, the police investigation continues in Surrey and in the woods near Lake Annecy amid rising fears that the crime's solution is a very long way off.

The local news website has, for the first time, dropped the story from its top spot. There is a growing sense that seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli, on whose testimony police were pinning so much hope, might have little to say.

While "heartbroken" relatives of the al-Hilli family "hope that those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones are brought swiftly to justice", there is every indication that it won't be swift. The prosecutor overseeing the investigation is quoted as saying it could take as long as a decade to discover what happened.

The extent of injuries suffered by Zainab, protected by a dozen guards at the hospital in Grenoble in case the killer returns, is now clear. The injuries to her skull – two subdural hematomas - are so severe that she may suffer permanent brain damage. She also suffered a fractural orbital bone – the bone that surrounds the eye – and could be left permanently blinded in one eye. As the French authorities stress, she is very young and very damaged. Delicate, preliminary questioning suggests she may remember very little of what happened.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud, due to visit Claygate today, has admitted that French police are nowhere near finding the killers. As Le Parisien reports, they have leads to follow but no clear motive and no suspect. Asked when the crime might be solved, the Daily Mail says Maillaud responded: "We might have the answers in two, three or ten years – it's a painstaking procedure." Alluding to crime-solving TV shows like CSI, he said: "It's not like the American TV series where they solve everything in 45 minutes."

There are still several questions surrounding the behaviour and background of the al-Hilli family – who French police say were "no ordinary tourists" - none of which has been satisfactorily answered:

Why did the family suddenly leave on holiday when Zainab was due to return to primary school and four-year-old Zeena to start nursery school? It is a question The Week has posed before, and which someone close to the family has now raised. Linda Stedman, wife of Saad al-Hilli's accountant, told that it was "bizarre" that the family should go away on holiday at such a time.

How might Saad al-Hilli have had links to people working in the criminal underworld? Detectives have said "at least one" of the victims could have had such links. As Crispin Black wrote yesterday for The Week, the killer's Skorpion machine pistol is the signature weapon of the Serbian Mafia.

Why did Saad and his brother Zaid apparently fall out over their inheritance following their father's death? And whatever the reason, does it really have a bearing on the family's violent murder?

Why would al-Hilli still have links to Iraq? He was only a teenager when his parents fled the country for Britain in the late 1970s. Yet French police say his links with Iraq are high on their list of enquiries.

How might his work as an aerospace engineer have put him in harm's way? The Daily Telegraph reported a friend saying he worked on the design of the galley for the Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger plane. Other reports say he worked on satellite mapping. Might such contracts have made him susceptible to blackmail by terrorists?

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I find your use of inverted commas ("heartbroken") to be highly offensive, how the hell do you know how heartbroken their family is? I just hope they don't see this article!

Looks like quotation marks because that is the word they used rather than inverted commas to suggest that they are not really heartbroken