New al-Hilli murder theory: it was a tourist-hating serial killer
Can Annecy murders be linked to killing of Belgian tourist shot dead in northern France a year earlier?
WERE the murders of Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and mother-in-law Suhaila the work of a serial killer with a hatred of foreign tourists? That's the latest explanation for the shooting dead of the British-Iraqi family during a French summer holiday according to The Sun.
The paper claims French police are linking the al-Hillis' deaths to the killing of another foreign tourist a year earlier.
Belgian Xavier Baligant, 29, was shot dead in July 2011 at a rest area on the A31 near Nancy in northern France as he drove home from a camping trip. The divorced father's sons, aged seven and five, were asleep in the car at the time and escaped unharmed.
The al-Hillis were killed when they parked in a lay-by near Lake Annecy, also during a camping holiday. Their two young daughters, Zainab and Zeena, survived the attack, although Zainab was severely injured after apparently being pistol-whipped by the killer.
Police believe the murder weapon used in both shootings is similar: an antique firearm once issued by the Swiss army.
The Sun quotes a source saying: "It's hard to dismiss the similarities." But the paper has no comment from prosecutor Eric Maillaud who is in charge of the investigation. Nor does it point out while the Belgian was sleeping at a motorway rest area – or 'aire' - designed precisely for motorists to park up and relax, the al-Hillis had, for no obvious reason, parked their car in a remote spot deep in the woods when they were killed.
A week ago, Maillaud did tell the BBC that it was possible police were now hunting a lone psychopath rather than a professional hitman. "Without doubt we are looking for someone who has killed before, someone who puts no value on human life," he said.
"We are not sure whether that means it's a professional hit but if it was done on a contract it was very badly done. We are looking for unbalanced people – capable of extreme violence."
But he said nothing about hunting a killer with a hatred of foreigners.
Eleven weeks after the killings of the al-Hillis and the French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, it is becoming increasingly unclear which is the most desperate to find a solution - the press or the police.
Among other theories put forward since their bodies were discovered on 5 September are a family falling-out over al-Hilli's father's will; a possible link to al-Hilli's previous work for the satellite industry; the possibility that al-Hilli's Iraqi father once helped Saddam Hussein move funds to Europe; and the idea that the al-Hillis were never the gunman's primary target, it was actually the cyclist (even though no one can find a decent reason for anybody to kill Monsieur Mollier).
None of these theories has yet been formally dismissed by prosecutor Maillaud.