Saad al-Hilli killing: was French cyclist the primary target?
Al-Hilli uncle attacks French prosecutor for taking narrow view as new hypothesis emerges
A RELATIVE of Saad al-Hilli, shot dead with his wife and mother-in-law in the woods near Lake Annecy on 5 September, has attacked the French prosecutor for spending too much time looking for motives in the Surrey family's background rather than focusing on what actually happened that day.
Dr Ahmad al-Saffar, the uncle of al-Hilli's dentist wife, Iqbal, told the Radio 4 Today programme this morning that by focusing on the family, Eric Maillaud had failed to find any evidence pointing to the identity of the murderer. It was "unfortunate" that the prosecutor was "dismissing all other lines of investigation," he said.
Al-Saffar also criticised Maillaud for his comment, made less than a week after the al-Hilli family were found dead, that solving the crime might take "two, three or ten years". Al-Saffar said it was "not fair" of Maillaud to jump to this conclusion so early in the investigation.
Al-Saffar is not the only one frustrated by Maillaud's intransigence.
A reporter for Le Parisien, Jean-Marc Ducos, claimed on Friday that, as the result of a ballistic report, police were working on a new hypothesis that it was the French cyclist Sylvain Mollier who was shot dead first in the 5 September massacre outside the village of Chevaline.
This would appear to support a theory, first published by The Week within days of the murder, that Mollier was the killer's primary target the al-Hillis were shot dead only because they had witnessed his murder.
Ducos said there was also forensic evidence, backed verbally by seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli, who survived being pistol-whipped by the killer, that Saad al-Hilli was outside the family car with Zainab when the shooting started.
According to The Daily Telegraph, picking on Le Parisien's hypothesis, Saad Al-Hilli then leapt into his BMW estate car and, trying to reverse away, got stuck in the mud. The killer shot Saad, Iqbal and her mother, left Zainab for dead, and never noticed Zainab's younger sister, Zeena, hiding in the back of the car.
The killer then returned to the cyclist and shot him again. Forensics reports suggest that at some stage the killer moved the body of the cyclist, which he laid out on the ground on the left side of the car. This, said Ducos, suggested that the killer was not a professional hitman as had been previously thought.
However, the hypothesis laid out by Ducos was immediately refuted by Maillaud, who dismissed it as "pure invention".
This has led to angry tweets from Ducos, who says he stands by his source. In an email to The Week, Ducos claims the hypothesis is "probable" and makes the point that Maillaud has not denied that Saad al-Hilli and his daughter were outside his car when the shooting started, nor that Mollier's body was moved, nor that the evidence points to a non-professional killer.
If Mollier was the primary target, it would help explain the investigators' inability - after six weeks of inquiry - to find any reason for someone to assassinate the Surrey engineer, his wife and mother-in-law, leaving their two young daughters orphans.
It will also require the French invesigators to re-address fully the life and background of Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father of three who worked for Cezus, which produces zirconium, the metal used for nuclear fuel cladding. Was Mollier leading a double-life, the Daily Mirror asks?