Lake Annecy murders: the double-tap, nuclear fuel and pointing the finger
THE murders of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 49 (many news sources say she was 47), and her 77-year-old mother in a clearing above Lake Annecy, near Chevaline in the French Alps, are big news. Mr al-Hilli was born in Baghdad. He lived in Claygate, near Esher in Surrey. He worked as a mechanical engineer. He was an “aviation expert“.
Iqbal was dentist.
The mother-in-law barely gets a mention in reports.
The Times says the victims had been shot three times, at least once in the head.
The Daily Mail counts the shots differently:
Was there more than one hitman? Each of British victims was shot TWICE and cyclist witness FIVE times, police reveal – as search continues for killers’ 4×4
Twice? The talk if of assassins. But you know who always shoots twice – the so-called double-tap? The British police and the SAS.
What was the victims’ background? The Times:
Mr al-Hilli fled Iraq in the 1970s, when his family was looked upon “unfavourably” by Saddam Hussein’s Baath party, and met his wife in Dubai ten years ago. It is thought that she was from Iran and that her parents live in Sweden. The pair married in 2003.
On Saad al-Hilli’s work, the Times adds:
He owned a computer design company called Shtech Ltd, which was formed in 2001 and registered at his home. His wife, whose maiden name was al-Saffar, was the company secretary at one stage. Last year’s accounts show that it had less than £15,000 in current assets. Company records show that Mr al-Hilli was also company secretary with the Wiltshire-based aerial photography company AMS. He was a freelance and did a lot of work for Surrey Satellite Technology, of Guildford. He also designed the internal parts of aircraft and was recently commissioned to design the galley of the Airbus 380.
Eric Maillaud is the Annecy public prosecutor:
“This case is looking more and more like an ambush, even if we are not yet sure that it is the work of a professional. And it’s still not possible to confirm that this was a targeted hit.”
The couple’s daughters, Zeena, 4, and seven-year-old, Zainab, survived. Zainab was shot and beaten. Maillaud says it is a “miracle” she survived. They killer or killers never did shoot her in the head.
A French cyclist, believed to have passing at the time of the shootings, was also murdered. His name is Sylvain Mollier, a father of three who had been staying with his family at the nearby Saint Jorioz camp site. What do we know about him? Well, one commentator on the Mail’s site notes:
Mr. Mollier worked for CEZUS, a subsidiary of AREVA, the global leader in the market for zirconium, the metal used, among other things, for nuclear fuel cladding. CEZUS’s operations are distributed over six sites. One site in Ugine handles production of ingots and transformation of zirconium, titanium, tantalum, and hafnium into semi-finished products. Cezus also have an R&D site in Ugine.
Paris Match confirms that.
The scene was happened upon by a British RAF veteran on his bicycle, who has a second home nearby. His name? We don’t know.
Other news on the survivors is odd. It took 8 hours to find Zeena. She was hiding beneath her mother’s skirts. Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Vinnemann explains:
“We had instructions not to enter the car and not to move the bodies… Firemen, technicians and doctors all looked into the car through the holes in the windows but none of them saw the girl. She didn’t budge. She stayed under the legs of her mother.”
What did Zeena see? And would the police tell us? Eric Maillaud says:
“She could not tell the difference between the good guys and bad guys. She spontaneously began to smile and speak in English when the policeman took her in his arms and pulled her out of the car. The little girl spoke English. She heard noises, shouts but she can’t tell us any more than that. She is only four years old. She is being looked after and we are doing everything we possibly can to care for her.”
Odd. The Sun says she was “frozen with fear”. s
So. What are the police searching for? Maillaud adds:
“People might have seen a white car, a red car, a yellow car. Maybe some people saw Martians. I really don’t know. What we are trying to do is get rid of rumours and get some real information.”
Why were three members of a family murdered? The Times theorises:
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with the dead cyclist being a witness to the crime.
What would they have stolen? The family were camping.
The Times again:
Friends described Mr al-Hilli and his wife, Iqbal, as polite and considerate, and said it was impossible to imagine that they had any enemies.
The Times hears from someone who knew the dead man:
His accountant, Julian Stedman, said that he had mentioned a trip to Baghdad last year and was investigating property in that region. Regarding speculation that the shooting was connected to Mr al-Hilli’s work, Mr Stedman said: “There’s nothing in that at all that I can see. He carried out computer-aided mechnical design contracts.” He said that he was baffled by the killing of a “kind and gentle” man.
Company records show that Zaid Hilli, who is understood to be Mr al-Hilli’s brother, was involved in his brother’s company Shteck since it was founded in 2001. His position as secretary was terminated in January last year. Zaid al-Abdi, who described himself as the murdered man’s best friend, said that there had been a disagreement between the brothers over inheritance.
Mr al-Abdi said: “There were some inheritance issues over properties, in the UK and abroad.” The brothers’ relationship had been “fine until this thing started about a year ago”. There is no suggestion that Mr Hilli is connected with the murder or is guilty of any wrongdoing.
Over in the Telegraph, we get this:
France shooting: Family feud may have led to executions in the Alps
A British family murdered during a holiday in France may have been the victims of a contract killing triggered by a family feud, investigators believe.
May. Believe. Can the paper be more vague? Is it right to report like that when a man may well be grieving for his brother?
French police told a press conference on Friday that Zaid al-Hilli went to the police after he heard media reports of the deaths – first to ask about his brother’s condition, and then, on Friday, to deny reports of a dispute. Surrey police say they are “co-operating” with the French authorities.
The Mirror notes:
But Mr Maillaud said at a press conference: “He turned up again this morning and he said ‘no, I don’t have a conflict with my brother’.
The Mirror finds that it’s not all that impossible to think that someone did not like Saad al-Hilli:
‘I’m scared’: Dad gunned down in French Alps revealed he was living in fear before the killing
Jack Saltman, 67, said Mr al-Hilli mentioned “two or three times” over the last two months something which gave him “cause for concern”. He added: “He had family in Iraq and I know he was worried about their safety and spoke to them on the phone. He told me something about a problem he had and before he left he came round and saw me and asked if I would keep an eye on his house.”
We are told:
Before he set off on holiday, Iraqi-born Mr Hilli, an engineer, had confided to neighbours in Claygate, Surrey, that something was troubling him. Jack Saltman, 67, said he had contacted the police to tell them about Mr Hilli’s fears. He said: “He did say something to me which gave me cause to worry a little bit. Before he left he came round and saw me and asked if I would keep an eye on his house. “It may be totally irrelevant if this was to be a terrible murderous killing. But I have told the police and if it is relevant they will have it and if it is not relevant then no one will ever know.”
The Times makes no mention of the “fears“. It tells us:
Mr Saltman, a former producer for Panorama, said: “I can’t imagine why anybody would want to harm them. There was nothing that would remotely give cause to this appalling thing. I was a journalist for 45 years and nasty things happen. Big people do big things and things happen as a result, but this was a normal family. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to harm them. There was nothing that would remotely give cause to such an appalling thing.”
The Mail notes:
Last night Philip Murphy, a neighbour in the wealthy village of Claygate, Surrey, recalled how police asked if they could use his driveway to spy on the massacre victims’ mock-Tudor house. The retired finance director said: ‘I watched them from the window and they were watching Mr Al-Hilli and his brother. ‘I thought they were from Special Branch. They would sit there all day in their parked car just looking at the house. ‘When Mr Al-Hilli came out and drove off, they would follow him. It was all very odd. I never told the family they were being watched.’ The surveillance happened as the invasion of Iraq by US and British forces began in March 2003.
Such are the facts. Full story here.