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CRIME

Alps murders: Police appeal in hunt for 4×4

French and British police have appealed for help in tracking down the driver of a right hand drive 4x4 vehicle who they believe may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of the brutal murder of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps last year.

Alps murders: Police appeal in hunt for 4x4
Flowers placed at the scene near Chevaline in the French Alps where the British Iraqi family were gunned down along with a French cyclist. Photo: AFP

British police assisting the investigation into last year's murder of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps on Monday released footage of a 4×4 vehicle seen close to the crime scene.

Detectives told BBC's Crimewatch programme that they wanted to trace the owner, whom they believe may be British, of a right-hand drive 4×4 vehicle which was spotted in the French commune of Chevaline at around 3:20 pm on September 5 last year.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, from Surrey and grandmother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, who lived in Sweden, were all gunned down in their car on September 5th not far from the town of Annecy. French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, was also killed nearby. The al-Hilli's two daughters – seven-year-old Zeinab, and four-year-old Zeena – survived the attack.

Just over six months down the line and despite dozens of detectives from France and the UK working on the case, the killer or killers have not been found.

Detective Superintendent Nick May said: "I am appealing for anyone with a right-hand drive 4X4, particularly a grey, black or dark coloured BMW X5, to cast their minds back to September last year. Were you on holiday in the French Alps at the time? Did you visit the Annecy area?

"I am particularly keen to speak to any owner of such a vehicle who visited the towns of Doussard or Chevaline on the afternoon of September 5 as they may be able to provide vital information to assist with this ongoing joint investigation.

"This location is very popular and there may have been a number of tourists staying in the local area or travelling through at that time of year.

"The timing of this sighting is clearly significant and it is important that we trace this vehicle if only to eliminate it from our inquiries.

"This was a shocking crime, and we remain committed to working with our colleagues in France to find whoever was responsible and bring them to justice," he added.

Earlier this year French prosecutor Eric Maillaud, who is leading the probe to solve the murder, told The Local it was too early to admit defeat in the hunt for the killers.

“Of course it is possible we will never find them, but it’s too early to conclude that,” Maillaud said. “The investigation is only six months old, which in terms of police inquiries is a very short period of time.”

“It’s out of the question that we will be thinking like that now.”

Earlier this month investigators were dealt a blow when a request by French judges to visit Iraq to try to find clues about Saad al-Hilli's family background was turned down by France's Foreign Ministry on the grounds of security.

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CRIME

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

A convicted murderer linked to one of Italy's most powerful mafia organisations was arrested on Thursday in central France, Interpol said.

Italian killer with mafia links arrested in France after 16 years on the run

Edgardo Greco, 63, is suspected of belonging to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta, a powerful mafia organisation in Calabria, southern Italy.

He is wanted in Italy to serve a life sentence for the murders of Stefano and Giuseppe Bartolomeo, and accused of the attempted murder of Emiliano Mosciaro “as part of a mafia war between the Pino Sena and Perna Pranno gangs that marked the early 1990s”, Interpol said.

The Bartolomeo brothers were beaten to death with iron bars in a fish warehouse, Italian police said.

Greco’s arrest in central France came with help for Italy and France from the “Cooperation against ‘Ndrangheta Project” (I-CAN) run by Interpol, which facilitates police cooperation between its 195 member states.

READ ALSO: Italian police seize €250 million and arrest 56 in latest mafia blitz

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, quoted in Interpol’s statement, said the arrests demonstrated his country’s commitment to “fighting all forms of organised crime and locating dangerous fugitives”.

The ‘Ndrangheta is considered Italy’s most extensive and powerful mafia group, Interpol said, operating worldwide and with strong ties to the trade in cocaine bound for Europe from South America

I-CAN’s job is help raise awareness of ‘Ndrangheta and their modus operandi, sharing police information to dismantle their networks and operations, the agency said.

The arrest of Greco, who worked in the evenings in a pizza restaurant under an assumed named according to Italian media, came a week after Italian police said it had dismantled a ‘Ndrangheta mafia ring dominating a large area of southern Calabria and seized assets exceeding 250 million euros.

Fifty-six people, many already in prison, were put under criminal investigation for a series of crimes including mafia-related conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, bribery and possession of weapons, police and prosecutors said.

The arrest of Greco comes just over two weeks after Italian police arrested one of the most notorious bosses of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia, Matteo Messina Denaro, who had been on the run for 30 years.

The 60-year-old was arrested after visiting a health clinic where he was being treated in the Sicilian capital Palermo

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