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CRIME

French police release sketch of motorcyclist

French police on Monday released an identikit image of a mysterious motorcyclist in the hope of reviving their probe into the killing of a British-Iraqi family in the Alps in September 2012.

French police release sketch of motorcyclist
The identikit image of the mysterious motorcyclist. Photo: Gendarmerie Nationale/AFP

The image features a man sporting a goatee and wearing a rare type of motorcycle helmet (see below for full image).

"More than the identikit photo itself, it is the type of helmet that is interesting," said Benoit Vinnemann, the head of investigations for the local gendarmerie.

Saad al-Hilli was gunned down in September 2012 along with his wife and her mother in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy.

His two daughters survived the gruesome attack but French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, apparently an innocent bystander, was also killed.

Investigators have struggled to find any leads in the case and are now focusing on the presence of a motorcyclist seen by witnesses near the scene of the shooting.

Witnesses gave a description to police of the motorcyclist from early on in the case but it was not initially released for fear he would go into hiding.

Investigators said the helmet he was described as wearing is a rare model, with only 8,000 made in the colour seen by witnesses.

It is a full-face model that opens from the side to allow conversations without removing the helmet.

Despite checking with distributors, police have so far been unable to track down the helmet's owner.

"This is someone who was close to the scene during a time period that interests us and who may have done or seen something," Vinnemann said. "He is potentially the perpetrator, but mainly a witness."

Police are also searching for a right-hand drive BMW 4×4 spotted close to the scene.

Police have put forward a number of theories for the killing, in particular the possibility of an inheritance dispute involving Hilli's brother Zaid, who was arrested by British police in June.

He was subsequently released and has protested his innocence.

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CRIME

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.

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