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Alps murders: Police sketch proves fruitless

A month after investigators released a sketch of a mysterious motorcyclist, French police admitted on Monday that not a single call from the public had proved “of interest,” or brought them closer to solving the murders of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps.

Alps murders: Police sketch proves fruitless
A month after investigators released a sketch of a mysterious motorcyclist, French police admitted on Monday that not a single call from the public had proved to be “of interest.” Photo: AFP

French police investigating the murder of a British-Iraqi family admitted on Monday that despite receiving around 100 calls from the public, not one had led to any kind of break in the probe.

Saad al-Hilli, a British national originally from Iraq, 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.

On November 4th, police in Annecy released this sketch of a mysterious motorcyclist seen by witnesses near the site of the shooting, hoping it would provide a breakthrough in the case.

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

Investigators had hoped that the helmet depicted in the sketch would prove a fruitful avenue of inquiry, since it is a rare model, used by French police during the 2000s, with only 8,000 made in black, as seen by witnesses.

Speaking on Monday, however, Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud told TF1 television: “The appeal for witnesses hasn’t yielded anything of interest up to this point.”

“We’ve had nearly 100 calls, some of them from abroad, but nothing that has provided information that would be a break in the case in one direction or another,” he added.

Maillaud also noted that many of the “leads” from members of the public had turned out to be frivolous.

“In particular, we’ve had some silly calls from people recognizing their neighbour or caretaker or a local police officer,” he said.

Furthermore, the local prosecutor, who heads the investigation being conducted in collaboration with British police, announced there would be no further public appeals for help in solving the case.

“Insofar as time is passing, we know that we’ll be getting fewer and fewer calls, and eventually none at all,” Maillaud said on Monday.

“The work is continuing, but the chances of tracking down this helmet are dwindling, that’s for sure,” he added.

“We’ve known for a while that this would be a long and complicated investigation. But as long as there is physical evidence to be explored, the probe will continue,” said Maillaud.

SEE ALSO: Alps murders – cops still stumped, one year on

In March, Maillaud admitted to The Local that the inquiry may never reach a definitive conclusion.

“Of course it is possible we will never find them, but it’s too early to conclude that,” Maillaud said at the time.  “It’s out of the question that we will be thinking like that now.”

Despite the lack of a definitive theory as to a motive for the murders, investigators have concluded that Mollier was not a target and died because he had the misfortune to arrive on the scene at the wrong time while out cycling.

A theory that the attack could have been the work of a lone psychopath also seems to have been dismissed.

Instead, the investigation had focused increasingly in recent months on the possibility that the slaying had its origins in a dispute between one of the victims, Saad al-Hilli, and his brother Zaid, over a family inheritance.

Maillaud has described the financial dispute as involving several million euros.

He said in June that investigators were trying to track the destination of calls made to Romania from Zaid al-Hilli’s home phone in the weeks prior to the attack.

Shortly after that revelation, Zaid al-Hilli was arrested by British police and questioned on the basis of suspicion of conspiracy to murder. 

He was subsequently released without charge but then placed under bail pending further enquiries.

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ANNECY

Alps murders: Ex-soldier emerges as chief suspect

A new book about the brutal 2012 murders of a British-Iraqi family and a French cyclist in the Alps has revealed that a former soldier in the French Foreign Legion has been identified as the number one suspect.

Alps murders: Ex-soldier emerges as chief suspect
French prosecutor Eric Maillaud speaking to reporters shortly after the murders. Photo: AFP

French State Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said ex-legionnaire Patrice Menegaldo is the chief suspect in the ongoing investigation into the shooting of Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, mother-in-law Suhaila and French cyclist Sylvain Mollier.

Menegaldo killed himself last June after being interviewed as a witness to the crime, but not as a suspect.

Police say his profile matches that of the professional hitman, capable of planning and carrying out the cold blooded killings near Annecy, that they believe was behind the murders.

The victims were shot at point blank range on a road near the village of Chevaline in September 2012. The bodies of the al-Hilli family were found in their car, whilst that of the cyclist Mollier was found nearby.

Al-Hilli’s two young daughters narrowly survived.

Prosecutor Maillaud and a team of detectives have been hunting the killer but the probe has so-far failed to find anyone.

Suspicion fell on al-Hilli’s older brother Zaid, who had fought with Saad over their father’s inheritance, as well as on a mystery biker seen neat the scene at the time, but no charges were ever brought.

In an interview for the new book called The Perfect Crime, written by the Daily Mirror newspaper prosecutor Maillaud, revealed that the suspect Menegaldo was acquainted with the French cyclist’s partner.  

Both he and Mollier were from the nearby town of Ugine.

The hypothesis at the top of the chain for investigators is a local killing. We have a real suspect. I am referring to the Legionnaire from Ugine,” he said. “Here is a middle-aged man who kills himself and to explain this leaves a letter saying he couldn’t handle being considered a suspect.”

“We are talking about a hardened ex-soldier, someone using a gun, suddenly saying he couldn’t deal with being thought of as a suspect. The investigators are still digging into this man. He had psychological problems.

“Could it, by chance, have been him? Did he regret his actions afterwards and take his own life? Otherwise it is an inexplicable suicide. He had the technical capacity to do what was done that day.”

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