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Suspect in Alps murders to face no charges

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Suspect in Alps murders to face no charges
Zaid al-Hilli, brother of murdered Saad al-Hilli will face no further action after police in Britain decided there was no evidence to charge him. He has protested his innocence. Photos:AFP
11:34 CET+01:00
The main suspect in the hunt for the killer of a British-Iraqi couple in the French Alps in 2012, will face no further action, British police said on Wednesday, claiming there was not enough evidence to charge him.

The brother of Saad al-Hilli, a British-Iraqi man mysteriously gunned down with his family in the French Alps in 2012, was released from bail on Wednesday and no further action will be taken against him, British police said.

Zaid al-Hilli, who was arrested in June last year on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, had his bail cancelled because there is not enough evidence to charge him, Surrey Police said in a statement.

"There is insufficient evidence to charge him with any criminal offence and no further police action is being taken at this time," the statement said.

Saad was mysteriously killed along with his wife and her mother in their car on a country road near the idyllic Lake Annecy in September 2012. A French cyclist Sylvain Mollier was also gunned down. The al-Hilli's two daughters Zeena and Zainab survived the attack.

Last year, Zaid al-Hilli, who was considered the chief suspect in the murder probe, admitted he and his brother had been involved in a bitter dispute over inheritance but insisted he was innocent of orchestrating the murders.

Zaid al-Hilli listened Wednesday as a police officer read out the statement to media waiting outside the police station in the Surrey town of Guildford, southwest of London.

"This remains a French-led investigation and officers from the Surrey and Sussex major crime team continue to work closely with the French authorities," the statement said.

"We have carried out exhaustive enquiries in the UK on a number of active lines of enquiry."

Al-Hilli himself did not comment after the police press briefing.

The 54-year-old, Zaid, has accused French police of failing to properly investigate the possibility that the real target was French cyclist Mollier.

"They are covering up for someone in France in that region and they know it," Hilli, who is due to answer police bail on Wednesday, told the BBC.

"Mollier was involved in family disputes and was an outsider to (his) rich family. There is something more to it locally... most crime has local roots."

French investigators believe Mollier was an innocent bystander who was killed because he stumbled upon the murder scene.

Their lead theory is that a family inheritance dispute was the motive for the killings.

Zaid al-Hilli told the Sunday Times that the last time the brothers spoke, Saad had physically attacked him as they argued over the house in Claygate, a leafy suburb of London, which they had inherited from their mother.

"I was on the bed in my bedroom and he pinned me down," he said.

Zaid, who works as a payroll manager for a leisure company, said he had given 25 hours of interviews to British police but has refused to go to France for further questioning.

"The French, I don't trust them at all," he told the Times.

"My brother was killed there in that region and I am not going to take the risk."

In an interview with The Local earlier this year, Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud admitted their manhunt may never track down the murderers, but it was still too early to know.

“Of course it is possible we will never find them, but it’s too early to conclude that,” Maillaud said, back in March. “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.”

Maillaud said there were still around 40 French investigators working on the case, who regularly make trips across the Channel to liaise with their British counterparts in Surrey.

Police believe French cyclist Mollier was not a target and simply the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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