A bomb disposal unit today spent more than two hours at the Surrey home of the French Alps murder victims, after ‘concerns’ were raised over items found at the address.
Officers from the Royal Logistics Corp bomb disposal team were seen arriving at the mock-Tudor property in the affluent village of Claygate at around 10am this morning, as neighbours living close by were evacuated from their homes.
Members of the media, who have been camped outside the house since the shootings last week, were also moved back 200 yards.
The latest development focussed on a shed at the bottom of the garden, with speculation that it housed some sort of improvised explosive device.
However the bomb disposal unit left around midday, with the cordon used to block an extended portion of the road outside the house dismantled shortly after.
Officers later confirmed the items discovered were not hazardous and said neighbours evacuated from their houses could safely return.
Attention on the property intensified as police in Annecy in France waited to question seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli, who was shot and beaten during the attack that killed her parents, and remains under sedation after coming out of a medically-induced coma.
Her father Saad al-Hilli, 50, was murdered in his car alongside his dentist wife, Iqbal, last Wednesday while the family holidayed in the picturesque region.
Mrs al-Hilli's mother also died in the shooting along with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who appears to have simply stumbled across the attack.
Zainab's four-year-old sister Zeena, who survived the attack after hiding under her mother’s skirt, yesterday flew back to the UK with carers and two relatives – reportedly an aunt and uncle.
Police plan to look at aspects of Mr al-Hilli's life to try to find a motive for the murders. They also plan to speak with his brother Zaid Hilli who investigators say has approached UK police to deny any feud with his sibling over an inheritance.
It is believed detectives are looking into Mr al-Hilli's professional life for possible clues. He worked as a contractor for a satellite technology company in Surrey.
Each of the four victims of the shootings was shot twice in the head, with investigators finding 25 spent bullet cartridges at the scene of the murder – a car park in the Combe d’ire forest near Chevaline. Two mobile phones found in the al-Hilli’s bullet-ridden BMW are also being analysed.
Witnesses have said they saw a green four-wheel-drive vehicle in the area at the time of the killings, and possibly a motorbike.
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with Mr Mollier being a witness to the crime.
But speculation about other possible motives, including a pre-planned attack by professional hitmen, remained rife.
One man, thought to be one of the last people to see the family alive, told reporters the family had arrived at the isolated car park at least an hour before they were killed.
Laurent Fillion-Robin, 38, also said there was no sign of any vehicle following the family.
The builder said he was working on a house in Chevaline when he saw the red British-registered BMW drive past between 2.30pm and 3pm. The shooting was reported to police just before 4pm.
Mr Fillion-Robin added that he did not hear any shots fired that afternoon and said the car park, near Lake Annecy, was not the sort of place that families with young children would usually go.
However, public prosecutor Eric Maillaud revealed the family had visited France a number of times before and it was not the first time they had been to Le Solitaire du Lac, a campsite in Saint-Jorioz where they were staying when the attack happened.
Some media reports have suggested that Mr al-Hilli, an engineer who left Saddam Hussein's Iraq several years ago, was known to the security services and was put under surveillance by Metropolitan Police Special Branch during the second Gulf war.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said they could not comment, but it is understood there is no link between the deaths and any national security issues.