Cyclist shot first in 'frenzied' Alps attack, not British family

Report says al-Hilli family may have been random victims, not assassination targets

Paris

Theories about the brutal quadruple murder in the French Alps last month were turned upside down yesterday by an official report which found that a local cyclist – not the al-Hilli family – was the first to be shot.

A provisional ballistic and forensic report also spoke of a "frenzied" attack which was "incompatible" with the work of a professional hitman.

Although the report draws no final conclusions, its findings imply that the British-Iraqi Al-Hilli family may have been random victims, rather than the target of a planned assassination. Study of the 22 bullets found in the bodies and other forensic evidence suggests that a local cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was the first to be attacked by what investigators are convinced was a single gunman.

This suggests that Mr Mollier may have been the original target or that, more likely, the killings were the work of a lone psychopath.

Mr Mollier, 45, was cut down by a volley of shots from a 7.65mm automatic pistol but was not immediately killed, according to the gendarmerie report leaked to the newspaper Le Parisien. He was finished off after the murderer had turned his gun on Saad al-Hilli, 50, an Iraqi-born engineer, his wife, Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74.

The killer then returned to each victim on several occasions to make sure that they were dead.

Studies of the shoes of the victims suggest that Mr al-Hilli, and his seven years old daughter, Zainab, had been outside his BMW estate car when first menaced by the killer on a remote forest road above lake Annecy on 5 September. Mr al-Hilli, on a caravan holiday nearby, fled to his car and tried to drive away but he reversed at speed into a steep forest bank and became stuck. He was found dead at the wheel of his car with the engine running and the wheels still spinning.

His wife and mother-in-law were shot in the rear seat of the car while four-year-old Zeena al-Hilli hid beneath their legs, presumably unseen by the murderer. Her older sister Zainab was found later staggering outside the car with a gunshot in her shoulder and severe head injuries from a beating with a blunt instrument.

The Franco-British investigation into the murders has mostly focused on the possibility that Mr al-Hilli was targeted because of a family quarrel; or because of his work in the air surveillance industry; or for some reason connected with his Iraqi past. The possibility of a planned attack on the cyclist has also been studied but does not appear to have been taken seriously by investigators.

The forensic and ballistic report says that the cyclist, a factory manager for a plant supplying metal to the nuclear industry, was the first person to be shot several times but not fatally. After attacking the al-Hillis, the killer returned to finish off Mr Mollier. He then moved his body and arranged it, arms by its sides, next to the al-Hillis' car.

The report, according to Le Parisien, speaks of "frenzied behaviour" by a gunman "going from victim to victim and then back again to finish them off". The report concludes that this behaviour was "not compatible with the profile of a professional killer".

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice