Family 'took sudden holiday after father's recent trip to Baghdad'

 

Claygate, Surrey

The British holidaymaker murdered in France along with two other people – believed to be his wife and mother-in-law – left the UK "on the spur of the moment", a close family friend said yesterday.

Neither his friend nor his accountant had any idea that he was going on holiday until days before he and his family left for France. Neighbours said yesterday that Saad Al-Hilli, 50, left his home country, Iraq, many years ago after his family "fell out" with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.

His friend, who gave his name only as James, said he last spoke to Mr Al-Hilli – who lived with his wife Ikbal and daughters Zainab and Zeena – on Friday 24 August, when he called him asking if he wanted to meet for a coffee in Guildford, expecting him to be at work. "I phoned him but he told me he was at home and had taken two weeks off," he said, adding that Mr Al-Hilli had made no mention until that point that he was planning to do so.

Mr Al-Hilli's accountant, Julian Steadman, of Steadman and Co, a couple of streets from Mr Al-Hilli's home in Claygate, Surrey, said he saw him the evening he set off for Dover to catch the ferry to Calais. "He was rushing around because he had a lot to sort out. He needed to file his VAT return at short notice and pick up his mother-in-law from Reading," Mr Steadman said, adding that Mr Al-Hilli's accounts revealed that he had been working hard in the preceding weeks. To his knowledge, there was nothing in Mr Al-Hilli's financial affairs to suggest he was in any trouble.

James, whose daughter went to playgroup with Mr Al-Hilli's youngest child and who used to dine with the family regularly, said Mr Al-Hilli worked as a freelance computer-aided design engineer and had first come to the UK in the 1970s after the family business was seized by the Baath Party. He added that he had recently returned to Iraq to claim back the Baghdad premises where his family had a mechanical engineering business before it was sequestered by Saddam.

Members of the Iraqi community in London said that some members of Mr Al-Hilli's family, which comes from the Karrada district of Baghdad, were involved in politics but it remained unclear whether they had faced any direct threats.

Mr Al-Hilli is said to have met his wife, Ikbal, in Dubai while she was working as a dentist. Residents in Claygate were coming to terms with both the shocking news of the murders and the international attention that descended upon them. One man, who came to lay flowers at the mock Tudor house, said the Al-Hillis could not have been a nicer family. A neighbour described them as "lovely".

Friends said Mr Al-Hilli had previously lived in Pimlico in central London and was a keen cyclist. He used to ride his bike to Surrey and decided to move to Claygate when he was on one of his rides. His elderly parents had lived with the family until they passed away, neighbours said.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: "The family are very nice and friendly. The two girls are really sweet and pretty. The eldest went to the local primary school and the youngest was going to start."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week