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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there