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."

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
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

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband