French walker recounts horror at Annecy massacre scene

 

A walker who came upon the aftermath of a massacre in the French Alps has likened the carnage to a horrific film scene.

The man, named only as Philippe D, 41, is the first witness to speak publicly about the murders of British engineer Saad al-Hilli, his wife and mother-in-law.

He spoke as it emerged that a French judge and prosecutor were travelling to Britain as part of their inquiries.

Meanwhile, three more people were found in a car following a shooting on the French island of Corsica today although there was no immediate evidence of any link.

It is nearly a week since the three Britons and a French cyclist came under a hail of gun fire in a secluded car park close to Lake Annecy.

Mr D, an experienced hiker, told Le Parisien newspaper how he came across the dramatic scene after setting out with two female friends to go walking.

He recalled how the group was met by a "panic-stricken" British cyclist making his way down from the murder scene as they drove up a hill in the Combe d'Ire forest, near Chevaline.

The cyclist, a former member of the RAF, tried to explain in bad French what lay up ahead and said he wanted to call for help.

Arriving at the car park, Mr D saw the bodies of Mr al-Hilli, 50, his dentist wife Iqbal and Mrs al-Hilli's mother in their bullet-ridden BMW.

A fourth body, that of Sylvain Mollier, 45, the French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack, lay on the ground. Zainab, seven, was lying by the car.

"There wasn't a single sound," the walker said.

"It was like in a film. One of those television series where everything begins with a murder, only this time we were the actors and we did not have the remote control to change the channel."

"I immediately understood."

He added: "I approached the car. I did not touch anything but I saw that there was nothing that could be done. There was no sign of life."

He then turned his attention to the little girl.

"She did not respond when we addressed her," he said. "I clapped my hands but she did not react. I even spoke a few words of English because I saw that the car had a British number plate but nothing happened.

"As far as I could tell, she was dead."

Mr D, who called the emergency services, said the group feared for their own safety, concerned an assailant was still in the area.

But he said they had seen no one as they drove up through the forest and that the killer or killers could have escaped using a winding lane which leads directly to the motorway.

Had they arrived any earlier, he told the newspaper, they may have been shot dead too.

He spoke out as it emerged the al-Hilli family had moved from one campsite to another two days before they were gunned down.

A Dutch couple believed the group planned to spend a week at the three-star Village Camping Europa site in St Jorioz after they arrived last Saturday, but they left on Monday.

The campers said Mr al-Hilli acted strangely during that time, leaving his family alone several times each day. They also noticed an unusual man wearing a smart jacket visiting while the al-Hillis were there.

Staff at Village Camping Europa described the family as "very quiet, nice people".

A manager, who refused to give her name, said: "They came to stay with us on Saturday evening and left on Monday.

"That was pre-planned - they were here for just a few days."

The family were staying in a caravan at neighbouring campsite Le Solitaire du Lac when the killings happened.

Sources said the victims were likely to have been blasted with the same gun, fuelling speculation they were targeted by a contract killer. Each person was shot twice in the head.

Detailed ballistic analysis of 25 spent cartridges found at the scene suggests they all came from a 7.65mm automatic pistol.

But Annecy's public prosecutor Eric Maillaud has denied confirming this detail.

Zainab, who was shot and so brutally beaten that doctors placed her in a medically induced coma, is now seen as one of the key witnesses.

Police spoke briefly with her after she regained consciousness on Sunday and are waiting for approval from medics before they can question her further.

Her younger sister Zeena, four, escaped unscathed by cowering behind her mother as bullets rained down. She has flown back to Britain with carers.

It is unclear whether the second shooting, on the island of Corsica, could be linked to the attack in the Alps.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the victims were not known to be British.

Officers are now examining all aspects of Mr al-Hilli's life to find a motive for the murders, looking at his personal and professional links which include work for a satellite technology company in Surrey.

Investigators have said his brother, Zaid Hilli, approached British police to deny any feud with his sibling over an inheritance.

Detectives in Surrey have been searching Mr al-Hilli's home, in Claygate, while French police are examining two mobile phones found in his car.

Officers are also understood to be examining the hard disk from a laptop.

The French prosecutor and judge will join a small team of French investigators already in Britain.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world