Alps murder: 'Hillbilly' former policeman arrested for questioning about al-Hilli massacre

 

Paris

Police investigating the Al-Hilli massacre in the French Alps have arrested a local man described as a “hillbilly”.

The 48-year-old man is believed to be the motorcyclist who was seen close to the quadruple killing above Lake Annecy on 5 September 2012.

Investigators said that the man held was being questioned as a witness and should not be described as a “suspect” at this stage. They also spoke, however, of a “significant breakthrough” in a complex, 18-month investigation which has chased possible links with Britain, Iraq, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and the United States.

It is believed at least seven other local people may be arrested for “acting as a criminal gang”. It is unclear whether they will be questioned in connection with the quadruple murder itself or whether they are suspected of withholding information.

The official spokesman for the investigation, Eric Maillaud, the Annecy state prosecutor, said that the arrested man had no connection with any of the victims. He refused to identify him but sources in the investigation described him as a “hillbilly”, and a “ silent” man.

He had once been a municipal policeman in the nearby town of Menthon Saint-Bernard but now worked in Switzerland.

The man, who was in custody last night at the regional gendarmerie headquarters in Chambéry, can be held for up to four days. The gendarmerie raided his home in La Thuile, a few kilometres from the crime scene yesterday morning. They later dug up the garden of another house that he owns in the neighbouring village of Talloires, using spades and a metal detector.

The man under arrest reportedly bears a strong resemblance to a man in a motor-cycle helmet shown in an Identikit image which was released by investigators in November last year. It remains unclear why the French inquiry waited 14 months to publish this image.

Forestry workers told gendarmes at the time that they had seen a beefy man with a beard on a private road in the mountains just above the crime scene on the afternoon of the murders. He was wearing a rare type of motorcycle helmet with a sideways opening at the mouth and jaw.

A gunman attacked the Iraqi-British Al-Hilli family in their maroon-coloured BNW estate car in a lay-by at the end of a steeply winding forest road near the village of Chevaline. Saad al-Hilli, 50, a satellite engineer from Surrey, his wife, Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were shot repeatedly. A local cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45, was found lying dead beside their car, shot several times in the head and body.

The murder scene at Chevaline (Rex Features) The murder scene at Chevaline (Rex Features)
Seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli was found alive outside the car, beaten savagely about the head and face and wounded by a gunshot in her shoulder. Her sister, Zeena, aged four, was found eight hours after the killings, unharmed but terrified, hiding under her dead mother’s legs.

The murders have generated several official lines of inquiry – and a host of wild speculations – but their motive has never been clear. The only other person arrested during the joint French-British investigation was Mr Al-Hilli’s older brother, Zaid.

He was questioned by Surrey police last year about a quarrel with his brother over their father’s £800,000 will but was released without charge. Surrey police said last month that there was no evidence to link him with the killings. 

Zaid al-Hilli leaves Guildford police station after having his bail cancelled last month (Getty) Zaid al-Hilli leaves Guildford police station after having his bail cancelled last month (Getty)
The Annecy prosecutor, Mr Maillaud, said last September, on the anniversary of the massacre, that the investigation team was also looking at the possibility of connections with Iraqi politics or “industrial espionnage” linked to Mr Al-Hill’s work as a satellite engineer.

Mr Maillaud played down the possibility that the killings were the work of a lone gunman. He also dismissed the possibility that the local cyclist, Sylvain Moller, was the real target.  

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Pay between ?110 - ?130 Day: Randstad Education Cardiff:...

SAP Deployment Manager

£480 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Deployment Manager-Ta...

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Urgently seeking a Dynam...

Test Lead - Financial Reporting - Banking - London

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Banking, Financial Reporting, ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game