A “secret” former husband of one of the victims of the al-Hilli massacre in the French Alps died in the United States on exactly the same day, it emerged today.
French investigators said that they had uncovered some “surprising” facts about Iqbal al-Hilli, 47, who was murdered with her husband and mother and a French cyclist in a forest lay-by almost two years ago.
Ms al-Hilli, a dentist, had briefly been married to an American dentist in 1999 when she lived in the United States, investigators have discovered. Ms al-Hilli is believed to have concealed her American marriage and divorce from her second husband, Saad al-Hilli.
Her former husband, identified only as James T from Natchez, Mississippi, died of a heart attack on 5 September 2012: the same day that an unidentified gunman attacked the al-Hilli family and a passing French cyclist on a mountain road near the village of Chevaline above Lake Annecy.
French investigators are intrigued by the coincidence but at this stage have no reason to connect the massacre with the apparently natural death of James T, 4,000 miles away.
Video: 2012 interview with witness
Lieutenant-colonel Benoit Vinnemann, head of the gendarmerie team investigating the Chevaline massacre, said: “We have found out some surprising things about Iqbal al-Hilli and we still have received no explanation on certain questions. Was there a secret in the family which we have not uncovered? Did it concern Saad or his wife Iqbal?”
In a completely separate development, French investigators revealed that they had arrested a 35-year-old Iraqi man in northern France in June after receiving information that he might have carried out the attack. He was cleared of all suspicion and released after he proved that he was not in France at the time.
Saad al-Hilli from Claygate, Surrey, his wife Iqbal and and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, who lived in Sweden, were shot dead along with a French cyclist,Sylvain Mollier, in a remote forest lay-by near the village of Chevaline on 5 September last year. The al-Hilli’s two small daughters survived the attack.
A number of suspects have been questioned, including Saad’s older brother, Zaid al-Hilli. All have been cleared of suspicion and released.