Police appeal for fresh witnesses in Alps murders

Paris

French investigators have made a new appeal for information concerning the brutal murder of a British-Iraqi family and a cyclist near Annecy last month.

A fresh appeal for witnesses almost six weeks after the event suggests that the joint Franco-British investigation is still struggling to explain the mysterious killings on a remote forest road near the village of Chevaline.

Senior gendarmerie officers have asked anyone who met or saw the Al-Hilli family during their stay in France to contact a free phone number (00 33 800 002 950). They have also appealed for anyone who was within a few miles of the murder scene on 5 September to contact them.

The gendarmerie colonel in charge of the inquiry, Benoît Vinnemann, said he needed new information, however banal, to "match or expand" the statements already made by the 650 people interviewed in France and in Britain. Other sources close to the investigation say that progress had been made but there is still no conclusive explanation for the killings.

Saad Al-Hilli, 50, an Iraqi-born engineer, his wife, Iqbal, 47, her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, and a local cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, 45, were each shot twice in the head and several times in the body in a small parking area at the end of a forest road close to Lake Annecy. Although a final ballistics report is expected later this month, preliminary studies of the 22 bullets fired suggest they came from the same 7.65mm semi-automatic pistol.

French investigators have played down suggestions that the attack might have been a "professional" assassination. They point out that the type of gun used and the number of shots fired do not fit the normal pattern of a targeted assassination.

The Franco-British investigation has focused on the possibility that the killings were linked to a family quarrel over money or Mr Al-Hilli's work as an aerial surveillance engineer or something in the family's Iraqi past.

The French cyclist, Mr Mollier, who was a shift manager at a local factory manufacturing materials for the nuclear industry, is presumed to have been killed after stumbling on the murder scene.

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