Witness says Alps massacre was 'like scene from a film'

French walker recounts horror at Annecy and says he thought victim aged seven was dead

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The Independent Online

French investigators remain convinced that the mysterious slaughter of four people in the Alps last week will be explained by evidence found in Britain.

One of two investigating magistrates leading the inquiry and the chief prosecutor for the Annecy area, Eric Maillaud, will fly to London tomorrow to join the five senior gendarmerie detectives already in the country.

Although the visit was described yesterday as “routine”, it suggests that the French investigators still believe that something in the past, or present, of Saad al-Hilli holds the key to the Chevaline massacre. The two officials will discuss with senior British police officers the results of the three days of searches of the al-Hilli home at Claygate in Surrey and two days of questioning of Mr al-Hilli’s brother, Zaid.

A team of 40 gendarmes painstakingly recreated yesterday the known events surrounding the brutal shooting of Mr al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, her mother aged 77 and a 45 year old French cyclist on a twisting mountain track above Lake Annecy last Wednesday afternoon.

They used actors and dummies to act out the events at the tiny car-parking area on the Route de la Combe d’Ire(acute on e) as described by a British cyclist who was first on the scene and a French rambler, named as Philippe D, 41, who stumbled on the massacre scene a few minutes later.

In an interview with the newspaper, Le Parisien, yesterday, the rambler revealed that it was he who called the emergency services because the British cyclist had no mobile phone. “There was not a single sound,” he said. “It was like a scene from a film, an episode from a television series which always start with a murder…

 “I saw straight away that there was nothing we could do. There was no sign of life…I slapped the little girl on the hands but she showed no sign of life.”

The “little girl” was Zainab al-Hilli, 7, who remains under sedation after treatment for skull fractures and a bullet wound in the shoulder at hospital in Grenoble. Her testimony could be crucial but investigators have been told by her doctors that they must wait until the end of the week to question her.

In brief comments to relatives when she was woken from a medically-induced coma on Sunday, Zainab said little but gave the impression that, despite her head injuries, she recalled her own terror during the attack.

Ballistic experts believe that all 25 shots fired during the massacre came from a single 7.65mm automatic pistol. This type of weapon used to be issued to French police in the 1960s but is now regarded by small-arms experts as “almost obsolete” and not the sort of gun commonly used by professional assassins or government hitmen.

In his interview with Le Parisien, the rambler, Philippe D, said that he seen no vehicles descending from the car-park. He speculated that the killer, or killers, might have fled over the forest tracks leading in the other direction which are known only to local people.