Editorial: Discord will not help solve this case

 

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The Independent Online

The failure so far of the French police to find any obvious leads in the case of the mysterious murder of the Al-Hilli family in the Haute Savoie region is, unsurprisingly, creating tensions between the two countries. Britain naturally wishes to see the case solved as soon as possible, and also wants that point driven home, which helps to explain the presence last Friday in Annecy of the British ambassador to Paris, Sir Peter Ricketts.

At the same time, the French clearly feel irritated both by the pressure coming from the other side of the Channel and from the army of reporters camped out in Annecy, whose presence, some feel, is a distraction, adding only to a swirl of speculative rumours about who may have been responsible for the killings of Saad al-Hilli, his wife, a Swedish passenger of theirs and a passing cyclist.

Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe a breakthrough may be imminent. One of the few clues, that a dark four-wheel-drive vehicle was spotted near the crime scene, does not help much in a part of France where the possession of such vehicles is almost routine. As for the two survivors of the tragedy, four-year-old Zeena has said only that she heard screaming and shouting, while her older sister has only just come out of an induced coma.

What's important at this frustrating juncture, when the French prosecutor in Annecy has begun to complain about British rumour-mongering, is for both sides to remain level-headed and for the police in both countries to continue co-operating as closely as possible.

The last thing anyone needs is a repeat of the unhelpful recriminations that followed the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, when British and Portuguese police traded insults through their respective countries' newspapers, as a result of which the case assumed the contours of an international dispute. That did not help the McCann family, and a repetition of those events certainly won't help this family. The interests of two small orphaned girls must remain paramount as the police in both countries struggle to make sense of the tragedy surrounding the deaths of their parents.

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