by Bob Couttie

A year ago Brett Martin, a former RAF pilot now living in France, was cycling around the beautiful Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of France when he came across a scene that might have been lifted from a TV crime show. It was the beginning of a family murder mystery that remains unsolved, one that police believe may have been a professional hit.

lake5A BMW estate car had backed at considerable speed into a layby whose wheels were still spinning in reverse in the sand, dozens of bullet casings scattered around it. A seven year old girl, badly beaten with the butt of a 7.65mm Parabellum Luger P06, and with a gunshot wound in her shoulder, was staggering nearby. Visible through the bullet-shattered windows of the vehicle were the bodies of three adults. Sprawled on the road a little further on lay the body of a French cyclist; someone had blasted almost a full clip from a semi-automatic pistol into him.

Martin called the emergency services. Police cordoned off the crime scene and waited for a forensics team to arrive from Paris. When the team arrived eight hours later, an unharmed four-year old girl was found, frozen in fear, beneath the body of her mother in the backseat.

Some 21 rounds had been fired, the apparently single killer reloading at least twice.

The three deceased victims were a 50 year-old Iraqi-born British national Saad al-Hilli, a computer engineer working for a satellite technology company in the UK; Saad’s wife Iqbal al-Hilli, 47, a dentist who still held Iraqi citizenship; and Igbal’s mother, Suhaila al-Allaf, 74.

Saad al-HilliSaad had been living in fear. He had acquired a taser for defence, a device illegal in the UK, as well as a satellite telephone which enabled his friends to track his whereabouts. He had also changed the locks on his house. He was very afraid of something or somebody.

The dead French cyclist was 45-year old Sylvain Mollier, 45, a metallurgist in the nuclear industry.

The police currently believe that a professional assassin from Eastern Europe may have hired to kill the family for about $2,400. The motive is believed to be a dispute over an inheritance.

This was not  the only motive considered, however. Some speculation focused on the dead French cyclist suggesting that he was the primary target due to his work in the nuclear industry, but it is unknown whether he had access to sensitive information.

Saad Al-Halli provides more potential motives: he was working with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company; he had connections with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. Swiss authorities say that Al-Hilli may have had access to bank accounts owned by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It is claimed that Hussein had more than $1m deposited in the name of Al-Halli’s late father, Kadhim.

lake6A French investigator, who may have been leaking information to the press, appears certain that the motive lay in a family dispute over Kadhim Al-Halli’s estate, which includes a $1m property in the UK. The investigator fingered Al-Hilli’s brother, Zaid.

After Kadhim died in 2006, the two brothers worked together to gain title to their father’s property in Iraq, but had a falling out. Emotions ran high.

At the request of French officials, Zaid Al-Hilli was arrested in July this year but released on bail two days later. British police do not regard him as the lead suspect.

What is known is that Zaid made a number telephone calls to Romania before the killings and these are currently being investigated.

Aftyer interviewing 800 witnesses, taking 60 statements, seizing 1,500 exhibits and 5,500 documents in the past year, French and British police have yet to identify the killer or, if he was a professional hit man, or who put up the contract on the family.

lake2Muddying the waters is that the weapon used, which has still not been recovered, was a World War 2 vintage Luger, not usually a weapon of choice for professionals but easily available in nearby Switzerland.

All that seems certain is that someone cold-bloodedly tried to exterminate a family and an innocent passerby, shooting a seven year old girl in the process and beating her so severely that she was placed in a medically induced coma for several months.

And the killer, whoever he is, is still out there.

 

Click here to view other posts by Bob Couttie:

The Rachel Manning Murder: Real Killer Convicted after 13 years

The Day I Said “No” to the French Connection

England’s Most Notorious Child Killers: Myra Hindley and Ian Brady

Serial Child-Killer Ian Brady Argues For Death

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