Suspect in unsolved 2012 French Alps murder is released without charge

Motorcyclist was interrogated in 2015 over killings, but has again been released

The murder scene near Chevaline in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France in October, 2012. PA
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A suspect who was questioned over the unsolved murders of three British family members and a French cyclist in the Alps nine years ago has been released without charge.

The man was freed on Thursday afternoon, Annecy prosecutor Line Bonnet tweeted.

“The explanations given and the verifications carried out made it possible to rule out their potential participation in the events,” Ms Bonnet said.

She said “investigations are continuing to identify the perpetrator(s)”.

No charges have been filed in the case after nine years of investigation.

The former suspect, who was rearrested on Wednesday morning, was the same motorcyclist who was interrogated over the killings in 2015, French media reported.

At the time, he was arrested after police circulated a sketch of a biker seen near the crime scene, but investigators found no evidence to implicate him then either.

Saad Al Hilli, 50, his wife, Ikbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila Al Allaf, 74, were shot dead on a road near Annecy in eastern France on September 5, 2012.

Their two young daughters survived the horror, but cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, was also killed.

After his rearrest, the motorcyclist’s custody was extended by prosecutors late on Wednesday as they worked to “verify the timeline”, Ms Bonnet said.

His defence lawyer, Jean-Christophe Basson-Larbi, was quoted by French broadcaster BFMTV as saying that the renewed questioning was down to a “judicial error” and that his client was living through a “nightmare”.

A photofit of a motorcyclist in a distinctive helmet seen near the crime scene was issued by police in 2013.

He was arrested two years later, but was released after claiming he had been paragliding in the area.

He said he had not come forward earlier, despite the wide circulation of the sketch, because he had not seen anything and did not think his evidence would be useful, BFMTV reported.

“The gentleman’s position has always been the same: ‘I was walking … but never crossed paths with this poor family’,” Mr Basson-Larbi said of his client, a businessman, 57, living in Lyon.

The bodies of Iraqi-born engineer Mr Al Hilli and his dentist wife, who lived in Claygate, Surrey, were discovered along with that of Mrs Al Hilli’s mother in their BMW on a remote forest route.

In a bizarre twist, Mrs Al Hilli’s previous husband, an American dentist named only as James T, died from a heart attack on the same day as the couple, but police said there was no link to the murders.

Suspects previously arrested in connection with the case include an Iraqi prisoner known as Mr S, who was claimed to have said he had been offered “a large sum of money” to kill Iraqis living in the UK.

Mr Al Hilli’s brother, Zaid, was also arrested on suspicion of murder in 2013 but was later told he would face no further action after police found there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.

Updated: January 13, 2022, 9:40 PM