Detectives rule out internal feud over murder of British-Iraqi family in French Alps

French investigators believe a local was responsible for the murder of four people in September 2012

Detectives investigating the murder of a British family in France five years ago have admitted they still have no idea about the identity of their killer after ruling out a bitter internal feud over their Iraqi business interests.

Investigators believe a local was responsible for the murder of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf in the French Alps on September 5, 2012, but say they have not identified any suspects.

Detectives in France and Britain had worked on the theory that the killer followed the family’s car along winding roads through the French Alps on September 5, 2012, and shot the three adults at a remote lay-by in the woods in Chevaline near the border with Switzerland.

A Frenchman out cycling, Sylvain Mollier, was also killed – potentially because he witnessed the murders – and the al-Hilli’s daughter seven-year-old Zainab was struck on the head with a pistol butt but survived the attack.

Read more: French Alps shooting: a mystery and a tragedy

Her four-year-old sister, Zeena, was uninjured and found hiding under her dead mother’s skirt in the back of the car hours after the multiple shooting.

Detectives arrested Mr al-Hilli’s brother Zaid and questioned him over an alleged feud related to the estate left by his late father. Mr al-Hilli came to Britain as a teenager after his father fell out with Saddam Hussein’s Baath party and his engineering business was impounded. Zaid al-Hilli was later ruled out as a suspect.

The investigation also probed Mr al-Hilli’s role as a satellite engineer amid suggestions that he was killed because of his work. They also investigated whether Mr Mollier was the intended victim of the attack and members of the British family, who were on a summer camping holiday, were killed because they had witnessed that killing.

All the leads came to nothing, the state prosecutor for Annecy, Veronique Denizot, told local media in an interview to mark the fifth anniversary of the killing.

“The killer can only have been local but we do not have a mobile phone trace and all the witnesses have been eliminated,” she told France Bleu Pays de Savoie in an interview. “Only the discovery of the weapon, its owner or the killer himself will provide the answer one day.”

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The authorities have identified the murder weapon as a Luger semi-automatic pistol, dating back to before the 1940s suggesting that the killer was not a professional assassin. The weapon – of which more than 56,000 were made and several thousand are still believed to be in circulation - has not been found.

French officials had suggested as early as 2012 that the murders could have been the work of a local killer and the failure to identify any other motive has prompted the investigators to fall back on the theory that the murder was a random killing by a disturbed individual.