Police arrested a man for the murder of a British family in a notorious firearms attack in the Alps.
Surrey businessman Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were shot dead in a horrific attack in September 2012.
French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, also died in the bloodbath, after being shot at point blank range seven times.
The arrest is the latest dramatic twist in a case that has baffled investigators over the years and led them to pursue several fruitless lines of investigation.
Despite a worldwide investigation, the individual or gang responsible has thus far never been caught.
French prosecutors have now confirmed the arrest of a person in connection with the killings, which occurred near a beautiful site on Lake Annecy in eastern France.
Officers swooped in this morning at 8:05 a.m. and detained the man, who lives with his partner, BFMTV reports.
The suspect lives in Lyon and searches of his home and nearby properties continued.
Al-Hilli’s Iraq-born brother Zaid told The Sun Online that he was “a bit surprised” by the arrest that “came completely out of nowhere” as he criticized the French investigation.
“I mean hopefully this is the end, but we’ve had so many red herrings in the last few years,” he said.
“The investigation of the French has not been the best and now I think they just want to show that they are still working on it, but it is a bit late.”
“Anyone could see that, but the French insisted on going down dead ends and trying to cover up their original mistakes.”
The man has already been spoken to as a suspect and his movements are being verified at the time of the murder.
The three killed were ruthlessly dispatched with ‘double hit’ shots to the head by a professional shooter who surrounded their parked BMW.
The Al-Hilli’s daughter, Zeena, 4, hid in the footwell of the vehicle and was unharmed, while her sister, Zainab, 7, was shot and beaten but recovered well.
The prosecutor Line Bonnet-Mathis has always insisted that the investigation was still very active.
In October, a lake near the crime scene. what sealed as part of the investigation.
RESEARCH AROUND THE WORLD
Referring to the town closest to the crime scene, Bonnet said at the time: “The Chevaline case continues and still involves a coroner and investigators.”
She confirmed that forensic officers were back at the scene.
They were accompanied by local magistrates who had obtained an order to close the road for two periods of 24 hours.
His work was being carried out under conditions of strict secrecy, with all traffic, including planes flying overhead, prohibited by court order.
“It is an opportunity for the new legal team to examine elements of the case, including inconsistencies in the witnesses’ wills,” said another investigating source.
When asked if a rebuild was underway, the source said: “Technically not, it’s more of an opportunity for the team to get acquainted with the scene.”
Last year, detectives said they were investigating a possible link between the murders and a botched gang of Paris-based hit men.
The pistol cartridges found in the home of a member, a former police intelligence officer, were of the same caliber as those fired by the former Luger PO6 used to kill the Al-Hilli.
If the gang was involved, the cyclist, Mr. Mollier, was most likely the primary target, investigators believe.
He was a welder at a subsidiary of nuclear power group Areva, but tensions in his personal life were more likely to have provided a motive for him to be targeted, they said.
Zaid al Hilli repeated his statement that Mollier was the target and his relatives were mere innocent bystanders.
“It is obvious that Mollier was the target. My brother and his family were just tourists on vacation, they had no itinerary and they were only on the road because they were on vacation, but sadly it was the wrong plane at the wrong time,” he said.
Bewildered French researchers have considered many other possible reasons for the attacks.
These range from Al-Hilli’s past life in Iraq, including possible financial ties to the late dictator Saddam Hussein, to claims that a ‘lone wolf’ psychopath was responsible for a random attack.
But none of the numerous theories surrounding the so-called Alpine Murders have stood, meaning there have been no criminal charges.
In September 2020, sisters Zainab and Zeena were questioned again by the police in the hope that they could give new clues.
The cops even probed Saad’s work on making military satellites as a motive and his 61-year-old brother Zaid were questioned about an alleged dispute but told they would face no further action.
A former French Army paratrooper who had an affair with Sylvain Mollier’s sister was in the framework for the murders.
Patrice Menegaldo later committed suicide and remains the prime suspect in the 2012 murders.
He left a suicide note in reference to the Alpine Murders, following questioning by Chambery detectives.
Bonnet-Mathis insists that prosecutors “must not get carried away” by the latest arrest.
“We have already had a suicide after police custody in this case, so we must be cautious and measured about its outcome,” he said.
“I don’t want to reveal anything that identifies this person, or where he comes from.”