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Alps shooting: 3 leads, but no suspects

Thursday 13 Sep 2012 8:03 a.m.

Army and police personnel stand outside the home of Saad al-Hilli in Claygate (Reuters)

Army and police personnel stand outside the home of Saad al-Hilli in Claygate (Reuters)

By John Heilprin

Investigators are pursuing three leads in the killings of a British-Iraqi couple and two other people in the French Alps, but there are no suspects yet, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The leads include an alleged family financial dispute.

Meanwhile, relatives of the dead couple called for the those responsible to be brought quickly to justice, saying they are "heartbroken" by the tragedy.

Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, and an elderly woman were shot dead inside a car in a remote area of southeast France, while a French cyclist riding nearby also was killed. The couple's seven-year-old daughter survived but was badly hurt, while her four-year-old sister was unharmed.

All four people killed suffered two bullets to the head among other wounds. The bodies were discovered by a British cyclist passing by who alerted police.

Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said at a news conference that the seven-year-old daughter is a "key witness" but likely won't unravel the case. She's still recovering from wounds and hasn't been questioned. "It's not on the words of a little seven-year-old that we can rest (this case)," Maillaud said.

The grisly murders and the enigma surrounding the case has gripped Britain, where the couple lived, as well as France.

Aside from the purported family dispute, possible links to Saad Al-Hilli's profession as an engineer and the couple's roots in Iraq are the other leads.

"At this point we don't have a suspect, but there are leads," the prosecutor said. "In this extremely difficult investigation, there are three possible leads. Establishing which one is the most important is more complicated."

He said the three leads involve the alleged conflict between Saad Al-Hilli and his brother over an inheritance, though the brother in England denies any dispute; the professional lead of the victim's work as a satellite communications engineer; and the geographical lead of Iraq, where the couple have roots.

"These are three areas that are evident," Maillaud said.

Maillaud also scolded journalists for reporting leaked information, saying they misquoted him. He suggested he wouldn't hesitate lodging proceedings. In France, investigations are secret by law.

In their first public statement, released through Britain's foreign ministry, Ahmed Al-Saffar said relatives of the dead are "heartbroken by this shocking crime." Al-Saffar was identified by the ministry as brother to the elderly woman killed in the attack.

The elderly woman has not been formally named, but the Sipa news agency has reported she is the Swedish-Iraqi mother-in-law of Saad al-Hilli.

"We hope that those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones are brought swiftly to justice," Al-Saffar said.

AP

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