Two British girls who witnessed their parents being shot dead by a mystery killer in the French Alps are to be re-interviewed over the case that has never been solved.
Eight years after the horrific murders, a prosecutor says the young orphans may now finally be old enough to be re-interviewed about the chilling tragedy to ‘provide new leads’.
Zainab and Zeena Al-Hilli were just seven and four when their father Saad, 50, and mother Iqbal, 47, were gunned down in front of them close to Lake Annecy.
Saad al-Hilli, his wife and his mother-in-law were found in his bullet-riddled car along with the girls’ 74-year-old grandmother, Suhaila Al-Allaf.
A local cyclist Sylvian Mollier, 45, also died in the September 2012 bloodbath that continues to perplex detectives.
Mirror writer Tom Parry wrote a book about the killings, and has covered the twists in turns in the case that has since included theories a serial killer could be on the loose, and police inquiries focused whether the killer may have had a military background.
Nobody has ever been brought to justice over the slaughter, but Annecy prosecutor Veronique Denizot now believes the girls may be old enough ‘to provide new leads.’
Zainab was shot and pistol-whipped during the murder, and Zeena spent a whole night cowering under her mother’s skirt in the vehicle’s rear seat before she was discovered by a forensic officer.
Zainab, who is now 15, and Zeena, 12, are living at a secret address in the UK, after being placed in the care of other members of the Al-Hilli family, who are of Iraqi origin.
“The British judicial authorities have given permission for the girls, the two Al-Hilli daughters, to be heard again,” Ms Denizot told RTL Radio.
“The older daughter was originally heard when she came out of hospital in Grenoble after the events, and she offered certain details, to the investigators, to the magistrates involved in this dossier.”
Eight days after she was shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head by the killer, Zainab said there ‘was only one bad man’ involved in the attack.
Ms Denizot said: “If the children can speak again, can offer new elements, perhaps they have new things to say that will help.
“Up until now they have been judged as being too traumatised, and in the wrong psychological state.’
The family were on a camping holiday in the Alps when they came under attack in a secluded lay-by in a wood after parking up in their BMW car.
Twenty-five shots were fired in total, and the four adult bodies were found by Englishman Brett Martin, a former RAF pilot who was out cycling in the area.
Zainab was seen stumbling along the road by Mr Martin, while her sister remained hidden in the back of the car, under her mother’s legs.
Ms Denizot said the “slightest new recollection” by one of the girls might be enough to get the stalled investigation moving again.
“Perhaps a detail, a little element that can reopen the enquiry,” said Ms Denizot, adding: ‘It is something that we would want to achieve with the help of the British authorities.’
Within days of the attack, British police searched the Al-Hilli family home in Claygate, Surrey, to try and establish a motive for the murders.
There have been numerous theories, ranging from claims that Mr Al-Hilli, an engineer, had powerful enemies in his native Iraq, to a family Will dispute.
Despite all this, Ms Denizot said all lines of enquiry had come to nothing, and that a “local motive was the most likely” and that the victims had been “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
The French cyclist, Sylvian Mollier, had lived in the area all his life, and was shot seven times.
Ms Denizot said efforts were still under way to find the owner of the murder weapon, a vintage Swiss Army 7.65mm P06 Luger which was identified through fragments of the gun found at the scene.
‘Work is still underway Switzerland, where they continue to look for the weapon,’ said Ms Denizot.
“Details about the weapon are very precise, but there were thousands of them issued. It’s important to find it, or at least to find the last person who owned it.
“It’s important that the Swiss work hard at this, but unfortunately it has still not been found.’
Responding to the latest developments, Saad Al-Hilli’s UK-based brother, Zaid Al-Hilli, 61, said: “There are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered.”
A spokesman for Surrey Police said: “This is a complex and ongoing French-led investigation and it is inappropriate for us to comment on any details of the case or specific lines of enquiry.
“We continue to work closely with the French authorities, and remain committed to helping find answers to what happened in Annecy on September 5 2012.”