A British schoolgirl left for dead after an Alpine gun massacre demanding the life of her parents remember ‘the white skin and bare hands of her attacker’, it has been revealed.
Zainab Al-Hilli was only seven when she was shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head during the infamous attack almost exactly ten years ago.
Now she’s 16 and – according to dramatic revelations in the newspaper Le Parisien this weekend – she was interviewed by British detectives for a long time in June this year.
While she previously recalled seeing ‘one bad man’, Zainab has now provided more precise details that could help solve the cold case at last.
Saad and Ikbal al-Hilli with their daughter Zainab when she was three
Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old Iraqi-born British tourist and his wife Iqbal were shot dead for their two young daughters in a wooded car park near Lake Annecy, near France’s border with Switzerland
Brett Martin, a former RAF officer now 63 years old, was the first to discover Zainab driving a BMW car on September 5, 2012 in an isolated country near Lake Annecy, in eastern France.
Inside were her father, Saad Al-Hilli, 50, her mother Ikbal Al-Hilli, 47, and her grandmother, Suhaila Al-Allaf, 74.
All were shot, along with French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father of three, whose body lay next to the car.
Zainab’s four-year-old sister, Zeena Al-Halli, was later found alive and well, hiding in the back of the BMW.
French researchers told Le Parisien that in June Zainab “provided a testimony of unique accuracy to the drama.”
Surrey businessman Saad al-Hilli, 50, (left) his wife Iqbal, 47, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were hit in their BMW car on September 5, 2012, next to French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, ( right) who also died in the massacre
She told how the family was on vacation, and enjoying a ride through mountainous countryside through the village of Chevaline.
They came to the ‘edge of a small road with holes,’ and Zainab got out of the car with her father.
She reminded herself that she saw cyclist Sylvian Mollier, and while other members of the family were standing out of the car, ‘the gun sounded.’
Zainab was ordered back into the car by her parents, but then the shooter grabbed the girl from behind.
‘At first she thought it was her father, but then saw the white skin and bare hands of her attacker, and realized it could not be him.
‘Zainab wrestled but could not get out of hand. According to her, the perpetrator was wearing long trousers and a leather jacket. ‘
Zainab was then shot with a pistol and blacked out after suffering multiple facial injuries. She later made a full recovery and returned to the United Kingdom, where she now lives.
Mr. Martin, who owned a holiday home in the Annecy area, first thought he had stumbled upon a traffic accident on the road, but then saw the bullet holes and bullets lying on the ground.
The mobile reception was so bad that he had to drive away to alert the police after putting Zainab in the recovery position.
Le Parisien has now received unpublished investigative documents suggesting that the killer may have been unknown to all of his or her victims.
Gendarmes working on the magistrates’ investigation have suggested that there are now three suspects who may be responsible for the massacre, including a businessman from Lyon named Pierre C .; and a third man only identified as suspect X.
Phone records and other data, combined with statements from people who were in the area at the time of the attack, suggest that the multiple killings took no more than one and a half minutes.
Pierre C, who was riding a moped for days, was arrested in January this year but later released without charge.
How did events on the day of the 2012 gun massacre of a British family and French cyclist in the Alps unfold?
On the morning of September 5, 2012, Iqbal, her mother Suhaila and her daughters, Zainab and Zeena, were seen eating apples together.
At 1 p.m., the family left the campground and drove toward the village of Chevaline.
After 3:45 p.m., an RAF veteran picked up another cyclist on a heavily wooded road south of Chevaline in the French Alps.
Moments later, he pulled into a parking lot and found Mr. Mollier lying dead next to the family’s bullet-ridden BMW, which was still running the engine and in reverse.
He saw wounded Zainab running towards him before he collapsed. He put her in the recovery position and called for help.
The cyclist saw the dead of Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and his mother-in-law Suhaila, in the car, which was locked.
Each of them was shot twice in the head, while Mr Mollier was shot seven times.
At 4.20pm the police arrived but did not disturb the crime scene because forensic experts from Paris were on their way. More than two dozen used bullet casings were later found near the car.
Zainab was taken to hospital in Grenoble while her sister Zeena remained hidden, and spent eight hours under her mother’s legs in the back of her foot before she was discovered.
At 11 p.m., a family who had been camping next to al-Hilli’s told police that the couple had two children who led to a rescue mission with helicopters and search dogs to find Zeena.
A helicopter with thermal imagery flew over the BMW, but could not detect Zeena.
At midnight on September 6, police finally opened the car doors and discovered the four-year-old lying under the legs of her dead mother.
Lise Bonnet, Annecy’s prosecutor, initially said there had been ‘inconsistencies’ with the man’s alibi.
Pierre C. was the ‘mystery motorcyclist’ who was seen fleeing the scene of crime and getting lost.
An e-fit photo of a ‘primary suspect motorcyclist’ with a beard was released in November 2013 and showed him in a distinctive black helmet, of which only about 8,000 were made.
The image, mainly made by two rangers who spoke briefly with the man, finally led in 2015 to a first arrest of the cyclist.
The Al-Hillis were from an Iraqi Muslim background, and this has led to theories that they may have been pursued by enemies associated with Iraq.
In a detailed interview last year, Mr Martin said: ‘In retrospect, I think I could have been the fifth victim.
‘About 200 or 300 meters from the place a motorbike passed me very slowly. It was a black-clad motorcyclist in a full-face helmet and a Trans Alpine style of bike. I could not see her face and could not even tell if they were male or female.
‘When they immediately slowed down, I thought they would stop and talk to me, but then they seemed to change their minds.
‘When you reflect, you think that’s interesting, because at least he or she would fit the murder scene.
‘I call it my’ happiest unhappy day ‘. I think if the tractor had had a few more pieces of ammunition, I would not have been here. ‘
At the time, Mr Martin was staying in his holiday home in the nearby village of Lathuile.
He now trains pilots, and lives in Brighton with his wife Theresa.
He also crossed paths with Mr Mollier – the cyclist who died – minutes before the murders, and passed a still unknown car, presumably a dark gray BMW SUV.
Mr Martin said: ‘Mollier came up the main road on a race bike. We fell together at the intersection and I turned right behind him.
‘I tried to keep up, but his pace was much faster, so I went off and he was out of sight within three or four minutes. About halfway up the hill, a 4×4 type car passed me at about 20 or 30 mph.
‘I cursed under my breath because it was a narrow track and I had to sit right on the edge of the gravel to not get cut.
‘I went after,’ Douwe, you must not drive so hard past a cyclist. ‘ That’s why it stayed with me. ‘
Describing the murder scene, Mr Martin said: ‘I first saw a bicycle on the ground and then I saw a child coming from behind some bushes.
‘Zainab walked up the road and fell on her face. I did not see Mollier until I got much closer, as he was sitting on the ground in front of the car.
‘The BMW engine was at full power with its wheels. I was not in shock. With my aviation and military background, I just took the necessary actions.
‘My first thought was to get Zainab out of the way of the car in case he swerved forward. Her eyes rolled and she went in and out of consciousness. Her head was badly injured.
‘Then I moved Mollier out of the car. I felt for his pulse and there was nothing. I walked to the car and wanted to turn off the ignition, but the door was locked and I had to break the window. It was then that I noticed a bullet hole.
‘That’s when I switched my mind from’ This is a car accident ‘to’ Oh s ** t, this is a little worse. ‘ ‘
As he could not get a signal on his mobile, Mr Martin rode down the hill before arresting a driver, who helped raise the alarm.
He was allowed to fly home to the UK, saying: ‘But they did not take the clothes I was wearing. I did not wash the clothes for a week or two, but in the end I thought, ‘I have to wash them, because they are my riding clothes.’
‘Then they asked for it, but I said,’ A month has passed, it’s been washed. ‘ They said, ‘Oh, give it to us.’
Mr Martin took part in a one-day reconstruction of the day of the murder last year, which included many other witnesses, but not Zainab or Zeena.
Mr Martin said: ‘I would be happy to meet them one day, if they want to, absolutely. I have desperate sympathy for them – and everyone in the world wants this case to be cracked. ‘
Le Parisien gave no further details on the Suspect X theory, saying he could be anyone, from a local rambler with a gun, to a motorcyclist or cyclist.
The so-called Alps Murders case has given rise to several theories, from contract murders to family arguments, but no one has yet been charged in relation to the crimes.
Orphaned British girl whose parents were shot in Alps reveals details about killer
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