Prosecutor not sure man held in French Alps murder was involved

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 19, 2014 11:54 AM

ANNECY, France (Reuters) - A French prosecutor said on Wednesday there was no certainty a man being questioned over the 2012 killing of a British family had played a role in it and said a second man had also been detained in the investigation.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the 48-year-old man arrested on Tuesday bore "a very strong resemblance" to a mystery motorcyclist sought for months by police investigating the murder in Chevaline in the southeastern Rhone-Alpes region.

But the former policeman, a hunter with a large collection of World War Two-era weapons who left his job last year, had no criminal record, Maillaud told journalists.

Police found weapons, a grenade and mortars during searches of his home and other storage areas but did not find the gun used in the killings, he said.

"As I'm talking to you now, the Chevaline killing has not yet been resolved," Maillaud said. "Nothing today tells us that we have today the Chevaline killer.

"We have neither found a weapon, a helmet nor a motorbike that resembles (those we are seeking)," he said, adding it appeared "relatively inconceivable" the man would be charged for the murder.

Maillaud said a friend of the man had also been arrested on suspicion of weapons trafficking after a large arsenal was found at his house.

Saad al-Hilli, an Iraqi-born British engineer, was found shot dead in September 2012 with his wife and mother-in-law in their BMW car on a remote mountain road near the village of Chevaline. The body of a cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was discovered nearby.

They were killed in what appeared to be execution-style murders from a semi-automatic pistol.

Hilli's two daughters survived the attack despite the gunman trying to kill the older girl, who was 7, by beating her on the head after running out of bullets. The younger one, 4, was found hiding under the legs of her dead mother in the backseat.

Hilli's brother Zaid, who prosecutors said had feuded with him over an inheritance, was arrested last year in Britain on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. He was released in January by British police with no charges filed.

(Reporting By Catherine Lagrange; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Tom Heneghan)