UK & World News

  • 19 February 2014, 1:23

Man Arrested Over Alps Murders Is 'Former Cop'

A man arrested over the murder of three members of a British family and a French cyclist in the Alps is reportedly a former policeman.

The 48-year-old suspect, described as a quiet type who liked guns, was sacked from the force last June, according to the AFP news agency.

Quoting sources, it added that officers had seized weapons from the suspect's home.

Mobile phone records are thought to indicate he was near the scene of the killings at the time of the tragedy in September 2012.

It is the first time anyone has been arrested in France in connection with the case, which has baffled investigators despite major efforts on both sides of the Channel.

Iraqi-born Saad al Hilli, his wife Iqbal and her mother Suhaila al Allaf were found dead in their BMW on a remote mountain road near Lake Annecy, in southern France.

His daughter Zainab, seven at the time, recovered after being shot and pistol-whipped, while her sister Zeena, four, was found unhurt hiding beneath her mother's body inside the bullet-riddled car.

The body of French cyclist Sylvain Mollier was found nearby.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said a man from the Haute-Savoie region had been arrested and was being held in custody.

The man - who reportedly owns a property near the scene of the murders - was arrested in Chevaline at 9am.

Police are understood to be carrying out searches at two properties the man owns in the area, Sky's Europe Correspondent Robert Nisbet said.

The arrest is being linked to the release in November of an artist's impression of a motorcyclist seen near the scene of the massacre.

Mr Maillaud said: "This arrest, which may not be the only one, was the result of witness statements."

Sky's Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt said: "The police in France had information that a motorcyclist was seen by two forestry workers.

"They described him as having a goatee beard but, more importantly, a distinctive helmet.

"Inquiries that flowed from that appeal have led to the arrest of this man in Chevaline, the village that's nearest to the scene of the murders and he is, I'm told, being questioned on suspicion of murder."

Last month Surrey Police cancelled the bail of Mr al Hilli's brother, Zaid, who had been arrested over the murders, after deciding there was not enough evidence to charge him.

The decision frustrated the French authorities, who said they still had "many questions" to ask the 54-year-old.

Speculation surrounding the murders has also centred on the family's connections to Iraq and Saad al Hilli's job as a satellite engineer.

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