NEWS
11/09/2012 10:43 BST | Updated 11/09/2012 10:49 BST

French Alps Shooting: Witness Describes Horror Of Scene Where Al-Hilli Family Were Slaughtered

A walker has described his horror on arrival at the remote spot where a British man was murdered alongside his wife and mother-in-law in a shooting spree in the French Alps.

The man, named only as Philippe D, 41, recalled he was unable to rouse seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli who survived the ordeal, believing she was dead as she lay on the ground close to the family car.

He said the carnage in front of him resembled a scene from a film and he described an eerie silence in the secluded car park where four people were blasted to death.

Police have been forced to cordon off the road around the house and residents have been asked to leave neighbouring properties

"I approached the car. I did not touch anything but I saw that there was nothing that could be done. There was no sign of life," he said.

The witness told Le Parisien newspaper that he set out with two friends last Wednesday afternoon to go walking.

As they drove up a hill in the Combe d'Ire forest, near Chevaline, they were met by a "panic-stricken" British cyclist making his way down from the murder scene.

He recalled that the cyclist, a former member of the RAF, tried to explain in bad French what lay up ahead and wanted to call for help.

Mr D continued up the hill to the car park where he saw the bodies of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his dentist wife Iqbal and Mrs al-Hilli's mother in their bullet-ridden BMW.

Saad al-Hilli, whose was murdered in the attack alongside his wife and mother-in-law

A fourth body, that of Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack, lay on the ground.

Zainab was lying by the car.

"I immediately understood," he said.

He turned his attention to Zainab.

He said: "She did not respond when we addressed her. I clapped my hands but she did not react. I even spoke a few words of English because I saw that the car had a British number plate but nothing happened.

"As far as I could tell, she was dead."

The campsite where the family was holidaying before the tragedy

The professionalism of the massacre has led to speculation that a team of hitmen carried out the attack. However some media reports that Mr al-Hilli, an engineer who left Saddam Hussein's Iraq several years ago, was known to the security services and was put under surveillance by Metropolitan Police Special Branch during the second Gulf war.

The mystery deepened earlier on Tuesday after a Dutch couple staying at the same campsite as the family said Mr al-Hilli moved his clan to a different site two days before they were murdered, and claimed he acted strangely.

They also noticed an unusual man wearing a smart jacket visiting while the al-Hillis were there But staff at Village Camping Europa said the family behaved normally: "They came to stay with us on Saturday evening and left on Monday.

"That was pre-planned - they were here for just a few days."

She dismissed suggestions that Mr al-Hilli behaved oddly during his stay, adding: "There was nothing strange. All families leave the campsite at all sorts of times to run errands, go to the shop, organise activities, that sort of thing."

And she said comments about a mysterious man described as appearing "to come from the Balkans" were "ridiculous".

She said: "That was an Italian man who was here. He left and got on his plane as was planned."

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