Annecy shootings: Detention of man held in connection with al-Hilli family killings extended as French media reports he was questioned in 2015

The detention of a man arrested over the unsolved killings of a British-Iraqi family and a cyclist in the French Alps has been extended amid reports he was questioned back in 2015.

The suspect has been in custody since Wednesday morning.

In 2012, Saad al-Hilli, his wife Ikba and his mother-in-law Souhaila al-Allaf, who all lived in Surrey, were shot dead in their car on a remote road near Annecy in eastern France.

The al-Hillis’ two young daughters, who were in the car at the time of the shooting, survived the attack.

Four-year-old Zeena, who hid under her mother’s legs during the killings, was found inside the BMW estate car about eight hours after the attack.

Her seven-year-old sister Zainab was shot in the shoulder and found bloodied and beaten outside the vehicle. She was later interviewed.

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, also died after being shot seven times.

All of those who died were found with at least three bullet wounds, each with at least one shot to the head.

Prosecutor Line Bonnet said the investigative judge had extended custody for the suspect to allow house searches to be carried out and so more questioning on the timeline around the murders can take place.

Suspect detained in 2015 – French media

The detained man has not been identified, but French media reported that he is known to investigators and was questioned in 2015 after British police in 2013 issued a composite drawing of a motorcyclist in a distinctive helmet seen nearby.

However, the prosecutor in Annecy found no evidence to implicate the motorcyclist at the time, who claimed he was paragliding when the killings took place.

He said he had not come forward earlier, despite the wide circulation of the sketch, because he had not seen anything and did not think his testimony would be useful, BFMTV reported.

He is a 57-year-old father and company manager, according to the broadcaster.

‘He’s in custody for nothing’

The current suspect’s lawyer, Jean-Christophe Basson-Larbi, said his client’s detention was unjustified because he has cooperated with police and investigators had previously cleared him of involvement in the gruesome murders.

“He feels, perhaps wrongly – but I share the feeling with him – that he’s been placed in custody for nothing,” Mr Basson-Larbi said.

“They put this man under a cloud of suspicion, hung a life sentence over his head, to check his whereabouts” nine years ago, the lawyer told French reporters.

The lawyer said the man’s testimony on the events of that day remains the same: He was on a stroll in the area and might have crossed the isolated road where the victims were found, but had not seen “this poor family”.

Who else has been arrested?

Suspects previously arrested in connection with the case include an Iraqi prisoner known as Mr S.

He was claimed to have said he had been offered “a large sum of money” to kill Iraqis living in the UK.

Mr al-Hilli’s brother, Zaid, was also arrested on suspicion of murder in 2013 but was later told he would face no further action after police found there was insufficient evidence to charge him with a crime.

Police were also investigating a possible link with a gang of contract killers living in Paris.

No charges have ever been made in the case.

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