French police believe a deeply traumatised four-year-old girl who hid for eight hours under the bodies of her slain relatives, and her critically injured sister may hold the key to the gruesome murder of four people in an Alpine beauty spot.
The two girls were under extremely high protection as police hunted for the gunman who shot dead her parents and grandmother as well as a passing cyclist on Wednesday afternoon in what officials described as an “act of gross savagery”.
Three of the four victims were shot in the middle of the head with a semi-automatic pistol meaning the killer pulled the trigger for each shot, leading to fears the professional nature of the attack may indicate a contract killing. Police said they were not sure how the fourth person, believed to be the children’s mother, died.
The four-year-old, named in Britain as Zeena al-Hilli, asked for her family after she was finally pulled from the scene of carnage, “terrorised, motionless, in the midst of the bodies”, said a French official. British consular officials, despatched from Paris, were trying to comfort her and her older sister Zainab.
The dead man, who was found slumped over the steering wheel, has been named as Iraqi-born engineer Saad al-Hilli, 50, from Claygate in Surrey, but there was no official confirmation of his identity or those of the two women shot while sitting in the back of the car. One of them was reported to be carrying an Iraqi passport and the other a Swedish passport.
Their bodies were found in a British-registered BMW estate car near the picturesque village of Chevaline in the French Alps near where they had been camping…