Alps shootings: One gun used in attack, police say

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSurrey Police called the Army bomb disposal unit after concerns over items found in the garden shed

Only one gun was used in the attack on a British man shot dead with his wife, mother-in-law and a cyclist in the French Alps, police in France say.

Officials told reporters in Annecy that ballistics tests found 25 spent cartridges left at the scene came from a 7.65mm calibre semi-automatic pistol.

Bomb disposal experts were called to Saad al-Hilli's Surrey home to examine items, but say they were not hazardous.

French police have spoken briefly to his eldest daughter, Zainab.

But officers are still waiting to question the seven-year-old, who was shot in the shoulder and hit around the head. She was brought out of a coma on Sunday.

Her four-year-old sister, Zeena, has returned to the UK and is under the care of the authorities and social services.

She lay undiscovered for eight hours after her parents, her grandmother, and a local cyclist, 45-year-old Sylvain Mollier, died in Wednesday's attack in Chevaline, close to the tourist destination of Lake Annecy.

French investigators, assisted by British officers including Surrey Police firearms officers, started examining the Claygate home of Mr al-Hilli, 50, on Saturday as part of an attempt to establish a motive for the murders which took place during the family's camping holiday.

Officers from the Royal Logistics Corps bomb disposal unit arrived at the family home after concerns were raised by Surrey Police.

They spent about two hours at the property before leaving shortly after midday.

Surrey Police said: "The items were found... when the search of the property was extended from the main building to outbuildings in the garden. A bomb disposal unit was called to the scene to carry out an assessment as a precautionary measure."

In the afternoon, the force said its officers were using power tools to access a safe at the address.

Earlier, French police confirmed that Mr al-Hilli's 74-year old mother-in-law was among the victims, but did not name her.

Ballistics details

The revelation that a single gun was used in the shootings comes after the number of cartridges recovered by detectives led to speculation that there was more than one gunman. But police have not formally revealed how many assailants they believe could have been involved at the scene.

Meanwhile, a gun expert quoted by the AFP news agency, Yves Gollety, president of France's Chamber of Gunsmiths, said the 7.65mm calibre can be found in a range of "relatively old, even outdated" pistols.

In France, police have recovered a laptop computer from the caravan in which the family was staying and are studying more video footage from around the crime site.

Police have also returned to the scene and widened their area of investigation as they probe the getaway route taken. They have also asked their Italian and Swiss counterparts to help in the hunt for the killers.

Mr al-Hilli's wife, Iqbal, and her 74-year-old mother who held a Swedish passport, were killed. The body of the fourth victim was found near the car.

On Saturday, French prosecutor Eric Maillaud said post-mortem examinations found the victims were killed by several bullets and "all four were hit twice in the head".

Image caption Saad al-Hilli and his family arrive at the Solitaire du Lac camp site on Monday. Close to the shores of Lac Annecy, in the Haute Savoie region of France, the area is popular with British tourists. They pitch their tents next to their caravan, shown above.
Image caption A former RAF serviceman who was on holiday in the area, is cycling on this forest road where he is passed by another cyclist, Frenchman Sylvain Mollier. Just south of the village of Chevaline, the road winds up a steep hill through a thickly forested area.
Image caption Minutes later, the British cyclist comes across Mr al-Hilli's BMW in this lay-by, its engine running. There he discovers the French cyclist with a fatal bullet wound to the head and seven-year-old Zainab al-Hilli who had been badly beaten and had a gunshot wound to the shoulder.
Image caption He puts Zainab in the recovery position, calls for assistance and breaks the driver's window to reach in and turn off the car's engine. Inside the vehicle, Saad al-Hilli is slumped over the steering wheel. In the back are his dead wife and mother-in-law. Three of the four victims were shot in the middle of the head.
Image caption Also inside the car is Zainab's four-year-old sister Zeena, who is hiding in the back of the car under the legs of the dead women. French police on the scene are told not to disturb the crime scene and do not open the doors for fear of shattering the glass which has bullet holes in it.
Image caption Eight hours later, police re-examine the car and pull Zeena, "terrorised and motionless", from the car. The search was made after investigators spoke to neighbours at the campsite who said there were two children. An earlier search using a thermal camera on a helicopter had not detected the child.

A couple of days after the killings, French police said that a possible dispute over money between Mr al-Hilli and his brother, Zaid, was one of the lines of inquiry in the investigation.

This was based on credible information coming from the British police, they said.

But Mr Maillaud has since said that Zaid al-Hilli, who denied to UK police there was any dispute over "financial matters", would be interviewed "as a witness" by French officers "just like any other family member".

"Everyone talks about a dispute between the brothers as if it was an established fact. The brother says there was no dispute so let us remain cautious about that," he said.

Flowers have been left at the scene of the shooting in France, while floral tributes from neighbours have been placed at the al-Hilli home in recent days.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites