French Alps murders: Cyclist 'was shot first'

Aerial picture of the scene near Chevaline, Annecy, France where four people were found shot dead.
Image caption Police suggest the killer of the Hilli family behaved ruthlessly but without logic

Police investigating the shooting of a British family in the French Alps believe the cyclist also found dead at the scene was shot first, according to a leaked provisional scenario.

Sylvain Mollier was hit by the first bullets, the report leaked to the French Le Parisien newspaper suggests.

The killer then shot Saad al-Hilli, his wife and mother-in-law while they sat in their car.

French investigators suggest the killer was acting alone.

The family, from Surrey, were on a camping holiday on the shores of Lake Annecy when they were killed.

The report details how forensic tests suggest Mr Hilli was outside the car with his seven-year-old daughter Zeinab when the shooting started and had attempted to escape with his family before being shot, the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says.

Image caption Saad al-Hilli was found dead in his car in France along with two family members

Without logic

In panic, Mr Hilli reversed the car into a bank of earth surrounding the remote car park above the hamlet of Chevaline, the report suggests, trapping the back axle and preventing his escape.

Zeinab was also shot in the shoulder and was struck with the gun, but survived.

The killer then returned to Mr Mollier, who had been wounded by the first shots, police believe.

The killer apparently missed her four-year-old sister Zeena who was found hiding under the skirts of her dead mother and grandmother the following day.

Police described the killer as behaving ruthlessly, but without much logic, a pattern of behaviour they suggest is not consistent with a professional hitman.

The report does not suggest investigators are any closer to learning the identity or motive of the killer.

French and British police have formed a joint task force to investigate Mr Hilli's work as an engineer, his family connections and links to Iraq, where he was born.

Innocent bystander

It also remains unclear whether the Hilli family were the intended targets.

Early on in the investigation Mr Mollier, who lived near the site of the shootings, was characterised by French chief prosecutor in the case, Eric Maillaud, as an innocent bystander in "the wrong place at the wrong time".

But local police later said they were open to the theory that the 45-year-old father of three had been the target of the killer, though they provided no evidence to support this.

Mr Mollier worked for a subsidiary of a company called Areva Group, producing metals for use in constructing nuclear reactors. The company has a research and development centre in the nearby town of Ugine.

He was reported missing by his wife when he failed to return home from his cycle ride.

Speaking earlier this month, Mr Maillaud warned there was no hope of solving the murders "in the near future".

"There are lines of inquiry but each raises so many questions and nothing suggests there will be a quick solution," he said.

Christian Fraser says the leaked report does not dispel French police's current working theory that the gunman was local and a "lone wolf".

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