Alps killings police find 'no link so far' to held man

Police use metal detectors to search a garden Image copyright AFP
Image caption French police used metal detectors to search a garden in the town of Talloires, near the murder scene

French police investigating the killing of a British family in the Alps in 2012 say they so far have nothing to link a man in custody with the crime.

A number of guns have been confiscated from the home of the detained 48-year-old former policeman.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud also confirmed a second man was being held.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, an Iraqi-born British citizen, was found dead in his BMW car; his wife Iqbal, her mother and a French cyclist were also killed.

The 48-year-old man from the Haute-Savoie region, who was arrested on Tuesday, has been described in reports as a gun enthusiast, a bit of a loner and somewhat difficult.

Police found a Luger pistol during a search of his home in Talloires, about 10 km from the murder scene, but it was not the same model as the Luger used in the shooting.

Mr Maillaud said: "There is no direct link at the moment."

Mr al-Hilli and his family lived in Claygate, Surrey, and were on holiday at the time of the attack, along with Mrs al-Hilli's mother, Suhaila al-Allaf, who lived in Sweden.

Mr and Mrs al-Hilli's two young daughters, aged seven and four at the time, survived the attack, which took place in a car park near Lake Annecy.

The older daughter, Zainab, was shot and beaten. Her sister, Zeena, was found traumatised but physically unscathed after hiding under bodies in the car.

The body of the cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was found nearby.

'Resembles' description

On Wednesday, Mr Maillaud said the ex-policeman's arrest did not mean the case was solved.

The man was described as having a strong resemblance to an identikit image of a motorcyclist seen near the murder scene.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The first arrest followed the release of this identikit image of a motorcyclist

"We are talking about one person who resembles the description of another man who was near the scene at the time," Mr Maillaud said.

"We do not know what he was doing there. As I speak to you, that person is still in detention but we have nothing that would link him to the crimes so far."

Mr Maillaud said the second man in custody was a friend of the ex-policeman.

The prosecutor said police "discovered a great number of munitions, explosives and detonators" during their search.

He said they believed the pair may have been involved with the trafficking of firearms.

Mr Maillaud said the Luger pistol recovered "is not the same arm" as the actual gun used in the shooting.

"It is not the same calibre, which is absolutely essential to note," he said.

Investigators have stressed that the presumption of innocence must prevail.

A 4x4 that police have been looking for since the shooting has still not been found.

Meanwhile, the UK side of the investigation continues.

More than 100 police officers in France and the UK have been involved in investigating the case and about 800 people have been interviewed.

French prosecutors previously said the "reasons and causes" for the killings had their "origins" in the UK and they investigated an alleged feud between Mr al-Hilli and his brother Zaid over inheritance.

Zaid al-Hilli, 54 and also from Surrey, denied involvement in the murders and accused French police of "covering up" the real target of the killings.

He was released from bail last month after being arrested last year on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

Surrey Police said there was not enough evidence to charge him.

The motive for the shootings has remained elusive.

Speculation has focused on possible links to Iraq or Saad al-Hilli's work as a satellite engineer.

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