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Four-year-old survivor of Alps shooting to return to Britain

Zeena al-Hilli will be accompanied by her aunt and uncle who travelled to France to bring her home as French police say they are to re-examine the crime scene in the Alpine beauty spot.

The Surrey home of the al-Hilli family continues to be searched by investigators today
The Surrey home of the al-Hilli family continues to be searched by investigators today

THE FOUR-YEAR-OLD girl who survived the shooting dead of her family in the French Alps is due to return to Britain later today as police in France said they are re-examining the crime scene.

Zeena al-Hilli will be accompanied by an aunt and uncle who travelled to France to bring her home.

She and her seven-year-old sister Zainab were the only survivors of an attack on Wednesday which saw her father Saad al-Hilli, mother Ikbal and an elderly female relative gunned down in their car on a forested road in the French Alps.

A passing cyclist was also killed in the attack which has shocked Europe and left investigators puzzled as to the reasons behind it.

Police struggling to make sense of the shooting say they are now re-examining the scene and exploring possibilities including one theory that the shooting was the work of a lone deranged killer.

That theory could be tested by the professional nature of the shooting with police confirming that all four victims were killed by two gun shots to the head.

“Is this the work of a crazy person? Was the family the real target? Is it possible that it was the cyclist? Only work based on complete information can help us to see things clearly,” police officer Benoit Vinneman told AFP.

He added that “it would be an error to focus on that of an ordered execution”.

‘Combing for clues’

Around 25 police on Saturday combed a large area for clues but failed to turn up anything of interest, according to the police commander of the eastern Haute-Savoie department Bertrand Francois.

Elsewhere, the brother of Saad al-Hilli, Zaid al-Hilli, will face a second day of questioning from investigators later today having already denied media reports that he and his brother were involved in a dispute over financial matters.

British forensics teams began a second day of searches at the family home in Claygate, a quiet, wealthy commuter village some 15 miles southwest of London.

Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old naturalised Briton of Iraqi origin, worked as a mechanical design engineer with the Surrey Satellite Technology firm.

The attack on the family’s car took place outside the village of Chevaline on Wednesday, near the lakeside resort of Annecy in southeast France where the Hillis had been on a camping holiday.

Zeena survived the attack by hiding under her dead mother’s skirt in the backseat and remained motionless inside the vehicle with the corpses for eight hours before police found her.

Her elder sister Zainab was shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head, suffering a fractured skull. She remains in a medically-induced coma in a hospital in Grenoble.

Police are treating her as a “key witness” and hope she can provide some clues once she wakes up.

- with reporting from AFP

Alps shooting: Police say investigation will be ‘long and complex’

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Hugh O'Connell

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