In 2012, the murder of a British family in the French Alps left the world stunned, and looking over their shoulder in fear – so who killed Saad Al-Hilli?
Someone shot and murdered British computer engineer Saad Al-Hilli, his dentist wife Ikbal, and her mother Suhaila.
Horrifyingly, Saad and his wife Iqbal were killed in front of their two daughters in the woods near Lake Annecy.
But why were they shot, who killed them and where are the daughters now?
Here’s everything you need to know about the death of Saad Al-Hilli, the focus of new Channel 4 documentary Murder in the Alps.
Who was Murder in the Alps victim Saad Al-Hilli?
Saad Al-Hilli was a 50-year-old British computer engineer.
Mr Al-Hilli, who lived in Claygate, Surrey, was considered highly skilled in his field.
Saad was known to have fled his birth country of Iraq in the 1970s.
British intelligence knew of him and he was under surveillance during the second Gulf war because of the sensitive nature of his job.
What happened to Murder in the Alps victim Saad Al-Hilli and his family?
On September 05 2012, Saad Al-Hilli, his dentist wife Ikbal, and her mother Suhaila were murdered in the woods near Lake Annecy in France while they were on a camping holiday.
A killer targeted them near the village of Chevaline, in the Haute-Savoie region of France.
Tragically, the murderer also shot dead a passing cyclist – a French citizen on the Route Forestière Domaniale de la Combe d’Ire near Chevaline.
In another horrifying detail, Saad’s two daughters, Zeena and Zainab – at the time, eight and four respectively – were also present.
They witnessed the attack on their parents, but luckily survived.
Youngest daughter Zainab hid under the legs of her dead mother in the rear footwell for eight hours.
Specialist forensic investigators eventually discovered her.
Eldest daughter Zeena was shot in the shoulder and suffered a head wound.
She returned to the United Kingdom on 14 September 2012.
Of course, their emotional scars will never go away.
The shooting became known as the Annecy shootings, also the French Alps shootings or the Chevaline killings.
Who was killed in the French Alps killings?
Four people were killed in the tragedy.
Iraqi-born British tourist named Saad al-Hilli, 50.
Also his wife Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, who held a Swedish passport.
In another disturbing twist, French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, was also caught in the crossfire, but not linked to the Al-Hilli family.
The murderer shot Sylvain Mollier seven times.
Twenty-five shots were fired in total.
Where did the attack take place?
The attack took place in a lay-by on the mountain-side road at about 3.45pm on September 05 2012.
A killer targeted the family near the village of Chevaline, in the Haute-Savoie region of France.
The crime occurred in a forest car park close to Lake Annecy, near France’s border with Switzerland.
Who found the bodies of Saad Al-Hilli and his family?
The bodies were discovered by Brett Martin, a British ex-RAF pilot.
He was a resident in France.
While out riding his bicycle, he was horrified to come across the four dead bodies.
He later revealed he’d heard nothing of the shots.
This might be because he was crossing the last river bridge just a few hundred metres from the murder location.
The noise of the water would have easily masked the sound of gunfire.
Al-Hilli’s eldest daughter Zeena was the first victim he saw when he arrived on the scene.
She was stumbling into the road and collapsed in front of the British family’s BMW car.
When Martin found the car, the engine was still running and the car was in reverse gear.
The rear wheels spinning in the loose sand, and the doors were locked.
Saad and wife Ikbal were both deceased in the car with two gunshots to the head.
Who killed Saad Al-Hilli? Were they caught?
Saad Al-Hilli’s killer has still not been apprehended.
In September 2017, after five years of investigation, French police said they had “no working theory” to explain the murders and no suspects.
On 21 October 2013, BBC’s Panorama programme reported that a grey BMW X5 right hand drive 4×4 car was at the crime scene at the time of the murders.
They proposed that the driver of the BMW may have been an accomplice to the crime along with a motorcycle rider also spotted nearby.
The motorcycle rider has been reported as having a goatee beard and an unusual helmet by French investigators.
There are also theories that the deaths were the heinous work of the serial killer Nordahl Lelandais.
What is the French Foreign Legionnaire theory?
Police believe that Patrice Menegaldo, an ex-French Foreign Legion soldier from Ugine, could have committed the crime.
He took his own life in June 2014.
According to Éric Maillaud, the state Prosecutor: “The hypothesis at the top of the chain for the investigators is a local killing.
“We have a real suspect.
“I am referring to the Legionnaire from Ugine.”
Patrice Menegaldo had had an affair with French cyclist Sylvain Mollier’s sister for seven years.
Patrice also knew Patrice Mollier’s partner, Claire Schutz.
This puts the French cyclist as the intended victim, rather than Saad Al-Hilli.
Police believe that Patrice Menegaldo took his own life because he knew the police suspected him.
Who did police arrest for the crime?
Police arrested a 54-year-old man on June 24 2013 in Surrey in connection with the murders.
The suspect was later revealed to be Saad’s brother Zaid al-Hilli.
A Panorama documentary discovered that Zaid Al-Hilli had tried to create a false will for his father and to withdraw £2m from his father’s bank account at Crédit Agricole Geneva in Switzerland.
Zaid al-Hilli claimed he was not guilty of the shootings and offered to take a lie detector test.
In January 2014, it was announced that there was insufficient evidence to bring a charge against Zaid al-Hilli and his bail was lifted.
The police also arrested a local ex-policeman.
On 18 February 2014, a 48-year-old man was arrested following the issue of an artist’s impression of a man in a motorcycle helmet.
Police removed several guns from his home.
However, the man – living in the local village of Lathuile – was ruled out because his DNA did not match the two samples found in the vehicle of the victims.
Why was Murder in the Alps victim Saad Al-Hilli killed?
French police investigated the possibility that the murders – possibly a contract killing – may have been regarding a family dispute over money.
Police also investigated Al-Hilli’s past in Iraq as an engineer on sensitive topics, as well as his work at the time of his death, as a potential motive for the attack.
Police investigating the shootings followed several leads, believing he could have been targeted over a contract he was working on for EADS.
They also looked into connections to Al-Hilli’s previous work at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
In October 2012, Swiss prosecutors stated Al-Hilli had visited a bank in Geneva shortly before he was murdered.
A leaked report revealed that Saad Al-Hilli may have had access to bank accounts belonging to Saddam Hussein.
The attack has been compared to the 1952 killing of biochemist Jack Drummond in the Dominici affair.
Veronique Dizot, the lead prosecutor, suggested that the family “may have been targeted randomly”.
In October 2012, confidential police files on the case were leaked to a French newspaper.
These showed that investigators believed the killings were carried out by “a lone and psychologically disturbed killer”.
One of the reasons given was that the killer used a pre-World War II Luger P06 semi-automatic pistol, a weapon unlikely to be used by a professional assassin.
Who are Saad Al-Hilli’s daughters and where are they now?
Saad Al-Hilli’s daughters Zeena and Zainab were 8 and 4 when their parents were murdered.
Eldest daughter Zeena was shot in the shoulder and suffered a head wound during the attack.
They are now 10 years older and live a private life away the public eye.
Police interviewed them again in 2020, in the hope the girls were old enough to “provide new leads”.
Zeena, who is now 17, and Zainab, 14, live at a secret address in the UK.
They were placed in the care of other members of the Al-Hilli family, who are of Iraqi origin.
Saad Al-Hilli murder in the Alps update
In February 2022, French police said they were close to solving the 2012 murder of the British family in the French Alps.
They thanked “scientific evidence” for the advancement.
Annecy public prosecutor Line Bonnet said in an interview with Swiss daily la Tribune de Geneve: “I think we’re nearly there.
“We’ll succeed thanks to scientific evidence.”
She insisted the cast was “not a cold case at all”.
She said three people were working on the murder full-time.
“They decided to start from the beginning again and check all the sealed files,” she said.
“We’re regularly detaining people so we can close the doors, one after the other.”
So far, police have not made an arrest.
Murder in the Alps on Channel 4
Murder in the Alps is a three part documentary series investigating the unsolved deaths of Saad Al-Hilli and his family.
An unknown murderer killed British computer engineer Saad Al-Hilli, his dentist wife Ikbal, and her mother Suhaila in the woods near Lake Annecy in 2012.
10 years later, the killer is still out there.
Caught up in a media whirlwind, Saad’s brother Zaid was eventually arrested under suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Police accused him of organising the killings of his brother and family over an inheritance dispute.
He was subsequently cleared and released.
In Murder in the Alps on Channel 4, Zaid tells his side of the story for the first time.
Zaid is joined by former French prosecutor Eric Maillaud, retired British senior investigating officer Mark Preston, and journalist Tom Parry.
Together they look at what’s known about the case, and examine possible culprits and motives.
Episode one airs on Sunday June 26 2022 at 9pm on Channel 4.
Episode two and three follow on Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28 at the same time.
Murder in the Alps airs on Channel 4 across three consecutive nights starting from Sunday June 26 2022 at 9pm on C4.
Do you remember when this tragedy became worldwide news? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.