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Who was Saad al-Hilli and what happened to him and his family?

NEARLY a decade ago, the al-Hilli family of Surrey was murdered in the Alps by an unknown assailant.

The case is the subject of a new documentary Murder in the Alps, which hopes to shed light on the complex and mysterious case.

Who was Saad al-Hilli?

Victim Saad al-Hilli was 50 years old when he took his family on a trip to the French Alps.

This holiday ended in tragedy when businessman Saad, his wife Iqbal, 47, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were executed in their car.

The British-Iraqi tourist had stopped at a rest area near Lake Annecy when he was killed.

At the time of the murders, it was thought that Saad might have been the primary target due to his work in aerospace engineering and science and technology.


The BMW’s engine was reportedly still running when the family was found.Credit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Suggestions of a family financial dispute that could have been the cause of a career coup have also been explored.

Initial investigations placed Saad as the main target of the expert killer, but other lines of investigation have suggested that the family was merely a tragic witness to another murder.

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What happened to them?

The truth about the September 5, 2012 deaths is unknown, although there are many theories.

Each adult member of the al-Hilli family was shot twice in the head in their BMW car by what prosecutors called a “mystery motorcyclist.”

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, was shot seven times at close range from a few steps away.

British cyclist Brett Martin arrived at the scene and discovered the bloodbath, and rushed home to alert the police.

The murder weapon, a former Swiss Army 7.65mm Luger P06, was identified through fragments of the weapon found at the scene, but the owner has never been traced.

At the time of his death, divorced welder Sylvain had just had a child with wealthy Annecy heiress Claire Schulz, whose family owns a pharmacy chain worth millions.

Claire, 16 years Sylvain’s junior, had just bought him the £4,000 mountain bike he rode when he was killed along with the al-Hillis.

An Annecy source told The Sun: “There has been talk of Sylvain and Claire being a bit of an odd couple, but they had just had a baby and were still together when he was killed.

“Claire had bought him a very expensive new bike, and a family member suggested that he should ride the trail through Chevaline.

“It has been confirmed that he did not know this route, and it is strange that he should be on a road he had never been before when he met his killer.”

French prosecutors said in 2017 that they had no working theory and that the family may have been randomly targeted, but the case is still open.

Possibilities of gang connections as well as a serial killer have been explored, but due to a lack of evidence at the scene, police have been unable to pin down a prevailing theory.

A suspect was arrested in January 2022, nearly 10 years after the murders, but was released without charge and authorities ruled him out as the killer.

What happened to the daughters Zeena and Zainab?

Saad’s two daughters, Zeena and Zainab, survived the attack, with Zeena being shot in the shoulder.

Zeena, who was four years old at the time of the attack, hid in the footwell of the car, under her mother’s skirt, where she remained for eight hours.

Her sister Zainab was seven years old and was not so lucky: the killer shot her, beat her and left her for dead.

When Brett arrived on the scene, he saw Zainab trip on the road, before collapsing.

Zainab survived the attack but both sisters were too traumatized to clearly remember the event.

They have been interviewed by the French authorities to try to obtain new evidence.

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In 2017, with the help of relatives who adopted them, the daughters applied for a payment from the French criminal injury compensation authority.

Officials blocked the payment insisting “a crime could not be established” because no killer had been traced.

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