French Alps shooting victim wakes from coma

Seven-year-old girl who survived gun attack last week that saw her parents shot dead will be questioned by police.

    French Alps shooting victim wakes from coma
    French prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the girl was still sedated and not yet speaking [EPA]

    A seven-year-old girl who survived the mysterious shooting that targeted her family in the French Alps has emerged from a medically induced coma, raising hopes that she might provide clues to the killing.

    Zainab al-Hilli, who survived the murder of her family along with her four-year-old sister, Zeena, is still under sedation, French prosecutor Eric Maillaud said on Sunday. 

    Zainab will be questioned by police as soon as she is able, he added.

    Zeena al-Hilli, who lay motionless under her mother's corpse for eight hours following Wednesday's shooting, was brought back to England on Sunday as well.

    British police again quizzed relatives and searched the family home 25km southwest of London, while their French counterparts combed over the scene once more and refused to rule out any possible motives for the deadly attack.

    "The little girl has come out of the artificial coma but she is under sedation and her speech is not yet audible," Maillaud told the AFP news agency.

    She was shot in the shoulder and beaten around the head, suffering a fractured skull. Police are treating her as a key witness and hope she can provide some clues when she is ready to talk.

    Uncle questioned

    The girls' father, Saad al-Hilli, mother, Ikbal, and an elderly female relative were gunned down in their car on a forested Alpine road. A passing cyclist was also killed.

    The nature of the shooting - with witnesses targeted and the victims in the car each reportedly receiving shots to the head - has led police to publicly acknowledge a professional assassination as a possibility.

    Their uncle Zaid al-Hilli was going through a second day of talks with the investigators, a source told the AFP on condition of anonymity.

    He presented himself to police in Britain following the murder, denying media reports that the brothers were involved in a financial dispute.

    It is understood he was not held overnight in police custody. British forensics teams began a second day of searches at the family home in Claygate, a quiet, wealthy commuter village.

    Police search UK home of Alps murder victims 

    Uniformed officers stood guard at the wooden entrance gate while forensics specialists wearing gloves entered the mock-Tudor-fronted house, which has a low red-brick front wall and a conifer hedge.

    Police cordon tape has been erected around the house, while a van with a police tent alongside it was parked in the driveway by the front door.

    Police removed taped-up packages from the house and went over case notes in the front garden.

    Two firearms officers went into the building, but Surrey Police insisted armed officers were routinely deployed on searches.

    It is expected the search will continue on Monday. A friend of the family was also helping police with the investigation at a police station in the nearby town of Woking.

    The man, who would not give his name, said: "I am a family friend. I have been speaking with police inside the station but I cannot say any more."

    When asked if he was assisting with the investigation, he said "yes".The man had visited the family home on Saturday where he spoke with officers.

    Prayers were held in local church services on Sunday, while on the village's recreation grounds, local youth football teams lined up to stand for a minute's silence in remembrance of those killed.

    Five French investigators are in Britain to work on the case. 

    Victims shot twice in head

    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, near the lakeside resort of Annecy in southeast France where the Hillis had been on a camping holiday.

    Autopsies revealed that each of the four dead victims were hit by several bullets and shot twice in the head.

    French police said Sunday they were re-examining the scene and exploring possibilities including that of a lone deranged killer.

    "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 the AFP.

    But Vinneman said police had a number of hypotheses and that "it would be an error to focus on that of an ordered execution".

    Investigators were also trying to nail down the Hilli family's exact movements before they were gunned down along with the French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, said Vinneman.

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

    SOURCE: Agencies


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