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Entries in French Alps (6)

Friday
Sep072012

French Alps Killings: Brother of Victim Denies Financial Dispute

Top Photo Group/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Although authorities in France believe a family dispute about money might have led to the killing of four people and the shooting of a 7-year-old girl in the French Alps, a French prosecutor said the brother of one of the victims has denied any conflict with him over "financial matters."

Investigators Friday questioned the brother of 50-year-old Saad al-Hilli, who was found gunned down in a car near Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie, France, Wednesday. His wife, Iqbal, and a woman believed to be her mother were also found shot dead, as was a cyclist who happened upon the bloody scene.

"He [al-Hilli's brother] turned up again this morning and he said 'No, I don't have a conflict with my brother,'" prosecutor Eric Maillaud said at a news conference Friday in Annecy, France.

French investigators had come to the United Kingdom to speak with Al-Hilli's brother, who also spoke with British police Thursday after learning of the deaths through the media, Maillaud said. British police are now directly involved in the investigation.

The BBC reported Friday that tension with al-Hilli's brother, whom officials have not named, was brewing over two properties in Spain and suburban London. The house in Surrey, England, which had apparently been in their mother's name, was left to Saad.

Meanwhile, Al-Hilli's daughter Zainab, 7, is in a medically induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital after being shot in the head three times and badly beaten. The couple's daughter Zeena, 4, was found hiding underneath her mother's corpse inside the backseat of the family's BMW by a British cyclist.

Zeena has now also spoken to police about the attack, Maillaud said. The girl told investigators that she did not see anything because she "dived under her mother's legs" when the first shots rang out, he added.

Maillaud told AFP news agency earlier Friday that officials believed a dispute between the two brothers led to the massacre in which all victims were shot in the head and about 25 bullets were fired.

"It seems that there was a dispute between the two brothers about money," prosecutor Eric Maillaud said. "This seems to be credible information coming from the British police. The brother will have to be questioned at length. Every lead will be meticulously followed."

The fourth victim was a cyclist identified by French media as Sylvain Mollier, a father of three from Ugine en Savoie, who also suffered gunshot wounds and was found dead close to the car.

Zeena was questioned by investigators Thursday night, but was unable to provide further help, Maillaud, the public prosecutor for Annecy, told AFP. Both girls are under police protection in the hospital.

Saad al-Hilli was reportedly a resident of Claygate in the London-suburb of Surrey and the secretary of a Wiltshire-based aerial photography company, AMS 1087. The Surrey police are working with French authorities to assist the investigation.

Police believe the shooter used an automatic pistol, which is banned in France.

Another British cyclist who came upon the scene, who is an ex-RAF officer, is the main witness. He had been passed by another cyclist on the climb that leads to the parking lot where the shooting took place.

Police said that he found the BMW with the engine still running, and saw Zainab walking near the car, about to faint. He then discovered the other cyclist, who had passed him earlier, dead on the road.

After alerting firefighters at about 5 p.m., the witness broke the driver's window and saw the bodies inside, one of which covered little Zeena. The cyclist then placed Zainab in recovery position, the BBC reported, adding that police say he effectively saved her life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep072012

French Alps Killings: Family Dispute Suspected

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(PARIS) -- Prosecutors in France believe a family dispute over money might have led to the killing of four people and the shooting of a 7-year-old girl in the French Alps.

Investigators are now looking to question the brother of 50-year-old Saad al-Hilli, who was found gunned down in a car near Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie, France, on Wednesday.  His wife, Iqbal, and mother-in-law were also found shot dead, as was a cyclist who happened upon the bloody scene.

"It seems that there was a dispute between the two brothers about money," prosecutor Eric Maillaud told the AFP news agency.  "This seems to be credible information coming from the British police.  The brother will have to be questioned at length.  Every lead will be meticulously followed."

Al-Hilli's daughter Zainab, 7, is in a medically induced coma in Grenoble University Hospital after being shot in the head three times and badly beaten.  The couple's daughter Zeena, 4, was found hiding underneath her mother's corpse inside the backseat of the family's BMW by a British cyclist.

The fourth victim was a cyclist identified by French media as Sylvain Mollier, a father of three from Ugine en Savoie, who also suffered gunshot wounds and was found dead close to the car.

Zeena was questioned by investigators Thursday night, but was unable to provide further help, Maillaud, the public prosecutor for Annecy, told Agence France-Presse.  Both girls are under police protection in the hospital.

"We have to be extremely careful about the declarations of a traumatized little girl," Maillaud said.

Saad al-Hilli was reportedly a resident of Claygate in the London-suburb of Surrey and the secretary of a Wiltshire-based aerial photography company, AMS 1087.  The Surrey police are working with French authorities to assist the investigation.

Police believe the shooter used an automatic pistol, which are banned in France.

"This is an ongoing investigation being carried out by the French police and we are unable to confirm any details about the incident," Surrey police said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep062012

Motionless Girl Survives French Alps Slaughter

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(PARIS) -- She stayed so still, police thought she was dead.

For eight hours, a 4-year-old girl lay under the body of a female believed to be her mother, beside another unidentified female with a Swedish passport, in the back-seat of a BMW in a car park near the town of Chevaline in the French Alps.

In the front seat of the vehicle, a man believed to be her father was slumped over, shot dead. A few feet away from the vehicle, an 8-year-old thought to be her sister was shot in the head three times and badly beaten, but still alive.

"We usually see this kind of scene in a movie rather than real life," Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said, adding that the reason for the "dramatic nature" of the killings was unknown, but that the killer did not shoot haphazardly, but "targeted his victims."

The Annecy Tribunal identified the owner and apparent driver of the car as Iraqi-born Saad al Hilli, reportedly a resident of the London-suburb of Surrey and the secretary of a Wiltshire-based aerial photography company, AMS 1087. The Surrey police are working with French authorities to assist the investigation of the incident that left four people dead and one in critical condition.

The 4-year-old suffered no physical injuries. Police have no motive, suspects or weapon, although they believe the shooter used an automatic pistol, which is banned in France.

"We are talking about an extreme savagery act," Maillaud said, speaking at a news conference in Annecy this afternoon.

French police have been unable to confirm the identities of the victims in the car, but the passport details of the car owner matched those of a man registered as missing at a nearby holiday campsite. The BMW passengers are believed to be a family that was coming to the end of their holiday, having arrived in France at the end of August.

"This is not your typical incident," a spokesman for the British Foreign Office told ABC News. "With multiple killings, gathering evidence is much more difficult."

He did not comment on the victims' identity.

Another victim, a cyclist identified by French media as Sylvain Mollier, a father-of-three from Ugine en Savoie, also suffered gunshot wounds and was found dead close to the car.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted, "Terrible, tragic shooting in France. British Embassy team on the scene. Our thoughts are with the young girls who survived and the family."

The British deputy ambassador went to the scene of the killings, having first visited the injured girl in the hospital. The ambassador was also on his way from Paris.

The main witness was a British cyclist and ex-RAF officer who discovered the scene near Lake Annecy Wednesday evening. He had been passed by another cyclist on the climb that leads to the parking lot where the shooting took place.

Police said that he found the BMW with the engine still running, and saw the older girl walking near the car, about to faint. He then discovered the other cyclist, who had passed him earlier, dead on the road.

After alerting firefighters at about 5 p.m., the witness broke the driver's window and saw the bodies inside, one of which covered the little girl. Authorities removed her at around midnight, and she is being treated by psychiatrists.

The older child is in critical condition in the hospital in Grenoble with a fractured skull.

Chevaline Mayor Didier Berthollet told the BBC that most local people had already been questioned by police, describing the situation as "surreal."

"Things are very precious," Barthollet said, adding that the deaths reminded him of a similar death of another family seven years ago not too far away.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug312012

46 Years Later, Diplomatic Mail Found in Alpine Wreckage

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Mountain rescue worker Arnaud Christmann and his neighbor Jules Berger made quite a discovery after tourists said they’d spotted “something shining” on the Bossons glacier on Mount Blanc in the French Alps.

“A couple on vacation came to us and told us they had seen something below them on the glacier,” Christmann told ABC News.

After a two-hour hike up the tallest mountain in Western Europe, the men reached a wreckage site on the glacier that included pieces of a plane cabin, chairs, electrical cables, a  wheel and a shoe.  Then, just as they were descending, Christmann and Berger came across a 50-pound brown jute bag labeled “Diplomatic Mail” and “Ministry of External Affairs.”

"On our way down, after about 100 feet, Jules and I saw almost at the same time a pouch lying on the glacier,” said Christmann.  ”It was a big surprise.  We did not know what it was until we read on it ‘Diplomatic Mail.’  We could not believe it. What a great discovery, we thought.”

The pouch had been on a 1966 Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York, which crashed on the mountain’s southwest face while preparing for a stopover landing  in Geneva.  All 117 passengers onboard were killed, including the Indian director of the Atomic Energy Commission.

The pouch contained mainly English and Indian newspapers from 1966, among other documents. ”We looked inside the pouch, which was open.  We only saw documents, nothing shiny, no treasure,” Christmann said, laughing.  “The documents were wet and frozen. We did not want to damage them after 46 years under the ice in case there was historical value to them,” he said.

Police in the French town of Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc, are expected to turn over the pouch and its contents to Indian authorities, and the Indian Embassy in Paris said it looked forward to receiving the diplomatic mail, even more than four decades late.

Christmann, who will spend the winter in Snowbird, Utah, on an exchange program, said he did not expect anything extraordinary for his diplomatic discovery.  “I haven’t heard from the Indian authorities…A handshake would be nice, but I did not do this to receive a medal.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul122012

Several Climbers Dead, Injured After Avalanche Strikes French Alps

Goodshoot/ThinkstockUPDATE: Four mountain climbers who were earlier believed missing are no longer being classified as such; two had canceled their climb and two had taken a different route to the summit, according to the French military. The death toll remains at nine.

(PARIS) -- At least nine climbers are dead and nine others injured after an avalanche struck Mont Maudit in the French Alps early Thursday morning, the BBC reports.  More are said to be missing.

Authorities were alerted to the avalanche at around 5:25 a.m. local time as two dozen or so climbers were scaling the mountain.

The climbers, who have not been identified, were reportedly roped together during their climb.  Those injured were taken to nearby hospitals to be treated.  Their conditions are not yet known.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun262011

Six Mountaineers Found Dead in French Alps

Thinkstock/Getty Images(VILLAR-D’ARENE, France) -- Authorities are investigating the deaths of six mountaineers whose bodies were found in the French Alps on Sunday.

The bodies were discovered by a British hiker near the summit of Neige Cordier, at an altitude of approximately 8,850 feet (2700 meters), according to published reports. Following the discovery, authorities were alerted and the bodies of the victims were taken to the village of Villar-d'Arene via helicopter.

Investigators believe the mountain climbers were killed by an avalanche of snow on Saturday.

The identities of the victims weren’t immediately released.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio