A girl of four who survived the French Alps shooting spree has returned to the UK, while her seriously injured older sister has come out of a coma following the attack that left their parents dead.
Zeena al-Hilli flew home with carers yesterday as seven-year-old Zainab, seen as a key witness in the killings, recovered consciousness after being shot and beaten during the ordeal.
Their father Saad al-Hilli, 50, was murdered in his car alongside his dentist wife, Iqbal, on Wednesday while the family holidayed in the picturesque region.
An older Swedish woman travelling in the car also died in the shooting, with Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist who apparently stumbled across the attack.
Zeena, who was unhurt in the attack after laying undiscovered under her mother’s corpse for eight hours, has spoken to police and confirmed that two of the victims were her parents, but said she did not know the Swedish woman very well.
She flew back to the UK after two relatives – reportedly an aunt and uncle - travelled to France over the weekend alongside a British social worker and family liaison officers from Surrey Police.
Public prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the youngster is now under the care of the authorities and the social services, but revealed he did not know where she was going to stay.
Investigators are yet to speak to Zainab as she remains under sedation after coming out of a medically-induced coma.
Mr Maillaud said the seven-year-old will be interviewed as soon as doctors allow it, but could not say how long that may be.
Police are expected to continue their examination of Mr al-Hilli’s mock Tudor property as part of the investigation into the murders that saw each of the four victims shot twice in the head.
Officers entered the al-Hillis’ family home in Claygate, Surrey, on Saturday after a team of four French investigators, led by Colonel Marc de Tarle, arrived in the UK.
Investigators are looking at aspects of Mr al-Hilli’s life to try to find a motive for the murders and have been speaking with his brother, named in reports as Zaid Hilli.
Mr Maillaud said Mr al-Hilli’s sibling approached UK police to deny any feud with his brother over money.
It is also believed detectives are looking into Mr al-Hilli’s profession, with reports emerging that he was working as a contractor for a satellites technology company in Surrey.
Witnesses have said they saw a green four-wheel-drive vehicle in the area at the time of the killings, and possibly a motorbike.
Investigators found 25 spent bullet cartridges at the scene – a car park in the Combe d’Ire forest near Chevaline – while two mobile phones found in the al-Hilli’s bullet-ridden BMW are being analysed by police.
One theory is that shots could have been fired during a bungled armed robbery, with Mr Mollier being a witness to the crime.
But speculation about other possible motives, including a pre-planned attack by professional hitmen, remained rife.
One man, thought to be one of the last people to see the family alive, told reporters the family had arrived at the isolated car park at least an hour before they were killed.
Laurent Fillion-Robin, 38, also said there was no sign of any vehicle following the family.
The builder said he was working on a house in Chevaline when he saw the red British-registered BMW drive past between 2.30pm and 3pm. The shooting was reported to police just before 4pm.
Mr Fillion-Robin added that he did not hear any shots fired that afternoon and said the car park, near Lake Annecy, was not the sort of place that families with young children would usually go.
Some media reports have suggested that Mr al-Hilli, an engineer who left Saddam Hussein’s Iraq several years ago, was known to the security services and was put under surveillance by Metropolitan Police Special Branch during the second Gulf war.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said they could not comment. But it is understood there is no link between the deaths and any national security issues.
Mr Maillaud revealed the family had visited France a number of times before and it was not the first time they had been to Le Solitaire du Lac, a campsite in Saint-Jorioz they were staying at when the attack happened.