THE brother of a British engineer murdered in the Alps alongside two members of his family has been questioned at length by French police for the first time, it emerged today.
Zaid-Al Hilli, 53, was interviewed by detectives on Friday at a location close to his home in Chessington, Surrey.
French detectives have now had the first opportunity to put to him a number of questions regarding numerous aspects of the quadruple murder at a beauty spot close to Lake Annecy, in eastern France.
The significant development came almost seven months to the day since Zaid’s 50-year-old brother, Saad Al-Hilli, was killed alongside his wife Ikbal, 47, and Mrs Al-Hilli’s mother, Suhalia, 74, in their family’s BMW.
Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old French cyclist also died in the shooting on September 5, which is believed to have been carried out by at least one gunman.
Zaid is alleged to have been involved in a dispute with his brother over a family inheritance.
In turn he has insisted that he is completely innocent of any wrong-doing, and said he had a good relationship with his brother.
Their father, Kadhim Al-Hilli, died in Spain two years ago, leaving a number of properties and cash, including the equivalent of some £800,000, in a bank account in Geneva, which is less than an hour’s driver from the murder scene.
Saad put a legal block on his father’s will, effectively preventing Zaid from inheriting his share until ‘unknown’ disputes had been resolved, according to published legal documents.
The French detectives wanted to question Zaid over claims that he tried to use an expired credit card to withdrew cash from the Geneva account shortly before the killings.
Eric Maillaud, the Annecy prosecutor who is leading the investigation, has made no secret of his frustration at not being able to interview Zaid at length, but that situation changed when officers working directly to him arrived in the UK last week.
According to a French police source, Zaid was asked about his ‘whereabouts on the day of the tragedy.’ He also volunteered information about the will, and about Saad’s work as satellite technology engineer.
Surrey police, who have to date released little information about the enquiry, confirmed that Zaid had been contacted.
But they refused to provide any details about last week’s questioning of Zaid, which was today being widely reported in the French media.
A Surrey Police spokesman said: “We have regular contact with him as the next of kin of one of the victims. There is nothing more than that. He has never been arrested or considered a suspect.”
During the investigation it emerged that Saad kept a Taser stun gun protection weapon at his home in Claygate, Surrey, and had also changed the locks of the 1 million pounds property.
Saad’s seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, suffered head injuries after being pistol whipped in the attack and was also shot in the shoulder.
Her sister, Zeena, escaped unscathed after hiding under her mother’s skirt in the back of the family BMW.
Both little girls are now in the care of social services, with surviving members of the Al-Hilli family, including Zaid, allowed limited access to them.
There have been no arrests since the murders happened, with Mr Maillaud admitting that the baffling case ‘may never be solved’.
He recently ordered a visit by investigators to Iraq, which is where the Al-Hillis originally came from, but this has been delayed because of security worries.
Zaid Al-Hilli could not be reached for comment.