Thursday 21 November 2019

Alps murder victim changed all locks at home just before death

Harriet Alexander

THE British-Iraqi man who was murdered in France a month ago had changed all the locks on his house near London shortly before he died, neighbours have said.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, was worried that he might lose ownership of the mock Tudor home in Claygate, Surrey, where he lived with his wife Ikbal, 47, and their two children Zeena, four, and Zainab, seven.

He told friends in Surrey that he feared a court case could result in him having to sell the home. Mr al-Hilli's father, Khadim, had died a year before, and it has been claimed that solicitors had been trying to resolve a thorny dispute between Mr al-Hilli and his brother Zaid over the inheritance of the property.

"Saad said his brother had sacked his solicitor and he had no communication with [his brother] anymore," said Zaid Alabdi, a family friend.

Zaid al-Hilli has been interviewed by police as a witness and repeatedly denied any dispute.

Mr and Mrs al-Hilli were gunned down alongside Mrs al-Hilli's mother and a French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, near Lake Annecy on September 5.

The al-Hilli family had been camping on the shores of the lake, and had driven up to a remote car park above the hamlet of Chevaline when they were killed.

The fresh details of an alleged inheritance dispute -- one of several lines of investigation which French police say they are exploring -- came as a Swiss prosecutor, Dario Zanni, confirmed that bank accounts linked to the family had been frozen.

The Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve claimed on Friday that Mr al-Hilli had travelled to Geneva shortly before he was murdered. That has prompted widespread suggestions that there was a financial motive for the attack.

But French police have not yet completely pieced together the family's movements since they arrived in France at the end of August.

"We need to match up or add to the information we have," said Lieutenant Colonel Benoit Vinnemann, the senior gendarme on the inquiry team, who said that 650 people had been questioned so far.

The police were due to issue an appeal for information yesterday, but were delayed when it was discovered there was no suitable telephone number they could dedicate to calls.

The number had not yet been assigned but should be by the beginning of next week, the armed forces public relations office said. French police do not routinely provide "hotline" numbers for members of the public to call in with.


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