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Daughter could be left blind after attack by mystery gunman

ZAINAB al-Hilli, one of the British girls whose family was shot dead in a massacre in France, could lose her sight as result of the attack.

The girl (7) survived the attack by a mystery gunman despite being shot in the shoulder and pistol-whipped around the head, but there are concerns her health is deteriorating and she could suffer permanent brain damage.

The facial injuries she suffered were reportedly so horrific that she could also lose her sight in one eye.

Her father, Saad al-Hilli, 50, from Surrey, was killed last week along with her mother, Iqbal al-Hilli, 47, and grandmother Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, on a secluded forest road near Lake Annecy, in south eastern France.

Her sister Zeena, four, survived the attack.

A police source was quoted as saying of Zainab: "She suffered multiple facial injuries that caused two subdural hematomas and a fractured orbital bone.

"She was beaten around the face with great force, the trauma was immense."

A subdural hematoma is a potentially life-threatening brain injury and the orbital bone surrounds the eye.

Meanwhile it has emerged that Mrs al-Allaf's son, Haydar Thaher, 46, allegedly attacked his parents and threatened to kill them in the past.

Mr Thaher has a history of mental health problems and has not been seen by neighbours for a month.

Mrs al-Allaf, a Swedish passport holder, and her son had been living in southern Stockholm when she joined the Hilli’s on their French holiday.

Her husband, Mr Thaher’s father, Abdul al-Saffar, died last year from kidney problems.

Neighbours at their flat said they had not seen the son for about a month while Swedish relatives said they believed he had travelled to England.

Documents from a local criminal court in Stockholm reveal Mr Thaher was arrested on numerous occasions for alleged violent and threatening behaviour against his parents.

However he was never charged because they refused to testify against him, wanting help for him instead, papers from the Sodertorns court show.

His parents allegedly told police they believed he was schizophrenic, that he had terrorised them since 2001 and threats were made on a daily basis.

In 2004 he was said to have screamed at his father: “I want to kill you and there is nothing you can to about it" to his father before hitting him.

The following year he allegedly attacked his father with his own walking stick and screamed:"I can beat you and I can kill you" in Arabic.

In 2006 he allegedly attacked his mother.

The Hillis were killed in their BMW car last Wednesday, while a French cyclist believed to have passed at the time of the slaughter was also shot dead.

One of the first witnesses on the scene this week described it as “like a horror film”.

Zainab is being treated in a Grenoble hospital and has been intubated due to massive bruising between her skull and her brain.

Police are hoping she will be able to provide key witness evidence, although she is not expected to be interviewed for at least another two days.

The victims' family last night spoke for the first time of their shock and devastation over the deaths.

Ahmed Al-Saffar, the brother-in-law of Mrs al-Allaf and Iqbal’s uncle, said: “The victims’ family and I are heartbroken by this shocking crime and we have been touched by the expressions of sympathy from people all over the world.

“We hope that those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones are brought swiftly to justice.”

Eric Maillaud, the chief prosecutor in Annecy, and the French magistrate leading the inquiry, are due to travel to Britain today to meet police officers and speak to relations of the Hilli family.

There was intense police activity in the area on Wedneday exactly a week after the murders, as officers set up road blocks and stopped passing motorists.