UK psychologist believes British family murdered in the Alps were attacked at random by local loner

UK psychologist believes British family and cyclist murdered in the Alps were attacked at random by local loner aged between 30 and 40 who may have been suffering with ‘psychosis’

  • Saad al-Hilli, wife Iqbal, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf were killed in 2012
  • Their two daughters survived the attack which saw their parents executed
  • The murders, thought to be random, baffled UK and French police for years
  • A UK psychologist concluded the killer could have ‘psychosis’ and was a local 

The unsolved quadruple murder of a British family in the French Alps could have been carried out at random during a ‘psychotic attack’, perhaps by an ex-military member who lived alone, a UK psychologist has concluded.

Businessman Saad al-Hilli, 50, wife Iqbal, 47, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, were all executed at point blank range in a horrific attack in their car on September 5, 2012.

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father-of-three, was also found dead alongside the family car.

The family’s two children, Zainab, who was seven at the time, and Zeena, who was four, both survived the attack.

Zainab suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder and serious head injuries.

Her sister Zeena survived by hiding underneath her mother’s legs and remaining motionless for eight hours in the back of the car before police found her alive. 

Now a new series of articles by Le Parisien has revealed new facts about the mystery which has baffled French and British authorities for almost a decade.

Saad al-Hilli, 50 (left) and wife Iqbal, 47 (right), with their daughter Zainab, who was seven at the time of the attack in 2012

Saad al-Hilli, 50 (left) and wife Iqbal, 47 (right), with their daughter Zainab, who was seven at the time of the attack in 2012

The killings have baffled authorities on both sides of the channel for almost a decade, with multiple documentaries speculating on what the motive behind the murders may have been

The killings have baffled authorities on both sides of the channel for almost a decade, with multiple documentaries speculating on what the motive behind the murders may have been

The murder scene in the middle of a forest near Chevaline and Lake Annecy in the French Alps

The murder scene in the middle of a forest near Chevaline and Lake Annecy in the French Alps

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father-of-three, was also found dead alongside the family car

French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father-of-three, was also found dead alongside the family car

As well as stating that the surviving sisters were reinterviewed about their recollections from the day in June, Le Parisien reported that a UK psychology expert was consulted about the case in July 2020.

The unnamed expert concluded the killings may have been completely random and the result of a ‘psychotic’ episode – and the killer was highly likely to be a local male aged between 30 and 40. 

‘I envisage the theory that the perpetrator of the Chevaline attacks acted due to their own motives, entirely independent of the victims in this case,’ the report states.

It adds the killer was most likely either unemployed or in unskilled work, lived alone and could have a military background, La Depeche reports.

The psychologist concluded the killer may have had psychological troubles such as paranoia, and may have motivated by ‘hatred’ towards a certain community.

Zainab recently helped the investigation by recalling new details about what happened on the day of the attack.  

She recounted how the family was on holiday, and enjoying a drive through mountainous countryside by the village of Chevaline.

They got to the ‘edge of a small road riddled with potholes,’ and Zainab got out of the car with her father.

She recalled seeing cyclist Sylvian Mollier, and while other members of the family were getting out of the car ‘gunshots rang out.’

Zainab was ordered back into the car by her parents, but then the shooter grabbed the girl from behind.

Four-year-old Zeena was later found hiding underneath her mother's legs, unharmed in the back of the family car

Four-year-old Zeena was later found hiding underneath her mother’s legs, unharmed in the back of the family car

Family and friends were left heartbroken by the attack and left touching floral tributes at the family home in Surrey

Family and friends were left heartbroken by the attack and left touching floral tributes at the family home in Surrey

The caravan and tent used by Saad al-Hilli and his family while on holiday at the Le Solitaire du Lac campsite on Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France

The caravan and tent used by Saad al-Hilli and his family while on holiday at the Le Solitaire du Lac campsite on Lake Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region of south-eastern France

‘She first of all thought it was her father, but then saw the white skin and bare hands of her attacker, and realised it couldn’t be him.

‘Zainab struggled but couldn’t get out of the grip. According to her, the killer was wearing long trousers and a leather jacket.’

Zainab was then pistol whipped and blacked out after suffering multiple facial injuries. She later made a full recovery and returned to the UK, where she now lives.

Brett Martin, a former RAF officer now aged 63, was the first to discover Zainab staggering around a BMW car in an isolated country layby close to Lake Annecy, in eastern France, on September 5 2012.

Dead inside was her father, mother grandmother.

All had been shot, along with French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, a 45-year-old father of three, whose body lay alongside the car.

Zainab’s four-year-old sister, Zeena Al-Halli, was later found alive and well, hiding in the back of the BMW.

French investigators told Le Parisien that Zainab in June offered ‘a testimony of unique precision about the drama.’

The family had been holidaying near Lake Annecy, pictured, at the beginning of September 2012

The family had been holidaying near Lake Annecy, pictured, at the beginning of September 2012

Mr Martin, who owned a holiday home in the Annecy area, at first thought he had stumbled across a road traffic accident, but then saw the bullet holes and casings lying on the ground.

Describing the murder scene, Mr Martin said: ‘I saw a bike on the ground first and then I saw a child come from behind some ­shrubbery.

‘Zainab walked out on to the road and fell on to her face. I didn’t see ­Mollier until I got much closer because he was on the ground in front of the vehicle.

‘The BMW’s engine was at full power with its wheels spinning. I wasn’t in shock. With my ­aviation and military background, I just took the necessary actions.

‘My first thought was to get Zainab out of the way of the car in case it lurched forward. Her eyes were rolling and she was going in and out of consciousness. Her head was quite badly injured.

‘Then I moved Mollier away from the vehicle. I felt for his pulse and there was nothing there. I walked to the car and wanted to turn the ignition off, but the door was locked and I had to break the window. It was then that I noticed a bullet hole.

‘That’s when I switched my ­thinking from, ‘This is a car ­accident’ to, ‘Oh s**t, this is ­something more nefarious.’ ‘

Mobile phone reception was poor, so he had to cycle away to alert the police, after putting Zainab in the recovery position.

In a detailed interview last year, Mr Martin said: ‘In hindsight I realise I could have been the fifth victim.

‘About 200 or 300 metres from the scene, a motorcycle came very slowly past me. It was a black-clad motorcyclist in a full-face helmet and a Trans Alpine style of bike. I couldn’t see their face and couldn’t even say if they were male or female.

‘When they slowed right down, I thought they were going to stop and talk to me, but then they seemed to change their mind.

‘When you reflect, you think, that’s interesting, because at the very least, he or she would have passed the murder scene.

‘I nickname it my ‘luckiest unlucky day’. I think that if the trigger person had had a few more clips of ammunition, I wouldn’t be here.’

Various theories have been investigated by police in the years following the attack.

Original probes focused on a financial dispute in the UK between Saad, from Claygate, Surrey, and his accountant brother Zaid, who was arrested for conspiracy to murder in 2013 before being freed without charge.

Zaid has always said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Police later considered that Iraqi-born Saad was killed over links to ousted tyrant Saddam Hussein and arrested a suspected Iraqi contract killer.

But they were also released and this line of inquiry is said to have been dropped. 

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