4-year-old found alive in British car after shooting: French officials
CHEVALINE, France - Agence France-Presse
French Police officers cordon off the road leading to the scene where four people died in a shooting at a parking in Chevaline near the Annecy Lake, France, 05 September 2012. EPA PhotoA four-year-old British girl and her older sister were found alive in a car after a mysterious shooting in the French Alps left four people dead, including the girls' parents, officials said today.
The father of a family slain in the French Alps was identified as Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old born in Baghdad, a French police source said today.
The police source also confirmed that the Hilli family lived in Claygate, Surrey, southwest of London.
The Swedish foreign ministry said that the elder woman killed in a shooting in the French Alps was a Swedish national, information initially released by a French prosecutor.
"The information provided in France is correct. She is Swedish. We are waiting for the end of the identification process to issue an official confirmation," foreign ministry spokeswoman Linn Duvhammar said.
She refused to disclose the woman's identity, pending the official confirmation which she said could be announced later Thursday.
The woman's family in Sweden was to be informed by police on Thursday, she said.
"It is in any case a family, according to British people at the Saint Jorioz camping site who reported their disappearance on Wednesday night," said lieutenant-colonel Benoit Vinnemann, head of the Chambery gendarmerie which is in charge of the investigation.
Besides the family, the fourth victim of the deadly shooting was a cyclist, said to be a local man.
The little girl, who spoke English, was found hiding under her mother's legs at around midnight (2200 GMT Wednesday) in the British-registered BMW car, some eight hours after the discovery of the three victims who were shot dead on the spot on Wednesday, said said Eric Maillaud, a prosecutor in the Haute-Savoie area of eastern France.
Her older sister was wounded in the attack and rushed by helicopter to hospital in critical condition, officials said. She was said to be in a more stable condition early Thursday but set to remain under treatment for several days.
Some 15 spent bullet casings from an automatic pistol were found at the crime scene.
The four-year-old girl was discovered by special investigators long after police had sealed off the area.
"She was hidden under the bodies for some eight hours and didn't move for the whole time," and was not discovered until the investigators from the gendarmerie reached the scene, Maillaud said.
Another investigator said the girl had remained hidden "behind the legs of her dead mother".
"The little girl spoke English. She had heard the noises, the cries but she couldn't say more, she is only four years old," Maillaud said.
The girl was being looked after by the French authorities.
Autorities said they were awaiting formal identification of the victims.
The shooting, for which no motive has been established, took place in a tree-lined car park on the edge of the picturesque village of Chevaline which is popular with tourists and second homeowners from all over Europe, including many Britons.
French authorities said the victims were discovered by a passing cyclist aound 3:50 pm Wednesday. The father was in the front seat of the car and the two women were in the backseat. The cyclist who was killed was found in front of the car.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said: "We are aware of the reports of the shooting and we are looking into these urgently." The Paris embassy was also liaising with the police in Britain.
Maillaud said that the "number one theory" was that it was a criminal attack which turned bloody. However he stressed that the investigators had ruled nothing out and "a family drama cannot be excluded".
"We are going to try to interview people in the neighbourhood," he told reporters earlier.
The bodies were taken to the town of Grenoble for autopsies.
Experts from the national gendarmerie's IRCGN unit were expected to collect DNA samples, shells left at the scene for ballistics analysis and check for traces of other vehicles that may have been at the scene.
Around 60 gendarmes were involved in a search for potential clues which continued into the night.
The British media also speculated that it could have been a robbery that turned murderous, though The Daily Telegraph posited the possibility that it was a premeditated attack by somebody who went out of their way to leave no witnesses.