The execution style murder of an Iraqi-British engineer in France together with three other people has shocked two nations, and inquiries continue in both France and Britain.
This shocking act of mass murder continues to dominate the news in the UK as French police officers arrive to search for possible clues at the family home. The story so far is that last week, four people were found murdered in a remote area of the French Alps, near Annecy.
Initial reports were that the victims were a British family. It soon came to light that the person who is assumed to have been the principal target, Saad al-Hilli, was a former Iraqi national. He, his wife Ikbal and an elderly woman believed to be his mother-in-law were shot dead, as was a cyclist, who is believed to have been murdered because he witnessed the incident or saw the killers. Police believe there were at least two men involved.
Mr al-Hilli's two young daughters - aged 4 and 7 - were with the family; the 7 year old was also shot, although the 4 year old managed, incredibly, to hide under her mother's body.
The fact that Mr al-Hilli was an Iraqi has of course led to concerns that this unspeakable act may have had a political motive. There has also been much nonsense peddled in the mass media, but one newspaper appears to have gone too far. The url below has now been removed, as has the offending article.
A link that leads nowhere. A scurrilous story published in the wake of the horror in the French Alps was pulled, probably for legal reasons.
One of the theories (read scurrilous gossip) being peddled is that this was a family affair, and Mr al-Hilli's brother has had his name bandied about. The police have spoken to him, but they will be speaking to all family members and many neighbours and associates. These are what are known as lines of inquiry, and in due course all but one of them will be ruled out when - hopefully - the perpetrators are brought to book.
French police have now arrived at the family home in Claygate, Surrey, which is now being searched for possible clues as to a motive for the crimes. Surrey Police issued a statement Friday, and another yesterday after the arrival of Colonel Marc de Tarle of the Gendarmerie.
Speculation aside, there are two main lines of inquiry: the first is that this was a targeted assassination; the second that it was a shocking but random act of mass murder. The fact that each of the victims was shot in the head twice has led to the claim that this was a professional hit, but it does not appear to have been very professional to leave two survivors. It is difficult to credit that whoever was responsible would have balked at killing two more, even young girls.
The picture below is of company information related to Mr al-Hilli's business. He may have been an Iraqi and as such at one time subject to official scrutiny, but Britain's political police treat everyone with suspicion, and it is looking more and more likely that as his neighbours said, he hadn't an enemy in the world.
If this is the case, then it is very likely that whoever did this will strike again, probably in approximately the same area. Whatever the motive - political, sadistic or something else - the people responsible need to be apprehended, and soon.