TV review: A decade on, the Murders in the Alps remain a mystery

Among those involved in the series is Saad's brother Zaid al-Hilli. Picture from Channel 4

Murder in the Alps, Sunday, Channel 4 at 9pm

TEN years on from the horrific murders of three members of one family and a passing cyclist in the French Alps and the case has never been solved.

I remember the killings being headline news - four people killed in cold blood and two young children left for dead. The horror they must have faced on that isolated mountain road near France's border with Switzerland.

Channel 4's new documentary, Murder in the Alps, explores the murders of the British couple, Saad al-Hilli (50) and his wife Iqbal (47), who were shot twice in the head while sitting in their BMW car.

Iqbal's mother Suhaila al-Allaf (74) was also killed.

Sylvain Mollier (45), a French cyclist thought to be an innocent bystander, was found dead nearby after being shot seven times at point blank range, apparently after he stumbled upon the scene.

The killings took place in front of the al-Hillis' two young daughters, Zainab, then aged seven and four-year-old Zeena, in a forest car park close to Lake Annecy.

Both girls survived.

The three-part documentary tells the story with help from family, friends, journalists and detectives who worked on the case. It examines the evidence, lines of enquiry, possible suspects and highlights the fact no-one has been held responsible.

Among those involved in the series are Saad's brother Zaid al-Hilli, former French prosecutor Eric Maillaud, journalist Tom Parry and retired British senior investigating officer Mark Preston.

The episode begins with Preston, who took charge of the probe on the UK side eight months after the murders.

"There aren't many investigations I think about continually - this is one of them," he says.

"In my 30 years as a police officer, this was the largest investigation I have been involved with. I know I could have done things better and how I could have done things differently does live with me."

The programme also looks at the lives of the British family before their tragic deaths.

Living in Claygate, a quiet Surrey village, the al-Hillis were an ordinary family going about their lives.

Friends tell the documentary of how computer engineer Saad loved being a dad and "doted on his two daughters" with neighbours describing them as "a very close-knit family".

The family decided on a last-minute holiday and packed up their caravan to travel to Lake Annecy. But their lives were cut short on September 5 2012 when a lone gunman struck.

After their bodies were discovered a massive police investigation swung into action with 60 officers immediately deployed to the scene.

But as the documentary explains, the probe was riddled with mistakes.

One of the first errors was the eight-hour wait for a forensic team to arrive from Paris - and it was only then that Zeena was found cowering under her mother’s skirt, terrified but alive.

There was also a lack of communication between authorities in France and the UK and the wrongful arrests that have overshadowed the 10-year investigation.

The programme also looks at speculation around Zaid al-Hilli's alleged involvement in the murders.

Friends said the two brothers had fallen out over inheritance, an allegation Zaid dismisses, telling the documentary "there was no dispute" and it was "an irrelevant matter".

When accused of lying, he maintains "to me there was no dispute, my brother had issues that he made issues".

Crucially when asked if he organised the killings, he laughs and says "it is so ridiculous, you have to see the funny side of things sometimes - that's how I coped with it.

"I didn't organise the killing of my family, it is silly thoughts, it's rubbish, I wouldn't kill anybody."

A decade on and the four deaths remain steeped in mystery.

While speculation has persisted about numerous motives, the question still remains - why were they shot dead?

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