Corpse found in Alps village scene of 2012 British killings
Chevaline, a small village in Haute-Savoie, has been rocked by the discovery of another dead body a few hundred metres away from the site of the 2012 murders that killed four people, in a case still unsolved.
The charred body was found next to a burned-out car on Wednesday September 2 by the side of a forest road in Chevaline, a small village located 20 kilometres from Annecy in Haute-Savoie (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
In a press release, authorities said that the body was found near to the car. Early investigations suggest that the fire started when the victim was already inside, and he then got out of the car before collapsing. Initial identification suggested that the victim was a 70-year-old man from the commune of Doussard, a nearby village.
Investigators have said that they are considering suicide as the most likely motive, but investigations are still ongoing.
The case is now with the gendarmerie and criminal investigation teams at Annecy and Chambéry.
The news comes almost eight years to the day after the bodies of four people were discovered on September 5 2012. The murders shocked the village and wider region at the time and continue to be associated with the name today, eight years on.
Mayor Michèle Domenge-Chenal this week said: “We are feeling anger and fear. We have had enough of our village being associated with violent deaths, even if it’s easy to quickly link this with what happened eight years ago.”
At the time of writing, no link has been suggested between the body found this week and the 2012 murders.
Colonel Nicolas Marsol, head of the gendarmerie at the Haute-Savoie, told local newspaper le Dauphiné Libéré: “No link has been established, and we must not make hasty suggestions [of such]. Investigations are beginning."
The 2012 murders
On September 5 2012, British man Brett Martin, a former RAF pilot who is a resident of France, was cycling in the forest area of Chevaline when he discovered the bodies of Saad al-Hilli, a British engineer of Iraqi origin, his wife Iqbal, and his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf - who held a Swedish passport.
The bodies were found in a car. The dead body of a cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also found close to the car. All victims had been shot.
Yet, Mr Martin did not hear any shots being fired. Investigators found that he may have been cycling close to the nearby river at the time of the murders, with the noise of the rushing water masking the gunshots.
When the car was found by Mr Martin, the engine was still running and the car was in reverse gear, having apparently just been reversed at speed, with the rear wheels still spinning in the loose sand, and the doors locked.
The couple’s two daughters, who were also in the car at the time, survived.
The eldest daughter Zainab, then aged seven, was able to get out of the car and stumble into the road, before collapsing. She had been shot in the shoulder. She was the first victim discovered by Mr Martin.
The younger girl, then aged four, also survived, but hid for more than eight hours under the legs of her deceased mother before being found by forensic investigators.
Despite investigations spreading across France, England and Iraq, the exact circumstances or motives surrounding the deaths - which are now known as the “Annecy shootings” - still remain a mystery.
There have been some arrests, and suggestions that the deaths could be linked to an al-Hilli family disagreement, Mr al-Hilli’s work as an engineer, the actions of a “lone psychopath”, a possible connection to an affair with cyclist, Mr Mollier’s sister, or even the work of now-jailed infamous French serial killer, Nordahl Lelandais.
Yet, eight years on, no-one has been charged in connection with the incident.
Chevaline was also close to the site of a burglary-murder in November 2013, when two men broke into property of a man and woman who owned a camping ground close to the nearby village of Lathuile. The woman was shot dead, and the man was beaten.
The murder was found to be accidental, after the burglars were surprised by the man waking up. They were sentenced to between five and 18 years in prison.