Chevaline case not solved: prosecutor

No firm evidence links ex-police officer arrested on Tuesday to 2012 murders, but he may face arms trafficking charges

THE prosecutor leading the inquiry into the 2012 murders of a British engineer, two members of his family and a cyclist at Chevaline in the French Alps has insisted the 18-month investigation is not yet solved.

“As I speak, the slaughter at Chevaline is not yet explained,” Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud told a press conference yesterday. “Nothing points to the fact that we have perhaps found the murderer. The investigation must continue.”

He said key evidence, including the weapon used in the murders, and an unusual model of motorcycle helmet pictured in an e-fit image released in November had not been found.

Nor does the DNA of a 48-year-old man arrested on Tuesday match any found at the scene of the shootings at a layby in Chevaline in September 2012.

An antique Luger similar to one thought to have been used in the shootings was discovered during a search of houses belonging to the man, but it is not a match for bullets found at the scene. A motor scooter was also seized during a five-hour search of one property.

Mr Maillaud said: “There is no case against him at the moment, but that may change.

“This man bears a strong resemblance to someone we know to have been close to the scene of the crime.”

Mobile phone records placed the man close to the scene of the crime, but Mr Maillaud said: “His mobile phone had activated a relay antenna near the crime scene, but did not say if it was a few hundred metres or a few kilometres.”

The man, who has not been formally identified but who is reported in the French media to be a former police officer named as Eric D, may face charges of illegal trafficking in Second World War weapons, including shells and grenades.

A friend who was arrested on Tuesday night could face similar charges. A number of antique weapons were found by police, including grenades, ammunition, detonators and a shell.

If convicted of arms trafficking, both men may face up to 10 years in prison.

The prosecutor said police had been watching the suspect for several weeks before arresting him on Tuesday.

He had been working for a Swiss firm that provided security at sporting and cultural events since losing his job as a municipal police officer in June.

Le Parisien also reports that he was also a reservist in the gendarmerie, a position open to any reasonably fit person over 17 who has completed military service. He had provided security at the court in Annecy.

Iraqi-born engineer Saad al-Hilli was staying in Annecy with his family when he was shot in the head on September 5, 2012, after parking his car in a layby on a wooded road near Chevaline.

His wife and mother were also shot dead. One of his daughters was wounded and another escaped by hiding under her mother's skirt. The body of a cyclist was found nearby.

Mr Maillaud said the theory of a random crime by an “isolated, local” gunman was being taken seriously, but he said all other lines of investigation, including a family quarrel, remained open.

Zaid al-Hilli, the older brother of Saad, who was released from bail by Surrey police in June, was still a potential suspect, he said.