Brit family executed by hitman in France ‘may have been innocent bystanders’

A British family's execution-style murders in September 2012 may, at last, be solved.

Saad al-Hilli and his wife Iqbal were shot dead along with Iqbal’s mother Suhaila al-Allaf in picturesque countryside near Lake Annecy in eastern France

The couple’s daughters miraculously survived. Seven-year-old Zainab was pistol-whipped and shot in the shoulder. Her younger sister Zeena, 4, was found hidden under her mother’s body hours after police arrived on the scene.

Zainab later described how there was “only one bad man” involved in the attack.

The al-Hilli’s BMW had been reversed at speed into an embankment next to the lay-by, suggesting that al-Hilli had been trying to escape the killer.

Syvain Mollier, 45, a local father-of-three who police believe came across the bloodbath by chance while cycling nearby, was shot up to seven times, including twice in the head.

Investigators explored several theories, including the possibility that al-Hilli’s background as an engineer in Iraq may have led to him being assassinated. Mr al-Hilli moved to the UK in the 1970s, after his father was forced out of Iraq because of a clash with Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba'ath Party.

A reported business dispute between Mr al-Hilli and his brother Zaid was also considered as a cause for the killings.

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At the time French investigators ruled out the possibility of professional killer carrying out the murders because Syvain Mollier was shot so many times.

"That is not the behaviour of a professional," one French investigator said.

"The killer appears to have been in a rage, perhaps because the cyclist tried to intervene."

But now, according to a report in The Sun, Mollier – originally thought to have been an innocent bystander – was the intended victim of the hit all along.

Parisian security firm boss Frederick Vaglio is under suspicion of leading a team of contract killers called the Athanor Gang. He is reportedly being considered as a "person of interest" in the al-Hilli inquiry.

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Ammunition from a Luger P06 pistol similar to the weapon used in the al-Hilli killings was found in his home and Vaglio is also suspected of involvement in the killing of Daniel Forestier, who was formerly a member of the French secret service. The 58-year-old was shot dead in a layby near Marcorens, France, in March 2019 just 35 miles from where the al-Hillis met their deaths.

Police said the killing was a "professional job", and a post-mortem revealed he had been shot five times.

The killer, like the "bad man" that shot the al-Hillis took great care to leave minimal evidence at the scene.

At the time of his death, Mollier had just had a baby with Claire Schulz, whose family owned a chain of chemists shops.

A source said that they were an "odd couple" and explained that Mollier had only just been given the bike he had been riding that day.

"Claire had bought him a very costly new bike, and a member of the family suggested he should ride the trail up through Chevaline," they said.

They added that he hadn’t been on that route before and it was an unlikely coincidence that his killer happened to be waiting for him.

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