Three members of the British-Iraqi family were brutally shot dead in the French Alps in 2012
Serial killer suspect could give new lead to French Alps family murder
French police are exploring whether a suspected serial killer could be behind the unsolved murder of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps five years ago.
Saad Al Hilli, his wife Iqbal and her mother Suhaila Al Allaf were shot dead on holiday on a mountain road in Chevaline, near the town of Annecy in September 2012, in what appeared to be an execution-style attack.
A Frenchman out cycling, Sylvain Mollier, was also killed – potentially because he witnessed the murders – and the Al Hilli’s daughter seven-year-old Zainab was struck on the head with a pistol butt but survived the attack.
Her four-year-old sister, Zeena, was uninjured and found hiding under her dead mother’s skirt in the back of the car hours after the multiple shooting.
A motive for the murders has still not been identified, despite extensive investigations in the UK, France and Iraq.
French investigators have now linked a man suspected of murdering a nine-year-old girl in the area with the unsolved killing of a soldier, and are asking if he was behind the other mystery deaths in the Alpine region.
In late November, a judge placed Nordahl Lelandais, himself an ex-soldier and in custody since September, under formal investigation for the suspected kidnapping and murder of Maelys de Araujo. She was last seen at family wedding in Chambery in late August, at which Mr Lelandais was a guest.
On Wednesday, Chambery Prosecutor Thierry Dran said Mr Lelandais, 34, was now also under investigation for the killing of Arthur Noyer, 23, whose skull was found by a walker in September, after cell phone data put both men in the area where Mr Noyer disappeared.
"We are going to look at all the disturbing disappearances which have taken place in this region," Mr Dran told a press conference, without specifying which cases would be reviewed.
But they reportedly include the Al Hillis, as well as cases involving Adrien Mourial, a 24-year-old Belgian man who went missing near Lake Annecy in July, and Jean-Christophe Morin and Ahmed Hamad, who disappeared in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Mr Lelandais, whose home is near Chambery, admitted being in the area where Mr Noyer went missing, but denied any involvement in his killing, the prosecutor said.
The new allegations against Mr Lelandais bring an added twist to the Maelys case, which has gripped France since she went missing. Despite a huge search by police and volunteers, her body has still not been found.
Mr Lelandais’ black Audi has become a central piece of evidence after the girl’s DNA was found in the car.
According to his lawyer, Alain Jakubowicz, he has confessed that Maelys was in his vehicle on the night she disappeared but claimed that did not prove his guilt.
The suspect had no long-term job and lived with his parents in the village of Domessin. Investigators found him to be a frequent watcher of online pornography.
Data trawls also revealed that after Mr Noyer disappeared, Mr Lelandais ran online searches using the key words "human body decomposition".
Mr Jakubowicz has criticised police and prosecutors for allegedly leaking damaging information against his client.
Mr Lelandais' mother has also defended him, telling the LCI news channel: "He did a few stupid things when he was younger but he's not a delinquent, he's a nice young man. He's not someone who's aggressive, you can ask the neighbours."