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Brother of Al-Hilli Alps massacre victim arrested: Police quiz relative over shooting which left three members of same family dead
- Zaid Al-Hilli was today held by Surrey Police in connection to the shooting
- His brother Saad, his wife Ikbal and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf were all killed
- Cyclist Sylvain Mollier was also shot dead near Annecy in September 2012
- Police say man was held at an address in Chessington this morning
PUBLISHED: 05:07 EST, 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 06:23 EST, 24 June 2013
The 54-year-old brother of a British engineer found murdered with his family and a cyclist in the French Alps has today been arrested in connection with the deaths.
Zaid Al-Hilli was held nine months after his sibling Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Ikbal, Mrs Al-Hilli’s mother Suhaila al-Allaf, and cyclist Sylvain Mollier, were all shot dead near Annecy, in September last year.
The suspect, who lives in Surrey, has previously denied any feud with his sibling over an inheritance.
Saad Al-Hilli and his family were found murdered in their BMW down a secluded mountain road and Mr Mollier was also killed nearby having apparently bumped into the killer.
Arrest: The brother of Saad Al-Hilli, 53, (left), Zaid, (right), has been held on suspicion of conspiracy to murder his sibling and his family in the French Alps
Surrey Police said the suspect, who they did not name but is understood to be Zaid al-Hilli, was detained on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
He was held at an address in Chessington at around 7:30am 'and is currently in police custody where he will be interviewed', a spokesman said.
Surrey Police set up a Joint Investigation Team to work with French police on solving the brutal murders.
The al-Hillis' four-year-old daughter Zeena lay undiscovered under her mother's corpse in their BMW for eight hours after the shooting, while her seven-year-old sister Zainab was found with serious injures after being shot and beaten.
Surrey police said today's arrest was pre-planned and the result of on-going inquiries.
10 months after the incident, this is the first arrest made in connection to the attack.
View: Aerial photo of the bullet-peppered car at the murder scene near Lake Annecy in the French Alps
Scene of a deadly crime: Officers are seen inspecting the forested region near Chevaline in south-west France
British police would not confirm his arrest, but French judicial sources meanwhile confirmed Zaid's name and said they had considered him a 'prime suspect' for many weeks.
'This arrest is long overdue - it should have happened a long time ago,' said one investigating source in Annecy. 'It's been up to the British to arrest Mr Al Hilli and now they have done so.'
Zaid has previously denied any feud with his sibling over an inheritance.
Surrey Police set up a Joint Investigation Team to work with French solving the brutal murders and said today's arrest was pre-planned and the result of on-going inquiries.
Detectives have been trying to work out why Zaid made repeated calls to five numbers traced to Romania.
Peaceful spot: Walkers on the remote 3 km track to the scene of the attack outside the village of Chevaline where the Al-Hillis were murdered
Prayers: Saad Al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and her 74-year-old mother Suhaila Al-Allaf, were laid to rest in the same grave last year
French detectives have made a formal request to the authorities in the eastern European country for help in identifying who Zaid al-Hilli had been calling.
Eric Maillaud, the French prosecutor leading the inquiry, said: 'There were calls made from the phone of Saad al-Hilli's brother to Romania.
'We know calls were made to Romania but we do not know who was at the other end of the line or why the calls were made.
'A formal request for assistance was made to Romania several months ago but so far it has not produced anything.'
'It is simply that we can leave no stone unturned.
'This is part of the masses of data we are gathering month after month.'
The men's father, Kadhim Al-Hilli, died in Spain two years ago, leaving a number of properties and cash including the equivalent of some £800,000 in a bank account in Geneva, which is less than an hour's drive from the murder scene.
Saad put a legal block on his father's will, effectively preventing Zaid from inheriting his share until 'unknown' disputes had been resolved, according to published legal documents.
It is also claimed Saad kept a Taser stun gun protection weapon at his home in Claygate, Surrey, and had also changed the locks of the £1million property.
Saad Al Hilli kept a Taser at his home in Claygate, Surrey and had changed the locks of the £1million property (pictured) to prevent Zaid getting in
The French wanted to question Zaid over claims that he tried to use an expired credit card to withdrew cash from the Geneva account shortly before the killings on September 5, 2012.
Mr Al-Hilli was interviewed by French detectives earlier this year close to his home in Chessington, Surrey.
Prosecutors consider Zaid a key figure in the case because of an alleged bitter dispute with his brother over a family inheritance, though he denies any wrongdoing.
Earlier this month Mr Maillaud said that because Zaid al-Hilli is not being treated as a suspect he had not been asked to explain the calls from his phone to Romania.
'Those are the type of questions that cannot be asked of a witness in Britain,' the prosecutor said. 'He would have to be considered a suspect.'
The Romanian link is the latest twist in a far-reaching trans-European investigation. So far detectives have focused on Britain, Iraq, Switzerland, France and Italy, but this is the first link to Eastern Europe.
Mr Maillaud refused to confirm reports in Le Parisien that the phone calls were made between the Al Hilli family's landline and Romania, or between Saad al-Hilli's sister-in-law and Romania.