Girl found alive under corpses of slain family in France
CHEVALINE – A four-year-old girl survived a shooting in France and spent hours curled up under her mother’s body after an attack that killed her father and grandmother and seriously injured her elder sister, officials said yesterday.
The little girl spent eight hours hidden between the bullet-riddled corpses of her mother and grandmother in the backseat of the British-registered family car following a mysterious and brutal shooting on the outskirts of a village in the French Alps.
Another man, believed to be a local who interrupted the attack by chance as he cycled by, was also found shot dead in the tree-lined car park on Wednesday afternoon.
The girl’s elder sister, who was found shot next to the car, was in a serious but stable condition in hospital after being flown by helicopter to the nearby city of Grenoble.
Eric Maillaud, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said the four-year-old had emerged unscathed.
“She stayed, curled up under the bodies for eight hours and didn’t move in all that time,” he said.
The first police to arrive on the scene did not spot the girl and, with the car being left untouched and the area sealed off pending the arrival of forensic experts, she was left to endure a traumatic ordeal until she was finally discovered around midnight.
“It was only once we had access to the scene of the crime that we found her,” Maillaud said. “The little girl spoke English. She heard noises, shouts but she can’t tell us any more than that. She is only four years old.
“She is being looked after and we are doing everything we possibly can to care for her.”
The family had been staying at the nearby Saint Jorioz camp site, where fellow campers reported their disappearance on Wednesday evening.
The father of a family slain in the French Alps was identified yesterday as Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old born in Baghdad, a French police source said.
The police source also confirmed that the Hilli family lived in Claygate, Surrey, southwest of London.
Chevaline and the surrounding area is popular with tourists and second homeowners from all over Europe, including many Britons.
Local police on Thursday defended the decisions that led to the four-year-old being left in the car for so long.
“We had instructions not to enter the car and not to move the bodies,” Lieutenant-Colonel Benoit Vinnemann of the local gendarmerie told AFP.
The gendarmes were unable to open the doors of the family’s BMW for fear that bullet-pierced windows would shatter, potentially compromising the work of the IRCGN forensic team.
“Firemen, technicians and doctors all looked into the car through the holes in the windows but none of them saw the girl,” Vinnemann added.
A helicopter equipped with a thermal camera took images of the car to check if there were any other bodies inside but also failed to identify the girl. “She was so close to her mother they appeared as one mass.”