The brother of Alps massacre victim Saad Al-Hilli has been arrested by Surrey Police on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.
Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and Mrs Hilli’s 77-year-old mother were all shot dead in a ruthlessly efficient execution-style killing Photo: JULIAN SIMMONDS
By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter
Zaid Al-Hilli, 54, was held in an early morning raid at his home in Chessington and is currently being interviewed over the deaths of Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Ikbal, her mother Suhaila al-Allaf and French cyclist Sylvain Mollier.
He is the first person to be arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder in connection with the case.
The four victims were gunned down on a remote forest road in Chevaline, near Annecy, France, on September 5, 2012. The Al-Hillis' seven-year-old daughter Zainab was pistol-whipped in the attack and shot in the shoulder but survived, along with her sister Zeena, who hid under her mother's skirt in the back of the family's BMW.
Zaid Al-Hilli was questioned by French police in March, when he is understood to have been asked about an alleged dispute with his brother over a family inheritance.
Their Iraqi father Kadhim Al-Hilli died in Spain two years ago, leaving several properties and £800,000 in a Geneva bank account. Saad hired lawyers to block Kadhim's will until "unknown" disputes had been resolved, according to legal papers.
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The French investigators are understood to have questioned Zaid over allegations that he tried to withdraw cash from the Geneva account using an expired credit card shortly before the murders.
Saad, 50, reportedly kept a Taser stun gun at his home in Claygate, Surrey and changed the locks of the house before he went on holiday.
Earlier this month Eric Maillaud, the French prosecutor leading the inquiry, said he had made a formal request for assistance to Romania in an attempt to find out why Zaid Al-Hilli made repeated phone calls to five numbers in Romania.
Zaid Al-Hilli has always insisted he is innocent and that he had a good relationship with his brother. Shortly after the murders he voluntarily visited a Surrey police station to discuss the case.
All of the murder victims were shot twice in the head in the execution-style killing.
A statement from Surrey Police said: "Detectives investigating the deaths of four people near Annecy, southern France in September last year have this morning arrested a man on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.
"The 54-year-old man was detained at an address in Chessington, Surrey at around 7:30am and is currently in police custody where he will be interviewed.
"Saad and Ikbal Al-Hilli from Claygate, Surrey and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf, who lived in Sweden, were found shot dead along with French cyclist Sylvain Mollier on a remote forest road in Chevaline on September 5 2012.
"As part of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was established on September 21 last year, officers from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team have been working closely with the French authorities to progress a number of lines of enquiry.
"This pre-planned arrest is a result of these on-going enquiries and any updates will be issued in due course."
In March a man was arrested in Switzerland on suspicion of supplying the Luger P08 gun used in the shootings but was later released.
French prosecutors have also said they want to travel to Iraq to investigate claims of links between their father and Saddam Hussein.
In November last year a Nigerian man was arrested in London on suspicion of fraud after he allegedly tried to access Saad Al-Hilli's bank account.