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CRIME

French police release sketch of motorcyclist

French police on Monday released an identikit image of a mysterious motorcyclist in the hope of reviving their probe into the killing of a British-Iraqi family in the Alps in September 2012.

French police release sketch of motorcyclist
The identikit image of the mysterious motorcyclist. Photo: Gendarmerie Nationale/AFP

The image features a man sporting a goatee and wearing a rare type of motorcycle helmet (see below for full image).

"More than the identikit photo itself, it is the type of helmet that is interesting," said Benoit Vinnemann, the head of investigations for the local gendarmerie.

Saad al-Hilli was gunned down in September 2012 along with his wife and her mother in a woodland car park close to the village of Chevaline in the hills above Lake Annecy.

His two daughters survived the gruesome attack but French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, apparently an innocent bystander, was also killed.

Investigators have struggled to find any leads in the case and are now focusing on the presence of a motorcyclist seen by witnesses near the scene of the shooting.

Witnesses gave a description to police of the motorcyclist from early on in the case but it was not initially released for fear he would go into hiding.

Investigators said the helmet he was described as wearing is a rare model, with only 8,000 made in the colour seen by witnesses.

It is a full-face model that opens from the side to allow conversations without removing the helmet.

Despite checking with distributors, police have so far been unable to track down the helmet's owner.

"This is someone who was close to the scene during a time period that interests us and who may have done or seen something," Vinnemann said. "He is potentially the perpetrator, but mainly a witness."

Police are also searching for a right-hand drive BMW 4×4 spotted close to the scene.

Police have put forward a number of theories for the killing, in particular the possibility of an inheritance dispute involving Hilli's brother Zaid, who was arrested by British police in June.

He was subsequently released and has protested his innocence.

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CRIME

French police bust cross-Channel people-smuggling ring

French police have busted a major people-smuggling ring that has been sending migrants to Britain in dinghies, with more than a dozen boats and 700 life jackets seized in a raid, French authorities said Thursday.

French police bust cross-Channel people-smuggling ring

The ring was run by Iraqi Kurdish migrants and had a logistics hub in Lille, a northern French city about 100 kilmetres (60 miles) from the northern Channel beaches around Calais that are used for crossings.

Three Iraqi men have been charged, along with three French suspects after their arrest on Monday.

Police discovered “a real factory supplying nautical equipment” in Lille, the head of French anti-migration agency Ocriest, Xavier Delrieu, told AFP.

In what was their biggest ever seizure of equipment, they found 13 inflatable boats, 14 outboard engines, 700 life jackets, 100 pumps and 700 litres of fuel, Delrieu said.

The group is suspected of having organised 80 Channel crossings over the summer, of which 50 succeeded, with the smugglers netting around €80,000 for each one.

The arrests came due to intelligence-sharing between authorities in Belgium, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, who are all trying to crack down on migrants crossing the Channel by boat.

The original tip-off came after a border guard control discovered a group of French youths carrying inflatables from Germany into the Netherlands.

More migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK from northern France so far this year than in the whole of 2021.

So far this year, more than 30,000 people have been detected crossing the Channel to the UK, fresh government figures showed Thursday. On Wednesday alone, the authorities detected another 667 people.

Britain’s new prime minister, Liz Truss, has faced some criticism from other Conservatives and in right-wing media outlets for not pressing for more French action against the crossings when she met President Emmanuel Macron in New York on Tuesday.

Downing Street said the issue did not come up at their talks on the margins of the UN General Assembly, which instead focused on common ground including Ukraine and energy security.

The crossings are among a host of issues that have badly strained Franco-British relations in recent years.

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