Alps Murders: Mystery biker ruled out of killings

French police investigating the brutal murder of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps have suffered another setback in the quest to find the killer. After finally managing to identify a mystery biker police have ruled him out of any involvement in the quadruple murder.

Alps Murders: Mystery biker ruled out of killings
A mystery biker has been ruled out of any involvement in the quadruple murder. Photo: French police

Police in the Alps have desperately been trying to solve the riddle of who murdered three members of the Al-Hilli family and a French cyclist on a quiet country road in September 2012. 

In November 2013 they released a police sketch (see below) of a mysterious biker spotted near the scene of the crime, hoping it would provide the breakthrough in the case.

However on Friday France Info radio reported that police had finally identified the man and are satisfied that he was near the murder spot by coincidence and had nothing to do with the quadruple murder.

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

Investigators had hoped that the helmet depicted in the sketch would prove a fruitful avenue of inquiry, since it is a rare model, used by French police during the 2000s, with only 8,000 made in black, as seen by witnesses.

However their hopes of a breakthrough were dashed after judges who interviewed the biker were satisfied with his explanation that he was in the area to go paragliding.

It is not the first time a lead in the investigation has proved to be a false hope.

In February last year an ex-policeman was detained in the first arrest in France in the case, but investigators soon ruled him out of any involvement.

And Zaid al-Hilli the 54-year-old brother of the murdered man, was arrested in June 2013 on suspicion of masterminding the killings, but police did not have sufficient evidence to charge him.

French police in the Alps are still appealing for witnesses.

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Alps murders: Ex-soldier emerges as chief suspect

A new book about the brutal 2012 murders of a British-Iraqi family and a French cyclist in the Alps has revealed that a former soldier in the French Foreign Legion has been identified as the number one suspect.

Alps murders: Ex-soldier emerges as chief suspect
French prosecutor Eric Maillaud speaking to reporters shortly after the murders. Photo: AFP

French State Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said ex-legionnaire Patrice Menegaldo is the chief suspect in the ongoing investigation into the shooting of Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, mother-in-law Suhaila and French cyclist Sylvain Mollier.

Menegaldo killed himself last June after being interviewed as a witness to the crime, but not as a suspect.

Police say his profile matches that of the professional hitman, capable of planning and carrying out the cold blooded killings near Annecy, that they believe was behind the murders.

The victims were shot at point blank range on a road near the village of Chevaline in September 2012. The bodies of the al-Hilli family were found in their car, whilst that of the cyclist Mollier was found nearby.

Al-Hilli’s two young daughters narrowly survived.

Prosecutor Maillaud and a team of detectives have been hunting the killer but the probe has so-far failed to find anyone.

Suspicion fell on al-Hilli’s older brother Zaid, who had fought with Saad over their father’s inheritance, as well as on a mystery biker seen neat the scene at the time, but no charges were ever brought.

In an interview for the new book called The Perfect Crime, written by the Daily Mirror newspaper prosecutor Maillaud, revealed that the suspect Menegaldo was acquainted with the French cyclist’s partner.  

Both he and Mollier were from the nearby town of Ugine.

The hypothesis at the top of the chain for investigators is a local killing. We have a real suspect. I am referring to the Legionnaire from Ugine,” he said. “Here is a middle-aged man who kills himself and to explain this leaves a letter saying he couldn’t handle being considered a suspect.”

“We are talking about a hardened ex-soldier, someone using a gun, suddenly saying he couldn’t deal with being thought of as a suspect. The investigators are still digging into this man. He had psychological problems.

“Could it, by chance, have been him? Did he regret his actions afterwards and take his own life? Otherwise it is an inexplicable suicide. He had the technical capacity to do what was done that day.”