The Unanswered Questions Surrounding the Al Hilli Murders
The mystery surrounding the murder of four adults and the near-fatal shooting of a little girl in a remote French forest lay-by, raise many, as yet, unanswered questions. Not only as to the obvious ones of who carried it out and why but also relating to the official governmental response, apparent conflicting reports by those concerned and a failure on the part of the press to adequately challenge and independently investigate.
Already the story has slipped from front page, via inside page, to nowhere at all, which no doubt will please some. The Annecy prosecutor has even suggested it will not be solved for a decade! Eric Maillaud, admitted that French police are nowhere near finding the killers, have no clear motive and no suspect.” Asked when the crime might be solved, he responded: “We might have the answers in two, three or ten years – it’s a painstaking procedure.”
This would appear to be a clear case of an official attempt to damp down speculation and expectation.
If, as in the view of some, this was a state initiated operation, it raises far wider implications than the already serious murder of four adults. If the public cannot be confident in state revelation and transparency in such cases, it can only rely on an independent and investigative press. So far the press has failed miserably; prepared only to act as a conduit of official briefings, and failing to question, challenge or even point out the inconsistencies and get explanations for them. It is something I endeavour to attempt below. You may think it could have been done better, for which I apologise in advance.
1. The French authorities suggested initially, it was coincidental, impromptu, chance event – a robbery perhaps that had gone wrong. I don’t believe any police or government official could have genuinely held this view in light of the circumstances, namely the “professional” head shots; all killed; nothing stolen; the effective, unseen get-away. Then further doubt was added as to whether the cyclist or the Al Hilli’s were the intended target. However in both scenarios it was suggested the second party was killed for “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” thus skilfully avoiding the possibility that both might have been, as this would have wider implications of conspiracy.
2. As corollary to this, the way the obvious suggestion of criminal or state backed assassination was avoided. John O’Connor, former head of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, told The Sunday Times “These murders were carried out by killers with the precision and planning that comes with military training, which normally points to a political assassination”. The fact that this possibility has been obdurately avoided puzzling and worrying as it suggests cover-up.
3. The time it took for the French police to discover four year Zeena hidden and catatonic in the car – i.e. more than eight hours. Perhaps the failure could initially be explained in terms of not interfering with the crime scene, but eight hours to make enquiries to discover there were two daughters on the trip and one was still missing? Further what appears as a rather amateurish approach to the crime scene with no evidence of a finger-tip search, of opening up to the press before closing it off again for further investigation when it had been contaminated. In one aerial photograph, tyre skid marks can be seen far to the right of the BMW. These have never been officially referred to.
Why? A reporter on the scene stated that broken glass was “fifteen” yards distant from the car, presumably because this marks where the first shots were fired before the car reversed into the bank? This has never been discussed. A reporter said that a motor bike track had been left in an adjoining mountain track which presumably could have been an alternative escape route? Given the on-going nature of the enquiries, why was permission given to the family to bury M. Mollier, rather than retain his body under refrigerated conditions, in case it was needed for further inspection?
4. The flatly inaccurate and misleading information put out initially by the French authorities that the emergency call informing them of the incident was made by the British cyclist, later identified as Brett Martin. In fact Mr. Martin said he could get no signal on his mobile phone and that he had to leave the scene and injured Zainab, to get help. The call was eventually made by a French national, Phillipe Didierjean.
There is no way a Frenchman, speaking in French from his own mobile phone could have been confused with Englishman Mr. Martin, who clearly is not fluent in French. This therefore must have been intentional misinformation, perhaps to protect M. Didierjean who was not even mentioned for a day or so afterwards.
5. It would appear from the reports, that the initial telephone call to police was at 3.48 pm. Yet M. Didierjean says he met Mr. Martin leaving the scene at about 4.10. pm. Given his description of events, walking back to the scene with him and checking it out, particularly Zainab who did not respond, then walking back down the hill until he got reception on his phone. This must have added at least another fifteen minutes – say 4.25 pm – before he could phone.
How can this discrepancy be explained? Then what of his two female companions and car? Did they drive up or turn around and go back? Were they witnesses to the scene or not?
6. Danielle Polittier(?) a local resident of Chevaline, more than three kilometers distant, told the BBC that she heard 30 seconds of shooting. If her testimony is reliable, is it possible Mr. Martin, unless he has a hearing impediment, could not have heard it, being only moments away. Why does he say he heard nothing? M. Didierjean not hearing the sound of gunfire might be explained by virtue of the fact that he was in a car with companions but what is Mr. Martin’s explanation?
7. The conflicting information regarding number and types of firearm, the number of shots to the victims and the number of assailants. It was first reported that all the bullets came from one semi- automatic pistol and a Czech made “Skorpion” was suggested. This is a very old type of gun rather than more modern alternatives that were not even offered up as possibilities. Why? Later it was stated more than one gun was used suggesting at least two gunmen. Fifteen casings were later changed to twenty-five. There has been little discussion on the implications of the location and number of the casings as to the type or number of guns used. Then again it was stated that three victims were shot in the head, later changed to all. The French cyclist M. Mollier was said to be shot seven times, including two head shots. This later changed to five. Originally some were said to have been shot twice. A little later the prosecutor stated all the adults had been shot “several times”.
This is clearly confusing. Why was misleading information put out until they were quite sure of the facts? No further information regarding trajectory or injuries, which of course will afford further clues as to what happened, has been issued. Perhaps the French authorities should inform us definitively, how many times the victims were shot and where; how many guns of what possible types, were used; and explain why so many different accounts have been made?
8. Much was made by Mr. Martin of the “green four wheel drive and motor bike” but this raises more questions than it answers. First, why was Mr. Martin, another potential witness, spared a similar fate? Second, precisely where and when did he see them? Statements vary and include both overtaking him on the way up and passing on the way down. Given the isolated nature of the location and the narrowness of the road, and his extensive training as a fighter pilot, he surely could not be uncertain or vague about such a thing? However a vehicle coming down the 3 kilometer road is flatly denied by M. Didierjean who was driving up behind. He could not have been mistaken as he would have needed to pull over to pass on the narrow road. How can this conflicting witness evidence be reconciled?
9. A similar conflict of testimony exists over the state of Zainab and position of the bodies. Mr. Martin says she was covered in blood, Mr. Didierjean states quite the opposite that no blood or injuries were immediately obvious. Mr. Martin says he moved her body away from the front of the car in case it lurched forward, placing her in the recovery position. M. Didierjean says when he arrived, Zainab was lying in front of the car, by which time she was quite unconscious and did not respond.
10. No one has quite explained why Zainab was outside the car when the attack took place, whilst the car doors were locked, or why the front passenger seat was vacant? Nor has an explanation been propounded why in such an expert operation, the life of Zainab was spared. It surely cannot be explained by virtue of running out of bullets as suggested? The precise location and injuries of the French cyclist M. Mollier are obviously critical. M. Didierjean reported that he showed no injuries commensurate with falling off his bike. If correct this would indicate he was shot whilst walking presumably towards the car. Was the front seat vacated for this purpose? Why have the papers not posed this question?
11. Similarly amazingly little background to any of the known participants has been published. Some sources state Mr. Martin is the sole proprietor of a company with liabilities three times its roughly £200,000 assets. Is this in fact correct and what did this entail since he retired from his RAF post, apparently involved in understanding aircraft armament systems. Similarly, precisely what did M. Mollier’s work entail working for the French nuclear technology conglomerate, Areva? Mr. Al Hilli was apparently involved in aircraft design and satellite technology. We do not know what M. Didierjean does for a living but even so is it wholly co-incidental that two victims and primary witness, had connections with either aeronautics or nuclear technology? It appears Mr. Martin left for Britain immediately after the incident and the French authorities raised no objection to this despite him being the principal witness. How did he get back and was he given Government assistance to do so?
12. A local Bricklayer-stonemason Laurent Fillion-Robin, 38, witnessed Al Hilli’s red BMW pass, up Route de la Combe d’Ire towards the car park between 2:30-3:00 PM. He also says they were not being followed. We are told the crime is reported at 3.48 pm despite the fact that M. Didierjean said he did not even arrive until 4.10 and then had to return down the hill to get reception on his phone. The police reported they arrived about 4 pm, i.e. before M. Didierjean. How is this possible? So who did phone the police or are all the times given unreliable? Why have the papers not pursued the time line to clarify it?
13. Sylvie Lecouer, 49, coming back from grocery shopping at 4 pm or slightly after, was nearly run off the road by a speeding Peugot 306. She described him as a “British” man (we don’t quite know why) with black crew-cut hair and black polo neck shirt driving in a panic. This car as far as we know has not been traced or the driver come forward to be eliminated from the investigation, which must raise suspicions. However if he is a suspect, the question remains as to his involvement. Could he have been a killer, an arranged contact or just a terrified witness trying to get away? If he was part of a conspiracy to kill, it would mean at least three persons were involved, that is if Mr. Martin’s story about the motor bike and green x4 wheel drive, are to be believed.
14. A question also remains as to why Mr. Al Hilli went to that remote location and took his family, yet it would appear, giving no appearance of picnicking or walking. He was there for about an hour before disaster struck. What could have been the purpose other than for a rendez-vous? If so with whom? With M. Mollier, Mr. Martin, his killers or someone else?
15. There have been published maps of the scene but these have been generally very poor and no attempt has been made to clearly define the alternative routes available and their respective conditions and destinations, or how these relate to the witness statements. They assume that only the metalled road was used but of course this might not be the case.
16. If neither car nor possessions were stolen we must assume motive lies elsewhere. None of the three lines of enquiry mentioned by the investigating officer include potential state involvement. Indeed the official lines, of family feud over disputed inheritance, or violent nephew have the appearance of detracting from the possibility. However the statement that the origins lie in the United Kingdom whilst deflecting attention from France, also, perhaps accidentally, confirm they know this to be a planned event, not a chance one as was originally suggested. If planned it must have been meticulously planned, for how else would the car have been located in such a remote spot other than arrangement or surveillance?
That this was a professionally executed operation, also cannot be doubted. The use and accuracy of semi-automatic weapons and the way the killers “have disappeared off the map”, cannot be co-incidental.
Mr. Al Hilli maintained contacts with Iraq. He was kept under observation by MI5 in 2003. He was active in his condemnation of Israel on the internet. He evidenced raised anxiety over his home and camping location. He went on his European trip precisely when his children should have been returning to school, all of which points to a purpose beyond purely recreation. Two head shots is militaristic and deadly certain.
If a state is implicated, the question is which state would wish these individuals dead and why?
Oh and finally why is this question NOT being posed by Western Government or media? Governments involved in assassination, rely on the fact that the public and media will gradually lose interest and that other world and local events will eventually bury the story. It is to be hoped that insofar as we still retain independent institutions and press, this particularly brutal story will not receive the same fate, for in the end, a truthful examination and investigation of crime, however caused and wherever it may lead, is the only guarantee of our own security and freedom; the only thing that distinguishes our democratic political system and a despotic totalitarian one. END
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill – Tim Veater
The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill
Message Body: The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration ("Gagging") Bill - Tim Veater
Anyone who has tried to read "Part II" of the Bill can see it is indeed a "dog's dinner" of a proposal as a MP described it. (Even the title is enough to put all but the most assiduous off!) It has now passed its Commons' stages and only the unelected Lords can paradoxically be looked to, to kill it.
Having made a mess of the National Health reorganisation, the redeployed Andrew Lansley is sponsoring this one. So no change there then! As Andrew George astutely asked: "What exactly is the problem this part of the Act seeks to correct?" Rather it seems to be squeezed between two reasonable proposals for "camouflage" - like an elephant between two flamingos.
The effect would appear to limit the ability of independent pressure groups to lobby twelve months prior to any parliamentary election, the suspicion being that it would give government even greater power to enact unpopular measures during that time. Leaving aside this possibility, it is clearly designed to limit free speech and the ability of groups, including charities, to enter the debate or press their arguments.
As such it appears to be deeply illiberal development and highly contentious, yet perhaps rather predictably, it has gained relatively little press coverage, despite the apparent undue haste in getting it through Parliament. Atypically there has been no Green Paper or formal consultation period which immediately raises suspicions as to the motives behind it.
"Thirty Eight Degrees" has done good work but the proposal requires far higher profile and public opposition if the offending Part is to be prevented from becoming law.