Key sighting in Alps killings

A key witness in the case of a British satellite engineer gunned down in the French Alps with his wife and mother-in-law has claimed he saw a 4x4 vehicle with UK number plates heading towards the crime scene around the time of the killings.

The anonymous French forestry worker also said he saw a man on a motorbike in the lay-by near Lake Annecy where Saad al-Hilli, 50, his 47-year-old dentist wife Ikbal and her elderly mother Suhaila al-Allaf were blasted to death last September.

Iraqi-born Mr al-Hilli's eldest daughter Zainab was shot, beaten and left for dead but survived. Her four-year-old sister Zeena lay hidden under her mother's corpse and was only discovered eight hours after the murders.

In a BBC Panorama documentary to be aired this evening, the local man explains that he passed the parking area as he went down a quiet mountain road just minutes before the onslaught.

He tells filmmaker Jane Corbin that the motorbike was white and black, with panniers on either side, and the rider - who investigators have suggested may have been the shooter - was dressed in black from head to toe.

Minutes later he passed another vehicle going up the mountain, while colleagues told him they saw the motorbike further up the road and spoke with the rider, describing him as a man with "a bit of a beard".

"The car was a BMW 4x4, X5, grey metallic, in good condition, clean, it looked pretty new," the forestry worker said.

"It was a right hand drive, English. I didn't get much of a look at him but the driver was slightly bald and he had dark skin, no glasses."

French police had previously played down reports that they were looking for a black Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4 with British number plates in relation to the shootings.

Mr al-HIlli's 53-year-brother older brother, Zaid al-Hilli, was arrested in June on suspicion of orchestrating the shootings to settle a family feud and is due to answer police bail on Wednesday.

He has strenuously denied any involvement and accused the French authorities of ignoring details which might reveal that the intended target was a local cyclist also found dead at the scene.

"They are covering up for someone in France in that region and they know it," he told Ms Corbin.

"Sylvain Mollier was involved in family disputes and was an outsider to (his) rich family. There is something more to it locally - most crime has local roots."

Investigators have repeatedly stated that they believe Mr Mollier was in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was shot dead on September 5 2012.

Mr al-Hilli, a father of one who works as a payroll manager and lives in Chessington, south-west London, also claimed that he has refused to go to France to meet Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud because he does not trust the French.

"My brother was killed there in that region and I am not going to take the risk," he told the Sunday Times.

The widower also said he was willing to take a lie-detector test to prove his innocence.

Following the killings, speculation was rife about a dispute between the al-Hilli brothers over their inheritance.

Zaid has admitted there were tensions over the £825,000 home in Claygate, Surrey, where Saad and his family lived.

The older brother was left his mother's 50% stake in the property after she died from a heart attack in 2003 and claims Saad began demanding that share of the property in 2011.

After his brother allegedly pinned him to a bed, the two did not speak again except through lawyers.

He claims that in 2011 the matter drove a wedge between them when his brother began to demand that share of the property "there and then" and pinned him down during a row in October that year.

The two men never spoke again except through lawyers, but Mr al-Hilli has denied claims that he had threatened to kill his brother.

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