150 inhabitants … 300 cows … and now British murder victims … in a place named Chevaline…

Chevaline – that is what the French call the meat of the horse. Yes, here in France we eat horses. All of 30, 000 tonnes of it annually, which means 20,000 slaughtered horses. But Chevaline , 600 kms (372 miles) from Paris and just 60 kms (65 miles) from Geneva, Switzerland, is currently in the […]

The beautiful town of Annecy on Lake Annecy

Chevaline – that is what the French call the meat of the horse. Yes, here in France we eat horses. All of 30, 000 tonnes of it annually, which means 20,000 slaughtered horses.

But Chevaline , 600 kms (372 miles) from Paris and just 60 kms (65 miles) from Geneva, Switzerland, is currently in the news for quite another reason : for the shooting of a family of four from the United Kingdom and of a French cyclist.

Quick was the United Kingdom media to speak of France as a place not at all safe for Brits. (I was wondering whether to book a Eurostar ticket to London instantly for the safety of Britain: Only joking guys!!)

When I heard of the Chevaline massacre I, as a true crime writer, immediately thought of ‘premeditated assassination’. In such a killing, one never kills the children, and in this case two girls (approx 7 and 4 years old) were not killed, although the elder had been beaten over the head, perhaps, and as police think, because she had run screaming from the carnage. In other words she had to be silenced, yet not killed.

We now know that the man was a naturalized-Brit: he hailed from Iraq.

His name was Saad Al Hilli, 50. He was in the aeronautical industry and lived in affluent Claygate in Surrey, south of London.

The police must have known his identity from late Wednesday afternoon soon after 4 p.m. when a BMW car with the bodies was discovered in an open space beside a mountain road above the beautiful Lake Annecy in the Upper-Savoy region of France. Even a rookie police investigator will tell you that in our computer age it takes only a few minutes to find the name and address of the owner of a car. But the police (French and British) released the man’s name only today, almost 24 hours after the gruesome discovery.

This was a slaughter.

Mr. Saad Al Hilli’s body was slumped over the BMW’s wheel. The two women – one his wife and the mother of the two girls – and the other woman, older and either his mother or his mother-in-law were slumped on the rear seat.

In front of the car, to the left lay the body of a cyclist – he was in cyclist gear – and to the right of the car lay the elder of the two girls. The cyclist’s bike lay a little distance away

The discovery was made by another cyclist who instantly summoned the police.

It is thought that the dead cyclist, a local man, came upon the shooting and consequently had to be taken out too. When night fell his wife had gone to the police to report that he had gone out cycling but had not returned. Knowing of the massacre, and that a cyclist was one of the victims, they asked her for a photo of him. The photo was that of the dead cyclist. It was then for the police to tell the wife that her husband was dead.

As part of their investigation the police called in at all the hotels, guest houses and camping sites in the region to ask about guests, and the manager of the camping site of Saint-Jorioz, halfway down to the lake from the crime scene, said that a family of one man, two women and two small girls with a BMW was staying in a caravan in the camp.

He gave the police the man’s name and passport details (such info has to be supplied on booking into hotels etc.) but what else he told the police we do not know, but immediately the cops began looking for another girl.

They police flew over the moutaineous area (this is the Alps) with helicopters, but it was not until midnight on Wednesday – 8 hours after the discovery of the massacre – that the police found her. She lay in the rear foot area of the car, under the legs of the younger of the two women. She was petrified and calmed down only when in the arms of a police woman when she even smiled once. She spoke in English, asking for her ‘mummy’, and could not understand when French was spoken to her.

She, as her sister, is now in hospital in the nearby big town of Grenoble. At first it was thought that the elder of the girls would not survive, but she is alright now and the police say that they will be able to question her soon. (Both girls are under police protection.)

There is much criticism in the United Kingdom media over why it had taken the French police from 4 p.m. to midnight – 8 hours – to find the younger girl. The reason is that the crime scene was sealed – frozen is the word – to prevent contamination until investigators from Paris arrived when the car’s door could be opened for the first time to get to the bodies.

This murder strangely resembles that of the August 1952 murder of the English family Drummond : Sir Jack Drummond, 61, a prominent scientist, his second wife Anne, 45, once his secretary, and their 10-year-old daughter Elizabeth.

On August 5, 1952, Jack and Anne Drummond were gunned down beside their Hillman estate car on the small farm of Gaston Dominici, 77, near the tiny village of Lurs in Provence, southeastern France, and Elizabeth had been beaten to death. The three had camped out on the the Dominici farm on what was a very hot summer night.

After many different versions from the Dominici family – Gaston, his wife, his two sons and a daughter-in-law – of what had happened to the Drummonds, Gaston was charged with the Drummonds’ murder. He was found guilty and sentenced to die on the guillotine after an 11-day trial. General De Gaulle, then President of France, commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment because of the doubt that existed about Gaston’s guilt and he was released on compassionate grounds, also by General de Gaulle, in 1960. He died, aged 88, in 1965 in a hospice. Had he been guillotined he would today be in the history books as the oldest person to have been guillotined in France.

Gaston Dominici

Today still Gaston Dominici has his supporters who believe him innocent of the murders of the three Drummonds. One is his grandson Alain Dominici who has made it his life task to prove his grand-father’s innocence. He was a baby at the time of the Drummonds’ murder.

Another English murder victim:

Her name is Patricia Wilson, 58. She lived alone in Vabre-Tizac, a village of 433 souls in southeastern France. She was last seen on Friday, August 17 (this year).

Her French gardener, Jean-Louis Cayrou, 50 is being held by police on suspicion of her murder.

Patricia Wilson was having an affair with Cayrou as all in the village knew.

Having ended the affair with Cayrou, who lived in a caravan, Wilson had gone to England for a few days but had returned to her home in France on August 17.

Cayrou had taken the break with Wilson badly: on the night of Saturday, July 28, he had turned up at her villa and had made a scene, and he was also making threatening calls to her on his cell (mobile) phone.

His mobile registered a last call to her on August 17 at 8.57 p.m. He was not far from her villa when he made the call.

Police have found her DNA on blood in his Renault Laguna car, in his caravan and also an item of her underclothing in the glove box of his car. He also has some deep cuts made by someone’s nails across his back.

French law is such that he must now either be charged with her murder, or he must be released.

The police using dogs and a helicopter are now searching a nearby wood for Wilson’s body.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

6 Responses

9-7-2012 at 14:01:31

Zebuzzeo thinks it was Mossad who have taken out 650 Iraqi scientists since 2003.

9-7-2012 at 18:49:02

Sarah, this is so interesting. I ‘never’ thought of this possibility. He was in aeronautics … so was he perhaps working for the Iraqis on a missile or something? The story from the UK tonight is that he was very scared of something or someone in the days before the family’s departure for France. He even asked his nextdoor neighbour to keep an eye on his house. Thanks for drawing my attention to this.

9-15-2012 at 21:26:29

I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

9-16-2012 at 16:07:16

Hi Edna:

There is quite a conversation going on on another article of mine about it. You can join us there. http://www.marilynztomlins.com/articles/chevaline-the-forgotten-victim-sylvain-mollier/

9-23-2012 at 10:48:05

I enjoy reading write-up. Hope i can discover a lot more articles like this one. Thanks for posting.

9-8-2013 at 14:47:42

Somewhere it is written that neighbors at the campsite noticed that the father went away about 5 times a day foe abou 20 mins. He was a Muslim, so perhaps this was about his prayers and not discreet phone calls.
Also, having listened to Brett Martin several times I hear him say distinctly “siblings”. He has a special, pleasant accent,but as an English speaker mysel I have no trouble hearing that final S.
I like this blog and I think the friendly devilish advocate Max has some very valid points, but I smell conspiracy and wish max would continue to share with us. I will do so too,once I start to find some threads.

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