Speak of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And speak of being overlooked by the media. Sylvain Mollier is the name of the cyclist who was also shot down on Wednesday in the Chevaline massacre. The 45-year-old local man, father of 3 and cycling enthusiast, had gone out on his normal bike […]
Speak of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And speak of being overlooked by the media.
Sylvain Mollier is the name of the cyclist who was also shot down on Wednesday in the Chevaline massacre.
The 45-year-old local man, father of 3 and cycling enthusiast, had gone out on his normal bike ride when he must have come across the massacre of the Al-Hilli family. Even an amateur sleuth would tell you that such an eye-witness had to be taken out. He had five bullets in his body, one of them in his head. He had no chance of survival.
Sylvain Mollier’s companion became worried when he did not return from his bike ride and went to the police. Asked for a photo of him, and the photo having matched the face of the gunned-down cyclist, the mayor of his village – Ugine – went to tell his worried companion that he was dead.
An employee with the company Crezus which supplies equipment to nuclear power plants, he was on maternity leave: in June he had become the father of a little girl. His companion is the local chemist. He also has two children of 9 and 7 from a previous relationship.
His family are not releasing photographs of him and they are not speaking to the media.
His funeral will be some day next week: first his body must undergo an autopsy like those of the other victims.
Ugine, with a population of approx 7,000 lies 20 kms (12 miles) above Lake Annecy.
Believe me, this is a most beautiful and tranquil area of France: I love it.
This is a remark from a French person. It shows that there is doubt here too about the Chevaline killings.
Un troublant point commun existe effectivement entre deux des victimes, le conducteur de la BMW et le cycliste : en effet, Saad al Hilli a des liens avec un laboratoire top secret nucléaire britannique (The Rutherford Appleton research) révèle le Mirror, et Sylvain Mollier travaillait lui aussi pour l’industrie nucléaire… Quant à l’autre cycliste, un ancien de la RAF… Bizarre, Bizarre.
Up-date: Monday,September 10.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud has said that 4-year-old Zeena Al-Hilli could tell them nothing as she’d seen nothing. My theory is that she’d been lying sleeping in the rear foot-well of the BMW all the time.
UPDATE: TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
There is a second ‘witness’now – or rather someone who came upon the killing immediately after the RAF man had done so.
He is being identified as Philippe D. He is 41.
He is now telling the French media that he and two friends drove up that mountain road meaning to spend the night camping in the area.
At around 4 p.m. that Wednesday, they came across the RAF man who was descending the road on his bike. He describes him as perturbed and in a panic. The RAF man tried to tell him and his two friends that he had come across bodies inside and outside a car. He spoke haltingly in French. The three could not make out whether he had tried to summons assistance on his mobile (cell phone) but there was no signal or whether he did not have a mobile phone.
The three went back up the road with the RAF man and having seen what there was to see, Philippe D. drove back down to where he could get a signal for his mobile. He then summoned assistance. Within minutes the gendarmerie arrived.
Philippe D. told the French media that he went up to the little girl lying outside the car.
“We called her. I said a few words in English to her because I’d seen that the car had British registration, but she did not reply. I touched her hand, but there was no response. For me, she was dead.”
He also spoke of the terrible silence on the spot.
And of how frightened they were because they thought that the killers or killer might still be around.
Philippe D. and his two friends, along with the RAF man, were then taken to gendarmerie headquarters where they were questioned. They have since been questioned again. They were also taken to the spot to re-enact their movements.
I would say that the RAF man is indeed an innocent bystander.
I wish to add something about the gendarmerie: what it is for example.
In France we have a national police force: the police. We also have gendarmes.
The police fall under the Ministry of Interior. Gendarmes fall under the Ministry of Defense (Defence).
Gendarmes, like soldiers, remain in uniform and live in a barrack and they hold military ranks like soldiers.
They keep law and order in the countryside and in towns (communes) of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants.
It was therefore the local gendarmerie which replied to Philippe D’s telephone call.
Now this is odd: Normally the gendarmerie hands over an investigation to the police. In this case they would have handed the investigation over to the police of the nearest big town – Annecy or Grenoble or even Lyon (Lyons).
But in this case they did not.
In other words, the case is being investigated by the Ministry of Defense and not the Ministry of Interior. Secrecy is thus ensured.
UPDATE : Tuesday at 20.40.
Please note: this is not the murder weapon but it is the kind of gun that was used. And it is official.
It is a Czech-made CZ50 7.65 mm, 8 rounds magazine capacity gun.
The CZ50 was manufactured in the 1940s and manufacture stopped in 1983. It was used by the Czech police, but considered too light for the Czech army.
You can buy it for about $100 these days.
The CZ50 used in this shooting was an ‘old’ model.
Will a sophisticated, modern and deadly secret service use such a gun? I do not think so. I think we are dealing here with a local nut case.
UPDATE :: Wednesday September 12 at 21.28 Paris Time :
The dark green 4×4 the RAF guy apparently saw was one of the vehicles used by the National Office of Forests: l’Office national des Forets.
Another ‘witness’ is being quoted. It’s a woman and her name is Catherine Jeanin. She is the wife of farmer Jeanin who has 70 cows. Their farm is further up (Col de Cherel) from where the Al-Hilli’s died.
She is being quoted as saying: “My husband saw only a motorcycle. It came by several times. The rider even stopped to allow the cows to cross the road. He did not look like he was in a hurry.”
UPDATE : Sept 13 at 11.53 a.m.
The RAF guy is now back in the United Kingdom.
An unidentified police source are telling the French media that the police are concentrating on the Al-Hilli family members.
He said: ” Even though he denies it, we now know that there existed a serious conflict over inheritance between the two brothers.”
The police are even studying the DVDs of the two girls, found in the BMW.
UPDATE : FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 :
After the visit of French investigators (in this case from the gendarmerie as the national police have not taken over the case) to London to investigate the murder of the Al-Hilli family and Frenchman Sylvian Mollier, it is now the turn of some English investigators to be in France.
The French are always tight-lipped when they are investigating a crime (theft, murder, infanticide, patricide whatever) and with this case they are no different. They may even be somewhat less prepared to give out information this time. They are telling us naught about their investigation, so we are really not any wiser than we were say 48 hours after the shooting. We do not know who they are questioning, if anyone, just as we do not know whether they have any clues as to why this Iraqi-born family had been gunned down.
Therefore, I wonder if it has come to them that last summer (2011) there was a similar murder here in France. A murder which is yet unsolved and which the media no longer mentions.
On Tuesday, July 19, 2011, just after 2 a.m. the body of a young Belgian man, Xavier Baligant, 29, divorced and the father of two sons aged 4 and 6, were found by a patrolling gendarme outside the toilets in a resting area off the A31 highway. His car was parked close by and on the rear seat of the vehicle lay the two boys: they were fast asleep. Baligant and his two sons had been spending a vacation at a camping site some 600 kilometers south and were on their way back home to Belgium.
(The A31 highway is in eastern France close to the village of Colombey-les-Belles with a population of 1283. Some 450 kilometers south (5 hours drive) is the village of Chevaline. Both villages are close to the German and Swiss frontiers.)
An autopsy showed that Mr. Baligant had four bullets in him: one bullet had been fired into the back of his head.
Today, some 14 months later, this is a murder which remains unsolved.
What the police could establish was that the firearm used in this assassination was a Swiss-made Schmidt Rubin K 31. This is a firearm manufactured for the Swiss Army between 1933 and up to 1957. It has a 6-round magazine with a 7.55 mm caliber bullet, weighs 4 kilos and has a sight up to 1500 meters. It is therefore perfect for sniper use.
At the time of the shooting, 24 truckers were sleeping in their trucks parked in the resting area, but not one of them had heard firing. A Schmidt Rubin K 31 can be fitted with a silencer.
(What is interesting is that the Swiss are the world’s most armed people. Despite that the Swiss have not been in battle since 1847 when the country’s catholic and protestant cantons had a go at each other, the Swiss retain compulsory military service for males. Initial training on reaching adulthood at 18 is 22 weeks which is followed by regular additional training as a reservist until the age of 50. A man is given his weapon though for life: he takes it home with him, keeps it at home, and even keeps it once he has turned 50 and is no longer on the reservist list.)
The Schmidt Rubin K 31’s manufacturers say that a total of 700,000 of this firearm were made.
(I suppose the Swiss army does have records of past service men and which firearms they had been issued. It would therefore be possible that the Swiss can, if need be, find out which of those firearms are still in the possession of their original owners. However, men do die and family members might well sell the firearms. Indeed, the Schmidt Rubin K 31 is being sold on the Web for from $200 each. I have come across websites where firearm enthusiasts speak so lovingly of this particular deadly weapon that one would say they are speaking of some naked dame doing a pole dance.)
The Al-Hillis were shot with a 7.65 mm caliber firearm, according to the gendarmerie. First to name the make of the firearm was Reuters: it said it was a Beretta. Next, it was said that it was a Czech-manufactured CZ50 7.65 mm firearm. Other reports say it was a 7.65 mm Luger.
The Czech one can be fitted with a silencer, but as I am not a gun enthusiast, I do not know about the Beretta and the Luger. The main witness, ex-RAF man Brett Martin, did not however say anything about having heard gunfire, so it is likely that the Al-Hilli killer had used a silencer.
There are other similarities between the Al-Hilli shooting and that of the Baligant shooting.
Both shootings took place in eastern France close to the Swiss and German frontiers. Both took place in an isolated place. The victims had been shot in the body and in the head: in the Baligant shooting, the gendarmerie said that the shot to the head had been the final shot. In both shootings there were children present but they were unharmed. (Of course in the Al-Hilli case a child was shot, but this could be because she had seen the killer and had to be killed.) There was no theft involved in the Baligant shooting and also not in the Al-Hilli shooting.
Could we therefore have a case here of a summer vacation killer? He lives and works either in Switzerland or Germany, lovingly cares for his deadly weapon all fall (autumn) and winter, and then when spring comes he plans his next summer vacation killing? Then, once the killing’s been done, he, content, drives back home, the open Schengen frontier having caused him no problem.
Update: Saturday, September 22.
French and British police are now to work in tandem on this investigation. (In the case of France it will be the Gendarmerie). ‘In tandem’ is indeed the correct description because at an interrogation both forces will be present.
The decision was taken to ‘speed up’ the case: until now each time a British investigator wanted to see a French document and vice versa a request had to be made by the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Justice of the other side. From now on this will not be necessary.
I also wish to recommend that you read under Comments the comment left by Zak Martin, renowned Psychic and Psychological Profiler.
UPDATE, MONDAY – SEPTEMBER 24
That the French and the British have pooled their investigations is unprecedented. This did not even happen with the 1997 death of Princess Diana and her lover, Dodi Al Fayed. In that case the French allowed the British to view their files, but it were the French only who investigated on French soil.
I can add that it is indeed bizarre that the French should pool with another nation on what is up to the time of me writing this, still a criminal investigation and it is still a French prosecutor who would have to decide in an inquest whether he has sufficient evidence against the accused (if no accuse has been named, then it will be against X) to successfully prosecute.
The case can not be heard in a British Court of Law because the crime was not committed on British soil. The fact that three of the victims were British (the deceased Mr. and Mrs. Al-Hilli and their wounded 7-year-old daughter) would allow the British to hold an inquest in Britain. However, they would have no jurisdiction to prosecute the killer/killers. Even if he/she/they were British, the British would have to hand him/her/them over to the French to stand trial here in France and to be judged here and to serve the pronounced sentence here.
French law is painstakingly slow, so this case won’t be heard in a court for two or three or even four years.
Update : Sunday,September 30
The story going around media circles is that there were several killers. The word ‘gang’ is even being used.
The only detail given so far about the shooting was that the same gun killed the four adults and shot the 7-year-old Zainab in the shoulder.
Now, however, it is being said that several guns could have been used, all, though of the same make, the killers having stood around the car, firing.
The fact that the each adult had two bullets in the head points to the killers having been professionals either from an organization (this includes an army or secret service) or a criminal gang.
Shooting someone twice in the head is known as a ‘double tap’, and it is not only a modus operandi of gangsters and professional political assassins, but police and soldiers worldwide are also taught this technique.
For example, it was what the U.S. Navy Seals did when they burst in on Bin Laden.
Update : Friday, October 5, One month to the day:
Annecy Prosecutor Eric Maillaud has broken his silence to tell journalists that one month after the shooting of Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, his mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf and Frenchman Sylvain Mollier, and the attempted killing of the Al-Hilli’s elder daughter Zainab, 7, the killing remains a mystery.
In reply to the question posed by the privately-owned TV network, TF1, “what can you tell us about the investigation?”, he replied: “Not much. This does not mean that the investigation is not progressing.”
He continued to say that the two investigating teams – French and British – have the task of constructing the biographies of those who died. It is a task which will take time.
“When we know who wanted to eliminate an entire family, then we will not be far from finding the one who committed this crime,” he said.
He added that the three leads – the inheritance quarrel between the Al-Hilli brothers, Al-Hilli’s profession, and Iraq, Al-Hilli’s country of origin – are still being pursued.
If the inheritance quarrel received more attention initially than the other two leads, he said, it was only because it appeared a more obvious reason for wanting the family dead. The investigators do however now know that it will take months to unravel the complexity of the Al-Hilli inheritance quarrel.
The investigators have though not ruled out the possibility that the shooting was the work of a mad killer.
About the kind of firearm used, Maillaud pointed out that he never said what kind it was and won’t do so either and reports that it was a Skorpion manufactured in the Balkans is sheer speculation.
He also dismissed media speculation that two bullets to the head is the signature of a professional killer. He said that a professional killer would not have needed to fire as many bullets as had been fired.
He told Maud Vallereau of Metrofrance (a free newspaper) that a hundred investigators from France and Britain are reconstituting the lives of the victims “minute by minute”. They are going through masses of documents in several languages. He said: “These are from ‘happy Christmas’ cards to complex papers that concern the professional life of Mr. Al-Hilli. We must decide what is important without really knowing what we are looking for.”
According to Metrofrance, Maillaud has said that they are still trying to set up contacts in Iraq to investigate there, but that Iraq is not their major concern currently.
Metrofrance furthermore reports that a source ‘close to the investigation’ has told them that the investigation is focussing on Zaid, brother of Saad.
They quote the source as saying: “He is denying a conflict with Saad which seems unlikely because there is indeed an inheritance problem which involves several million. “
Speaking of the inheritance, Maillaud told Metrofrance: “We are trying to reconstitute what the father wanted exactly and this is not simple.”
The investigators, he said, will have to dig into the inheritance issue to find who in the family had an interest to kill one of the brothers, or perhaps both of them. He thought that if the reason for the killing was indeed the inheritance, then the killer had not succeeded, because the two Al-Hilli daughters are the ones who will now inherit what their late father had inherited from his father.
The two are still being cared for by Social Services and remain under police protection. Zainab’s health has improved and, according to Metrofrance, she could be questioned next week.
Metrofrance also reports that Maillaud may tomorrow appeal for anyone with knowledge of the killing to contact either the French or British investigators.
If you understand French you will see on the chart below that there were no bullets fired at the body of the car only at its windows.
Update: Sunday, October 14, 2012
There is much frustration because both the French and British investigators are not very talkative: In fact, they are not telling us anything about their investigation.
“We need to match up or add to the information we have,” Lieutenant Colonel Vinnemann one of the investigators from the Gendarmerie, told journalists a week or so ago to explain the silence.
As a result journalists are seeking out every possible source and Mayor of Chevaline, Didier Berthollet, has expressed some degree of discontent over the probing by saying to French journalists that their British colleagues have not stopped phoning him for information. The British journalists, he said, wanted to know whether it was Al-Qaida or even the ‘Irish’ who have wiped out the family. He continued that he had no contact with the gendarmes and that his only contact with the criminal police was immediately after the slaying when a police officer asked him for a map of the village.
It is worth pointing out that in the first hours after the shooting more maps had to be taken out and studied to establish whether the lieu of the crime fell in the community of Chevaline or Doussard. Chevaline is 2 kms (1.2 miles) south of Doussard. Now, as we know, it falls within the community of Chevaline.
It is however Prosecutor Eric Maillaud based in Annecy who is being blamed for the investigators’ silence.
The poor chap is however quite innocent as he is very much under the orders of the investigators – in this case the Gendarmerie. Later on, yes, he will be the ‘boss man’ but right now he is not and perhaps he is as frustrated as the journalists and all of us who are interested in this case.
French justice is complicated, so I will try to explain how it works here in France.
A crime is investigated by a team. If the crime has been committed in a town (village etc.) of fewer than 20,000 souls, or out in the countryside, it is the Gendarmerie Nationale which will investigate. Otherwise it will be the Police Nationale. The Gendarmerie falls under the Ministry of Defence (Defense), whereas the National Police falls under the Ministry of Interior. Gendarmes, nicknamed the maréchaussée, therefore always investigate in uniform, live in barracks, and hold military ranks. Other than policing small communities and the country they also carry out criminal investigations although they have to do so under judiciary supervision; guard airports, ports; see to the security in France’s courts; guard visiting dignities and royalty, and our president. At the head of the Gendarmerie is a director-general who is appointed by the Council of Ministers: His rank is that of General – Général d’Armée.
As the Al-Hillis were murdered in a community of fewer than 20,000 souls – 150 people live there – the investigation was for the gendarmes.
The Gendarmerie hierarchy of this case looks like this:
#1 : Colonel Bertrand François head of the Upper Savoy gendarmerie – Haute Savoie. (Annecy falls in Upper Savoy.)
#2 : Lieutenant Colonel Benoît Vinnemann, head of the local Annecy gendarmerie.
Under them they have according to various reports anything from 25 to 150 gendarmes. I would say that 25 is a more realistic number.
However, François and Vinnemann will have to work under judiciary supervision …
Therefore, the two will report the findings of their investigators to an examining magistrate – juge d’instruction.
In this case there are two examining magistrates: Michel Mollin and Christine de Curraize.
The two were appointed by Prosecutor of Annecy, Eric Maillaud, and they will report the findings of François and Vinnemann to him.
Maillaud had, in fact, opened two judicial enquiries – informations judiciaries. One is for ‘assassination’ and the other for ‘attempted assassination’. To complicate matters further I will tell you that in France ‘assassination’ means ‘premeditated murder’ where as murder – meurtre – is the killing of someone without premeditation.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud’s role is therefore to listen to what Mollin and de Curraize reports to him, which they, in turn, had learned (learnt) from François and Vinnemann. Once, Maillaud has gathered whatever information there is to gather he is to decide whether he has enough evidence to take the case to court, in other words to prosecute the killer/killers successfully.
Then, in court, a chief prosecution counsel – avocat general – assisted by a junior counsel will argue the state’s case. A judge who would be addressed as Mr. President – Monsieur le président – will preside over the court and two magistrates will assist him.
So, you will gather that Maillaud’s role at the moment is to listen and not to upset the apple cart by telling the world what he is being told by Mollin and de Curraize.
Update: Wednesday, October 17, 2012:
Yesterday (Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012) at 9 a.m. a leading Corsican advocate, ANTOINE SOLLACARO, 53, was shot dead in a street in central Ajaccio.
As he did every morning he had pulled in at a service station to buy a newspaper, when, as he got back into his Porsche, two killers on a motorbike opened fired on him.
They fired 9 times with a .45 caliber pistol, known in France as a 11.43 mm.
Two of those shots were to his head.
The Mediterranean island of Corsica has been waging a war of terror against France for independence for very many years – 40 at least if not 50. This means that there are regular assassinations, most of them public ones.
Those assassins are professionals and note that they shot this man in the head – twice. Professional killers shoot in the head – twice.