On September 5, three months ago today, four people were brutally shot down near the French town of Chevaline, 600 kms (372 miles) from Paris and just 60 kms (40 miles) from the Swiss city of Geneva. I’ve written about it here and here and here. Comments on those four threads have closed, so [...]
On September 5, three months ago today, four people were brutally shot down near the French town of Chevaline, 600 kms (372 miles) from Paris and just 60 kms (40 miles) from the Swiss city of Geneva.
Comments on those four threads have closed, so if you want to join our debate you should do so below on this thread.
There is still no certainty as to what had happened that Wednesday afternoon of the shootings.
This is what Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said when he last spoke to a journalist.
UPDATE: Sunday, December, 9, 2012
When the killer is, or the killers are, apprehended and brought to justice what do they risk?
They will not be sentenced to death. This is for sure. France abolished capital punishment – death by guillotine – in 1981, but had not guillotined anyone after September 1977.
Prosecutor of Annecy, Eric Maillaud, is supervising two judicial enquiries – informations judiciares – for this case which the French call la tuerie de Chevaline – the Chevaline killing or slaughter.
One is for assassination.
The other is for attempted assassination.
The first is of course for the quadruple assassination of the adults, while the latter is for the attempt to kill seven-year-old Zainab Al-Hilli. I suppose that at a later stage the prosecutor could make it a double attempted assassination by adding the name of the four-year-old discovered alive in the rear well of the BMW.
(In France assassination is what premeditated murder is called. Killing someone, in say some kind of accident or in a lover’s tiff (a crime of passion) is called murder – meurtre.
So what could the sentence be should the killer/killers be found guilty?
For assassination the punishment is life in prison. (Art. 221-3.) Le meurtre commis avec préméditation constitue un assassinat. Il est puni de la réclusion criminelle à perpétuité.
For murder the punishment is 30 years in prison. (Art. 221-1.) As given in the Code Pénal (Criminal Code) Le fait de donner volontairement la mort à autrui constitue un mertre. Il est [imi de trente ans de réclusion criminelle.
There is also Art. 222.7 which stipulates – Violence leading to death without the intension of doing so is punished with fifteen years of imprisonment. A lawyer could claim that the death of the Al-Hillis and of Sylvain Mollier were unintentional. Les violences ayant entraîne la mort sans intention de la donner sont punies de quinze ans de réclusion criminelle.
As for the attack on Zainab Al-Hilli, it also is defined under Art. 221 of the Criminal Code and the sentence depends on the victim’s age (in France a minor is under the age of 15) and the circumstances of the criminal act. The sentence could be from five to fifteen years.
If the smuggling of drugs was involved in the murders then more years will be added.
For example Art. 222-34 stipulates: The fact of controlling or organizing a group having for object the illegal production, manufacture, import, export, transport, possession, offer, supply, acquisition or use of drugs is punished by life imprisonment and a fine of €7,500,000. Yes, that is the amount incredible as it may seem.
UPDATE : MONDAY DECEMBER, 10, 2012:
No connection between the Al-Hilli killings and that of Xavier Baligant.
The shooting of Iraqi-born Saad Al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and her mother Suhalia Iqbal, 74, and that of Frenchman Sylvain Mollier, 45, is being regarded by the French investigators as unprecedented for France.
They say that the Claygate-based family’s cold-blooded murder on Wednesday, September 5, and the fatal July 19, 2011 shooting of Belgian Xavier Baligant, 29, were carried out by different killers.
The French gendarmes on the case are certain that Mr. Baligant was shot down in carjacking that went very wrong, and that his killer, or perhaps his killers, as motorway carjacking is usually carried out by a team of two or more, will only be found should they carry out a similar fatal carjacking which would lead to their immediate on-the-spot arrest.
Xavier Baligant, divorced, was driving home to the town of Pont-à-Celles in Belgium after a camping holiday in the Ardèche department of the French region of Rhône-Alpes. (France is divided into regions and each region into departments which in turn are divided into communes.)
On the rear seat of Mr. Baligant’s car were seated his two children, aged seven and five.
The three still had over 300 km (186 miles) to drive and once they were on the A31 toll road the two children fell asleep on the rear seat.
When Mr. Baligant was nearing the town of Colombey-les-Belles beyond which the motorway was free, he pulled up in the Malvaux rest area.
It was going on for two in the morning and the rest area which consisted of just a public convenience and a phone booth was quiet.
Traffic moving in the other direction had another rest area, that of Faverosse, across the motorway.
Twenty-four trucks were parked in the two rest areas, their drivers, asleep in their berths.
At around 2 a.m. an employee of the motorway operating company APRR – Autoroutes Paris-Rhin-Rhône – patrolling the motorway heard shots. He thought they came from the direction of the Malvaux and Faverosse rest areas and immediately drove in that direction.
He found the lifeless body of a man lying in front of the toilet in the Malvaux rest area. He had been shot to death.
On the rear seat of a car parked nearby two small children lay asleep. They would later tell the investigators that their dad had told them that he was pulling up to go to the toilet but that they must stay in the car and sleep.
With the arrival of the APRR man some of the truck drivers were awakened by the patrol car’s flashing light and came over to see what was going on. The others had to be awakened later by gendarmes.
Not one of the 24 had heard shots: the tests on the hands of all for gun powder residue were negative.
Mr. Baligant had been shot four times. Three shots were aimed at his chest. The fourth, fired from above him, in other words he was on the ground, had hit him in the chin, traveled through his head and had exited through the top of the skull. The autopsy would show that the first of the three chest shots had been the fatal one. The final shot told the police that the killers or killers wanted to make certain that Mr. Baligant was dead and unable to talk.
Today the investigators believe that another vehicle had pulled up in the rest area at the same time as Mr. Baligant and an attempted carjacking had resulted.
When Mr. Baligant had refused to hand over the keys of his car, the carjacker had shot him dead. He had injuries to his hands which meant that there had been some degree of physical violence before the carjacker had gone started shooting.
Then, after having shot Mr. Baligant and getting to his victim’s car and seeing that there were two sleeping children on the rear seat, the killer had raced off in his own car, probably one that was old and in poor condition – and stolen – and which he had planned to abandon.
Or, if there were two or more carjackers, and there had not been two children in Mr. Baligant’s car, one would have driven off in Mr. Baligant’s car. The latter had left the keys in the ignition.
In that month of July there had been several carjackings in car parks in Paris’s more upper-class arrondissements. The modus operandi was always the same: the carjacker would threaten the car owner with a firearm, take the keys of his car and his credit card and having obtained the pin code and having withdrawn a large amount of money, would lock the car owner in the boot of his car to let him out only when out in the countryside.
The cars were not found. The police believe that they were ‘cleaned’ – registration plates were changed – and the cars were driven across the European Union’s open borders into Eastern Europe and especially to Albania where crime has reached endemic levels.
The French investigators also see no link between the firearms used in the Chevaline and the Malvaux-Faverosse shootings.
Despite that both types of firearms allegedly used had once been used by the Swiss army – a 7.55 calibre Schmidt-Rubin K31 at Malvaux-Faverosse and a 7.65 calibre Luger at Chevaline – the French investigators say that there is a glut of firearms in Europe because of the collapse of the Communist Bloc and the end of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
Automatic and semi-automatic handguns – pistols and revolvers – rifles, and even assault weapons like AR-15s and AK-47s can be bought at an affordable price if one knows where to look.
In 1997 alone during an armed rebellion in Albania caused when a financial pyramid scheme collapsed, there were an estimated 226,000 Kalashnikovs and another 25,000 machine guns circulating among the people. Because of that rebellion there was a mass emigration of Albanians into Italy, Greece, Switzerland and Germany, and some of those weapons left Albania as well.
The French investigators therefore give little credence to the belief that the killer of the Al-Hillis and of Mr. Mollier was a local gun collector who had decided it was time to see if his old Luger could still a job correctly.
There had been reports that the gendarmes were studying CCTV footage of the A31 toll road and the various rest areas.
At the entrance of the Malvaux rest area there was a camera which recorded at a 360° angle. The scene of the shooting was 150 meters (492 ft.) from that camera. There were also other cameras filming on the A31 and at the nearest toll gates. However, the killer or killers could have arrived on any of the numerous small adjoining roads. As a trucker told journalists there is a lot of illegal activity on those roads and in that border region. He said that when a trucker sees a motorist hand a bag to another motorist he “looks the other way”.
The APRR guy, who has not been identified, but lives in the region’s town of Bicqueley (fewer than 900 inhabitants), needed post traumatic stress counselling.
APRR employs 3,870 people who are responsible for approximately 2,300 kms (1,430 miles) of motorways and its cameras film on average 23,400 vehicles daily.
Their cameras transmit its footage ‘live’ to the Ops Room (Operational Room) of the motorway police (C.R.S. 30) in the town of Chaumont.
The cameras are to monitor the flow of traffic, speeding and other violations of the law – thefts, hold-ups, aggression, drug dealing – and well …murder.
APRR patrol men also visit a rest area every four hours when cleaners also clean the parking area, the toilets and the phone booth.
The question is: how come that after 18 months the APRR’s cameras have not yet ‘talked’.
This we do not know, but in the August 1997 death of Princess Diana and her lover Mr. Dodi Al-Fayed, the story was that CCTV footage of the road Ritz Hotel acting security chief, Henri Paul, had taken that night, as well as the CCTV footage at the entrance and exit and in the Alma tunnel itself where Paul had smashed the couple’s Mercedes into a supporting pillar, would reveal what had gone on that night.
There were no cameras on that road and no cameras aimed at the entrance or exit of the tunnel or inside it.
There was one camera. This was a camera on Place de l’Alma at the exit of the tunnel, but it was switched off.
Why was that camera switched off?
The spy cameras on the streets of France’s cities, towns and villages are controlled by a special section of the police force – the Direction de l’Ordre Public et de la Circulation (DOPC). In a large city like Paris the DOPC has several Ops Rooms, each watching a particular area of the city. The men in the Ops Room of the Place de l’Alma area stop work at 11 p.m. and then the cameras are switched off.
Maybe the APRR’s cameras on the Malvaux rest area had been switched off: It was 2 a.m. anyway and the only activity on rest areas at that time of the night happens in the dreams or nightmares of truckers.
Update : Sunday, 2013-01-20 – Exclusive
One hundred and thirty-eight days ago this massacre took place.
As far as we know the French investigators and their English counterparts have no idea as to the identity of the murderer.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud spoke of ten years passing before this abominable crime could or would be solved.
This past week a 10-year-old murder was solved. As happens here in France most of us have forgotten about the murder of a young (22 years old) bank manager named Elodie Kulik. Her murderer or murderers had raped her and had then set her body alight during the night of 10/11 January 2002. She had not returned home after work and her car was found abandoned and then ten days later her partially-burnt remains.
Exactly a year ago her rapist and murderer – or one of them – was identified through DNA found on a condom which had been left near her body. The DNA matched that of a 22-year-old man, Gregory Wiart, an apprentice plumber, with a rape conviction. Alas, he was dead: he had died in a car accident in 2003.
However, last week seven men, friends and acquaintances of Wiart, and between the ages of 29 and 45, were arrested. Of the seven, all of them blue collar workers and all with criminal convictions, though not of rape, two have been released.
For the past ten years, while we forgot about the case, the investigators have been putting together a profile of Wiart’s life, watching and following those he had befriended in his miserable life, and tapping their telephones. Also, Miss Kulik had had a chance to dial the emergency services on her cell/mobile and there were man’s voices on the recording of the call and painstakingly the police had searched for the owners of those voices: they are among the seven being held now.
Also last week the police arrested two men in connection with the fatal shooting of three women members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in their office here in Paris. The two, Kurds born in Turkey, aged 39 and 41, and in the three women’s circle of collaborators and friends, were, as is always said in the UK ‘helping the police with their inquiries but the stories they told did not tally. Questioned again they had even changed their tales.
Now I will get to the reason I am updating my article about the Al-Hilli killings.
The French investigators are to re-question all those they have already questioned, and this means that witness Brett Martin has been requested to return to France for another interrogation. He can refuse to do so, but this means that should he ever again set foot on French soil he could be arrested and kept until the police have questioned him again.
I have now closed comments.