Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Survivor of French killings heads home

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LONDON -- A seven-year-old girl who survived a grisly shooting in the French Alps that killed her parents and grandmother left a French hospital Friday to return to Britain, though police could not say how soon she might be questioned about the murders.

Zaina al-Hilli, who was shot in the shoulder and severely beaten, emerged on Sunday from a medically induced coma and was travelling from France back to Britain, where the family lived, Surrey Police said.

Police would not confirm who was accompanying Zaina back to the U.K. or comment on the role the child might play in assisting French and British detectives investigating the case. Britain's Foreign Office, which had been offering support to the girl, declined to comment.

British-Iraqi engineer Saad al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal, her mother and an unrelated French cyclist were shot dead Sept. 5 in a quiet wooded area near France's Lake Annecy. Zaina was found covered in blood and suffering from head injuries by a passerby. Her four-year-old sister, Zeena, was unharmed, but lay undiscovered for eight hours -- huddled under the legs of her deceased mother.

The young British sisters are the only known witnesses to the crime, and the elder daughter is now regarded as crucial to the investigation.

William Brett Martin, the cyclist who was first to arrive at the scene of the killings, said he found Zaina stumbling along the ground outside the car in which her family had been shot dead. He told BBC television in an interview Thursday the girl was covered in blood and had "obvious head injuries."

French prosecutor Eric Maillaud has said he believes the key to solving the execution-style killings is in the U.K., where French police are now carrying out inquiries -- suggesting there may be a connection to the al-Hilli family's personal or professional life in the southern English county of Surrey, where they settled after leaving Iraq.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 A22

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