NARRATIVE. Chevaline massacre: massacred family, suspicious biker, arms trafficking … a mysterious investigation now relaunched

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While the case of the “Chevaline massacre” remains unanswered, the “cold cases” center is now responsible for solving the mystery. La Dépêche du Midi returns to this bloody tragedy and the hypotheses exploited by the investigators for more than 10 years.

The case of the “Chevaline massacre”, a quadruple murder that has not been elucidated since 2012, was transferred at the end of September 2022 to the new “cold cases” center in Nanterre. Since then, three investigating judges from the national center in charge of unresolved cases have been appointed to investigate this mystery. Back to this case, with worldwide repercussions, which remains an enigma despite thousands of hours of investigation and dozens of hearings.

Massacred in a car

On September 5, 2012, a British cyclist who was traveling around 3:30 p.m. on the forest road from Combe d’Ire to Chevaline, came face to face with a staggering little girl, covered in blood. Behind her, the man discovers a scene of horror.

The car of the British family massacred near the village of Chevaline, in Isère, in September 2012.

On board a BMW still running, the cyclist sees “a lot of blood and heads pierced by bullet holes”. A 50-year-old Briton of Iraqi origin, Saad al-Hilli, his 47-year-old wife and 74-year-old mother-in-law were shot dead in their car. Alongside them, a cyclist from the region, Sylvain Mollier, 45, was also found dead.

The miraculous girls

Miracle in horror: the two little girls present in the vehicle escaped death. The first, aged 7, was shot in the shoulder and then knocked unconscious and the second, aged four, took refuge under the feet of her mother killed in the attack.

The profile of the killer

Quickly, the investigators draw up a first profile of the killer who could be behind the deadly attack. It would be a “seasoned” individual, implying a professional killer.

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The man would have used an old model of Luger P06/29, semi-automatic pistol of the Swiss army. The individual fired 21 bullets, 17 of which hit their targets, which testifies to the precision of his gesture.

Saad al-Hilli’s brother arrested

Suspected of “conspiracy to commit murder”, Zaid al-Hilli, Saad’s older brother, was arrested twice, in 2013 and 2014 in England, then released for lack of evidence. The investigation establishes that a “violent” conflict over the paternal inheritance, involving three to five million euros in property and buildings, opposes the two brothers. Died in 2011 in Spain, Father al-Hilli had left two contradictory draft wills. One completely disinherited Saad, the other established a fair share. The suspected brother has never ceased to proclaim his innocence by criticizing the methods of the French police.

Iqbal’s ex-husband dies the same day

The past of Iqbal, Saad’s wife, is also scrutinized and the investigators find “surprising things” including a first marriage in the United States with an American dental surgeon 13 years her senior. This man, James T., died in Natchez, Mississippi, on September 5, 2012, the day of the Chevaline shooting. Official cause of death: heart attack.

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The trail of industrial espionage

Saad al-Hilli, an engineer considered “brilliant”, worked for an English company specializing in civilian satellites (weather, crop monitoring). As this company collaborated with many foreign states, the question of industrial espionage arises. The investigations show that the 50-year-old had “in his possession much more data than his job alone justified”, however “without much market value”.


Very briefly, the investigators also evoke a track in Iraq, country of origin of Saad al-Hilli. His father, an industrialist who had fled the regime of Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, notably owned a house and land in an upscale neighborhood of Baghdad. In 2004, the two brothers took steps together to recover this heritage. The investigators sought to know if those who, in Iraq, had got their hands on these assets, would not have had an interest in making the al-Hilli brothers disappear. Without much result.

In 2014, a 35-year-old Iraqi man with a long criminal record was taken into custody after being reported by one of his fellow prisoners for alleged confidences in the execution of a “contract to kill Iraqis”. He was eventually cleared.

The biker

In November 2013, the police released the sketch of a biker who was present at the scene of the crime, according to several witnesses. The man appears wearing a goatee and a dark colored helmet. Considered a major suspect, wanted for months, the mysterious biker seen by witnesses at the time of the killing was finally found in 2014 thanks to the analysis of the 4,000 mobile numbers found on the nearest relay antenna.

The robot portrait of the biker suspected of being the author of the Chevaline massacre.

The robot portrait of the biker suspected of being the author of the Chevaline massacre.

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This entrepreneur from the Lyon region, “honourably known” according to investigators and without a criminal record, has always claimed to have seen nothing and remember nothing. According to the local press, the last police custody operated in January 2022 concerned him. But the suspicions were lifted.

A settling of scores between locals?

Two years after the events and after having been confronted with numerous impasses, the police are looking into the trail of a local settling of accounts which would involve the cyclist found on the spot, Sylvain Mollier. Could it be that the family ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time? Several searches are carried out and two former legionnaires and police officers are suspected. An arms traffic is dismantled but nothing allows to clarify the circumstances of the tragedy.

A sniper

The hypothesis of an isolated killer, acting on his own or a mad shooter who would have posted himself on the forest road is put forward, but nothing allows us to affirm or invalidate this track.

Ammunition found among the Freemasons

In February 2021, ammunition identical to that used at the crime scene was found in a lodge of Freemasons. However, the track gives nothing.

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The cold-cases pole as a last hope

In October 2022, the cold-cases division is responsible for looking into the mysterious “Chevaline killing”. “We must not lose any chance” on this case “of particular complexity” and which is “at a standstill, objectively”, then believes Benjamin Deparis, president of the Nanterre judicial court. Last element exploited: a piece of the butt of a weapon found at the scene of the crime makes it possible to affirm that it is indeed a semi-automatic pistol of the Luger P06/29 type.

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Chevaline massacre: the trail of the murder weapon revived by the “cold case” pole

Investigators are therefore sifting through classified ads, likely to bring up the murder weapon. To date, despite the many leads explored by investigators, no one has been arrested for this quadruple crime, which remains a total mystery.

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