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French police detain man over 2012 Alpine killings

Tuesday - 2/18/2014, 12:35pm  ET

FILE - This Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, file photo shows flowers laid on the crime scene where four people have been shot to death in a British-registered car, in a forest in the Alps, near Chevaline, French Alps. French authorities have detained a 48-year-old Frenchman in connection with the grisly shooting death of a British-Iraqi man and three others in the French Alps nearly 18 months ago. State prosecutor Eric Maillaud of the eastern city of Annecy said the man was detained Tuesday Feb. 18. 2014 following witness accounts after authorities issued a sketch of a possible suspect wearing a helmet in November.. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

JAMEY KEATEN
Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- French police detained a 48-year-old man on Tuesday in the first French arrest linked to the grisly shooting deaths of a British-Iraqi man and three others in the French Alps nearly 18 months ago.

Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud said the arrest of the man, a resident of eastern France who was not otherwise identified, resulted in part from dozens of witness accounts that came in after authorities in November issued a sketch of a possible suspect wearing a helmet.

"Since the police sketch was released, we've received about 40 witness accounts that have been useful ... and are being verified," Maillaud said by phone. "This arrest is the first and others will surely follow."

Saad al-Hilli, his wife, an elderly relative and a French cyclist were killed in or near the family's BMW in a wooded area near bucolic Annecy Lake in September 2012. The couple's two young daughters survived, including one who spent about eight hours huddled beneath her mother's lifeless body in the vehicle.

Also Tuesday, French police investigators equipped with a truck to haul away possible evidence fanned out into a neighborhood in the nearby town of Talloires, scanning the ground of at least one resident's lot with a metal-detector and shovels, before blocking off the area to journalists.

British police in the county of Surrey -- where the al-Hilli family lived -- confirmed Tuesday's arrest. In June, British police detained al-Hilli's brother, Zaid, for questioning and later freed him on bail.

Maillaud, the prosecutor, had previously cited evidence that the brothers had been fighting over their father's inheritance. It was not immediately clear whether the French arrest on Tuesday had anything to do with that theory.

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Laurent Cipriani in Talloires, France, contributed to this report.


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