The brother of a British man who was killed along with his wife, mother-in-law and unrelated cyclist while vacationing in the French Alps broke his silence today, telling BBC television he had nothing to do with the attack.
Zaid al-Hilli is currently free on bail after being arrested in connection with the attack, but he told the British broadcaster that he was innocent of the crime, and that French authorities had engineered a cover-up aimed at hiding the real target of the killings.
Zaid's brother Saad; Saad's wife, Iqbal; her mother; and a French cyclist were all discovered dead in a wooded area near the French town of Annecy in September 2012. The couple's two young daughters survived the attack, including one who spent about eight hours huddled beneath her mother's lifeless body before help arrived.
French authorities investigating the killings believe it was the result of a family feud which pitted Zaid against his brother Saad over the disposition of their father's inheritance. They believe the cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was an accidental victim shot because he inadvertently stumbled across the scene as the killings were in progress.
But Zaid al-Hilli said he believed Mollier was the intended target all along and that the French had blamed him to take the heat off the cyclist's killer.
"They are covering up for someone in France in that region and they know it," al-Hilli said, according to written excerpts of an interview due to be broadcast by the BBC on Monday. "There is something more to it locally ... most crime has local roots."
French investigators and people who knew the brothers have indicated that Zaid and Saad al-Hilli were in the middle of bitter battle, but Zaid said their relationship was still strong.
"Our relationship was very brotherly and very close, and we looked after each other," he said.