Alexis Moro, Associated Press
ANNECY, France — French prosecutors focused Friday on a feud between brothers as they searched for a motive in the slayings of a British-Iraqi family vacationing in the French Alps.
Two young sisters survived the deaths of their parents and an older woman in the family car late Wednesday, as well as a French cyclist whose body was found nearby. The children, apparently the only witnesses to the shootings on an isolated Alpine road, were under police and consular protection Friday, held in separate places.
Prosecutor Eric Maillaud said British police have reported that the girls' father had been feuding with his brother over money. A family friend said the father of the two men died recently — while public records showed the brother had left the victim's small aeronautics design firm.
But French police said Friday they are not focusing on any particular lead and are still open to the idea that there was more than one person involved in the murder. On Friday, police increased security around the two children — both potential witnesses — fearing that the shooter or shooters may be at large.
For the first time in nearly two days, police lifted a roadblock leading to the pitted, single-lane road running along a clear mountain stream. Broken grass and skid marks marred the small parking area where the family was found. A sign noted the area's status as a national hunting and animal reserve, mapping out nearby trails.
The younger child, a 4-year-old, was found hiding beneath the skirts of her dead mother in the backseat of the car early Thursday eight hours after the crime scene was discovered.
Her sister was found bloodied and battered outside the vehicle and 15 bullet casings were scattered around the car.
The dead cyclist, officials say, was found with five bullet wounds in his body. He had no links to the family killed in a wooded area up a mountain road from the village of Chevaline, near bucolic Lake Annecy.
The case has taken international ramifications with links tying the slain family to Britain, Iraq, Sweden and Spain.
Maillaud said the BMW station wagon in which three of the bodies were found was registered to a British man born in Baghdad in 1962. The man, identified as Saad al-Hilli, had lived in Britain since at least 2002, and his family had been in France since August.
Public records identified al-Hilli as a mechanical engineer and his LinkedIn page described him as an aerospace consultant.
British media, citing neighbors in the British village of Claygate, identified al-Hilli's wife as Iqbal or Ikbal. There appeared to be some confusion over the girls' names: U.K. media outlets gave various names and spellings for the 7-year-old and the 4-year-old.
Maillaud has declined to confirm any identities, pending results of DNA and fingerprint tests.
Sweden confirmed one of the victims was Swedish. French authorities found a Swedish passport that apparently belonged to the older woman, born in 1938, as well as an Iraqi passport.
Saad al-Hilli's father died recently in Spain, family friend Mae Faisal El-wailly told The Associated Press. She described the family as wealthy and well-traveled.
Peter Ricketts, the British ambassador to France, said Friday that the elder girl was in serious but stable condition, and that both sisters would be looked after by British consular staff until family could go to France. Britain's Foreign Office said diplomats had contacted relatives.
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