A MANX couple have spoken to iomtoday about finding themselves caught up in a multiple murder investigation at Lake Annecy in the French Alps.
The drama unfolded yesterday after three bodies were found in a BMW people-carrier registered in Britain while a fourth body, of a cyclist, was found lying nearby on a forest road near the village of Chevaline.
All four had been shot and 15 cartridges were found around the car, suggesting all the gunshots had come from outside the car.
A girl, believed to be aged eight, was found lying injured in the road and a four-year old girl was found alive after eight hours hiding in the back of the vehicle containing the victims. The elder sister is in a critical condition in hospital while the younger sibling was uninjured.
The father has been named as Saad al Hilli, originally from Iraq but living in Claygate, Surrey.
Malcolm Lambert and his wife Chris, from Port Erin, have been staying on the same campsite near Lake Annecy as the murdered British family, Le Solitaire du Lac, on the shores of Lake Annecy in the village of St Jorioz.
Mr Lambert told iomtoday that the family’s caravan was just 50 yards from their own.
He said: ‘It’s a shock, you don’t expect things like this to happen. We don’t feel threatened or vulnerable in any shape or form. Nevertheless it is a shock being so close to where we are and with the people staying on the same campsite.’
Mr Lambert and his wife, who were on holiday with friends from Norfolk, said they were now cutting short their vacation and would be leaving tomorrow.
He said the murdered family, made up of the husband and wife, two children and paternal grandmother, were frequent visitors to the campsite and were well known to others there.
Mr Lambert said they had driven back from a cave and waterfall past the murder scene at around the time the shootings would have taken place.
‘We arrived back at about 3.30pm French time and sirens were going on constantly for about two hours,’ he revealed. ‘The police helicopter was up and we knew something serious had happened.
‘This morning when we went to the toilet block, the family’s caravan which is 50 yards from where we are, had all its windows and awning taped up with gendarmes guarding it.’
He said details of the number plates of all those on the campsite had been taken by the gendarmes.
And he added: ‘A lot of people are packing up and going home early. We hadn’t been planning to leave until Sunday but we are going in the morning.’
‘There are people who knew the family who are really upset - they had been playing boules with them last year.’
Meanwhile, the Manx owner of a tourist accommodation business in the French Alps has spoken of his shock at the deaths.
Describing the news as ‘terrible’, Chris Callow, who runs ManxSki in St Sigismond, south of Annecy, with his wife Vanessa, said: ‘This is a very low-crime area of France which makes the story all the more shocking.
‘We’re regularly in Annecy and all our summer guests went over this year, it’s one of the “must see” towns in the area and just an hour’s drive from the chalet.
‘Annecy is a very prosperous clean-living sort of place, the very last place you would expect this sort of thing to happen. Guests have loved the old town with its cafe-lined canals and busting markets. I’m sure it will retain its justified place high on the tourist itinerary.’
Police say there are still no clues as to the motive for the killings and no arrests have yet been made.