Murder Mystery In Idyllic Annecy

 

Last week, in idyllic Lake Annecy, France (someplace I’ve visited and posted about frequently) horrific murders took place.    The case has generated a lot of intrigue and theories, but remains unsolved.  Here’s what is known:

  • Iraqi-born British engineer Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Iqbal and a woman believed to be his mother-in-law were on vacation near Annecy, France when they were shot inside his BMW.
  • They were all shot twice in the head at close range.
  • Al-Hilli’s child, who witnessed the murder was shot in the shoulder and badly pistol whipped, but survived.   British cyclist Brett Martin found her stumbling in front of the car and administered first aid.  He then left the scene to call emergency services.  The BMW’s doors were locked; she was found outside the car.
  • A second four-year-old daughter survived, taking refuge under her mother’s skirts.  She remained there undetected for eight hours after police had sealed off the scene.
  • The Al-Hilli family had been camping nearby.  Mr. Al-Hilli arrived at a campsite earlier in the week, told people that he would be staying all week, then inexplicably checked out the two days later.  He switched to the more remote, Solitaire du Lac campsite up the road.
  • French cyclist, Sylvain Mollier, was also shot in the head at point-blank range.  He was a local man who had three children.
  • The murders took place near the village of Chevaline, which is located about 10 km from Annecy as you climb the mountain on the lake.
  • No shots were heard, so some suspect a silencer was used.
  • Investigators found 15 cartridge cases scattered around the car and bullet impacts on the windows.
  • They were shot with a Luger P08.  This highly-distnctive weapon is known for being the Swiss Army standard issue.

Worryingly, the French prosecutor, Eric Maillaud, seems to enjoy the publicity and seek it out.  The “professional” nature of the murders led him to speculate that they are the work of an targets of an international contract killer.  As someone who vacations and hikes in that area, it is definitely less scary than the thought that there is a mass murderer who strikes at random on the loose, but still horrifying.

Theories put forth by others include: the murders are a result of a family row over money, they are related to Mr. Al-Hilli’s business activities, his political affiliations in his country of birth (Iraq), and French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, may been the real target (with the family stumbling into his murder).  Police in several countries are pursuing these theories, although they may take years to solve.  This beautiful area will never seem the same.

 

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La Saleve

When we first arrived, we took the cable car up to one of the mountains overlooking Geneva, La Saleve.  It is known as the  “Balcony of Geneva” even though it is technically just over the border in the Haute-Savoie region of France.  From there, you can see the Jura mountains, the PrealpsLake Annecy and the Mont Blanc.  Even on cloudy days, the top of Saleve can be sunny!

It wasn’t until later that we learned people will hike and even bike up it.  It also has a nice view of the city and decent trails. Once up there, there are many outdoor activities to take part in, rock climbinghikingmountain bikingparagliding (who jump off the carpeted area in the photo below), hang glidingmodel aircraftspeleology and skiing (at the Col de la Croisette).  We looked out at Geneva and found where we live.  I would love to camp up there and watch the sunset and sunrise over the city. Shedrub Choekhor Ling Tibetan Buddhism center is located on the Salève.  They have a normal building, but it was their yurt that attracted our attention.  Their building is only 200m from the Cable car station. This authentic Tibetan Temple was consecrated and opened by the Dali Lama in September 2011.   I read an article about a Russian arms dealer has property next door to the Buddhists.   The irony. The tower is visible from the city of Geneva.

Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein  was written on the banks of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman).  In it title character climbs up the Salève  after fleeing.  Salève is mentioned several times by name.  

  • “It was echoed from Saleve, the Juras, and the Alps of Savoy…”
  • “I thought of pursuing the devil; but it would have been in vain, for another flash discovered him to me hanging among the rocks of the nearly perpendicular ascent of Mont. Saleve, a hill that bounds Plainpalais on the south.”
  • “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?”

Saleve itself isn’t in the alps, but what is known as the French Prealps.  Note the Alps in the background of the above photo.  The ride down in the cable car was our first cable car experience since moving to Geneva.  At the time, we had white knuckles, now, we’re old pros.   Another view of Saleve from the city.  

 

Annecy

There are two real reasons to go from Geneva to Annecy, France.  First, the high Swiss Franc (more about that in future posts) means that shopping in France where they are on the Euro (which is low in comparison to the Swiss Franc) is very cheap.

The second is the cute old town.


We went to Annecy after we first arrived to test out driving and try to begin our sightseeing adventures. We had a picnic by the river and took in the sights. After the craziness of move and the chaos of the boxes surrounding us, it was a nice repose.

I took this last picture because the sight of the plaque caught me off guard. It was on the side of a school near the beautiful lake.
For those of you who don’t read French, here is what it says:


 In memory of the school’s Jewish students who were stopped November 16, 1943, taken by the occupying Nazis deported and assassinated at Auschwitz [list of names and ages] April 1995 – fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi camps.  


On such a beautiful day, it was quite startling to see and moving to read.