‘She’ll be questioned as soon as possible’

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Paris - The seven-year-old British girl who survived a gun attack in the French Alps last week that saw her father and mother shot dead in their car is out of a coma and will be questioned by police as soon as she is able, the French prosecutor said on Sunday.

French and British police continued their search of the family home in Surrey near London of Saad al-Hilli, the Iraqi-born British driver who was shot twice in the head along with his wife, an older woman and a passing cyclist on Wednesday.

“She (Zainab) has come out of her artificial coma and she is now sedated,” State Prosecutor Eric Maillaud told Reuters. “She is better and her condition is improving little by little. She will be able to be questioned, but in what time frame?”

“We'll need a green light from the doctors.”

He said an uncle and aunt of Zainab, who had suffered serious skull fractures in the attack, were by her side at the hospital in Grenoble. Police hope she will eventually provide more information on the shootings.

Maillaud added her youngest sister, four-year-old Zeena, who survived unscathed after the shootings on a remote forest road near the village of Chevaline, had now returned to Britain.

French police returned to the scene of the crime on Sunday and widened the area of investigation, Maillaud said.

“We are trying to see how those who committed these acts were able to get away,” he said.

Maillaud said a family feud over money was one of several motives still being considered for the murders and Hilli's brother had been formally questioned.

The brother has denied any dispute with Hilli.

“He is being questioned as a witness.” Maillaud said. “It's a lead that is serious and interesting, but so is the profession of the dead person and his Iraqi origins.”

Hilli was a mechanical engineer who contracted with Surrey Satellite Technology, the company, a subsidiary of aerospace and defence firm EADS, said on Friday. It described him as a “an experienced and committed engineer”.

He helped to design the kitchen of the European Airbus aircraft, according to Julian Stedman, his accountant since 2004. He specialised in computer-aided design and mostly worked from his house in the village of Claygate, said Stedman.

His wife Ikbal had been training as a dentist.

Police erected a tent in front of the family's detached house on Sunday in the village of Claygate, south-west of London.

British police have refused to comment on British media reports Hilli was known to security services and was under police surveillance during the second Gulf war.

The case has led television bulletins in Britain and has not left the front pages of newspapers since news of the murders broke on September 5.

Most Sunday papers ran the story across several pages, speculating about motives, including robbery, a family feud or a possible link to Hilli's work in the aerospace industry. - Reuters


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