Gendarmes block access to a killing site near Chevaline, French Alps.

Chevaline, France - A four year-old girl has been found alive in a British car under the body of her mother who was among four people killed in a mysterious shooting in the French Alps, officials said on Thursday.

Three of the four victims of the shooting attack appear to have been members of a British family on holiday, said Eric Maillaud, a prosecutor in the Haute-Savoie area of eastern France.

The little girl, who spoke English, was found at around midnight in the British-registered BMW car some eight hours after three other passengers, a man and two women, were shot dead on the spot on Wednesday, said Maillaud.

A cyclist, said to be a local man, was also killed.

A second girl, who was rushed by helicopter to hospital in critical condition after the incident, was said to be in a more stable condition early on Thursday but set to remain under treatment for several days.

Some 15 spent bullet casings from an automatic pistol were found at the crime scene.

The four-year-old girl was discovered by special investigators long after police had sealed off the area.

“She was hidden under the bodies for some eight hours and didn't move for the whole time,” and was not discovered until the investigators from the national gendarmerie region reached the scene, Maillaud said.

Another investigator said the girl had remained hidden under “behind the legs of her dead mother”.

“The little girl spoke English. She had heard the noises, the cries but she couldn't say more, she is only four years old,” Maillaud said.

The girl was being looked after by the French authorities.

The local public prosecutor said that the driver of the attacked car appeared to be a British national who had been staying at a campsite in the region. The nationalities and identities of the victims in the car with him, probably family members, “remains to be verified”, he said.

Police Colonel Benoit Vinnemann, in charge of the gendarmerie investigation team, stressed that the bodies had not yet been searched for identity papers.

The shooting, for which no motive has been established, took place in a tree-lined car park on the edge of the picturesque village of Chevaline which is popular with tourists and second homeowners from all over Europe, including many Britons.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London said: “We are aware of the reports of the shooting and we are looking into these urgently.” The Paris embassy was also liaising with the police in Britain.

The bodies were discovered by another passing cyclist at around 3.50pm on Wednesday.

Maillaud said that the “number one theory” was that it was a criminal attack which turned bloody. However he stressed that the investigators had ruled nothing out and “a family drama cannot be excluded”.

“We are going to try to interview people in the neighbourhood,” he told reporters earlier.

The bodies were taken to the town of Grenoble for autopsies.

Experts from the national gendarmerie's IRCGN unit were expected to collect DNA samples, shells left at the scene for ballistics analysis and check for traces of other vehicles that may have been at the scene.

Around 60 gendarmes were involved in a search for potential clues which continued into the night.

The British media also speculated that it could have been a robbery that turned murderous, though The Daily Telegraph posited the possibility that it was a premeditated attack by somebody who went out of their way to leave no witnesses. - AFP