'In hospital, surrounded by strangers': the shy, sensitive girl whose parents were killed in Alps gun attack

Seven-year-old Zaineb al-Hilli, who was seriously injured in a gun attack that left her parents and grandmother dead, was a shy girl who shared her father's passion for cars, a family friend told MSN.

The family home in Claygate

The family home in Claygate

Zaineb was found by police beaten around the head in the woods near her family's BMW people carrier near St Jorioz in the French Alps. She is in a stable condition in hospital hours after police incorrectly announced she had died.

"I hate to think what she'll feel when she wakes up surrounded by strangers," the friend, who did not want to be identified, said. "She was such a sensitive girl who cried very easily.

Zaineb who used to cycle to school near her father's Claygate home, had a passion for cars and loved to point out different models.

Her sister, four year old Zaina, was discovered more than eight hours after the attack huddled in the footwell of the vehicle. She was due to start school this year.

Saad al-Hilli, who worked as a designer at a satellite firm in Guildford, loved taking his family on caravan holidays and used to head across the channel two or three times a year, always visiting different locations, according to the friend. A keen DIY enthusiast, he had spent the summer decorating the bedroom his daughters shared.

He had moved to Britain in the early seventies with his mother and father, who died last summer. "He was the kindest and most helpful person. If you needed anything at all he would be immediately there. He helped build people's houses and fixed their cars. He was an amazing person to be around," said the friend.

His wife Iqbal was also killed in the attack. The couple had met around a decade ago in Dubai while she was working as a dentist there. Her mother, who now lives in Sweden, is believed to have been the third victim of the attack.